Charlie Haden, Ethan Iverson and Paul Motian

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Photograph: Claire Stefani

Village Vanguard; May 8–11, 2008

The desire for innovation has always had a different slant in jazz than in rock. Where punks once made a big deal about killing their idols, jazzers tend to respect their elders almost by design—no less so than when consciously breaking with the past. For example, a couple of weeks ago Ethan Iverson, the pianist in raucous trio the Bad Plus, sent journalists an e-mail corrective about the billing of his summit with bass and drum veterans Charlie Haden and Paul Motian. “My original suggestion was that it be listed as the old masters plus the whippersnapper,” he wrote. “The Vanguard went with alphabetical order. To be wholly honest, it’s not really a collective, either: My job is to stay cool and collected with the baddest cats around and try to hook them up.”

Obviously, Iverson’s humility is a bit overstated. Anyone who has witnessed him onstage with another veteran, Billy Hart, will attest that the 35-year-old pianist’s unfailingly inventive way with jazz’s essentials makes him uniquely suited to bridge Haden’s wondrous folkloric moan and Motian’s spaciously off-kilter cymbals and snare. It’s almost as if Iverson’s been preparing for this for more than a decade. Back in 1993, his debut recording, School Work, featured saxist Dewey Redman, who partnered with Haden and Motian in piano icon Keith Jarrett’s mid-’70s quartet. Iverson says the repertoire will be “standards, bebop, Ornette, Haden and Motian.” What, no Bad Plus?

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