Following his expansive 2018 duo album with saxophonist Mark Turner, Temporary Kings, pianist and former Bad Plus member Ethan Iverson offers an intimate concert collaboration with trumpeter Tom Harrell on 2019's Common Practice. Recorded live at New York's famed Village Vanguard in 2017, Common Practice finds the inventive keyboardist joining forces with Harrell, as well as his longtime rhythm section associates bassist Ben Street and drummer Eric McPherson. Whereas Temporary Kings showcased a mix of original compositions, here Iverson and Harrell move through a set of well-curated standards in the style of classic jazz albums of the '50s and '60s; albeit in their own harmonically inventive fashion. There are two original songs here in "Philadelphia Creamer" and "Jed from Teaneck," both Iverson blues numbers which feature devilish solo turns from Harrell. Primarily, they dig into the American Popular Songbook with the casual intensity of veteran jazz performers, offering subtly deconstructed renditions of time-honored songs. Here, we get an atmospheric opening take on George and Ira Gershwin's "The Man I Love" and a wry version of the big-band anthem "Sentimental Journey" that brings to mind the warm interplay of the classic Clark Terry and Oscar Peterson albums. There's also a poignant reading of the Bunny Berigan number "I Can't Get Started" in which Iverson evokes Sergey Rachmaninov's angular classicism in the intro, and Harrell responds in kind, flattening the melody with dusky emotionality. Elsewhere, they present a sweetly rendered version of "Out of Nowhere," and dip into a playful interpretation of "I'm Getting Sentimental Over You," in which Harrell peppers the melody with left-turn tri-tone note choices à la Thelonious Monk. It's that kind of deft spontaneity that makes Common Practice an endlessly engaging listen.
Common Practice Review
by Matt Collar