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Interview: Composer Ethan Iverson Connecting With Mark Morris For THE LOOK OF LOVE

Mark Morris and Ethan Iverson join creative forces for the world premiere of The Look of Love: An Evening of Dance to the Music of Burt Bacharach October 20th

Interview: Composer Ethan Iverson Connecting With Mark Morris For THE LOOK OF LOVE

Mark Morris and Ethan Iverson join creative forces for the world premiere of The Look of Love: An Evening of Dance to the Music of Burt Bacharach October 20, 2022 at The Eli and Edythe Broad Stage. The Mark Morris Dance Group (costumed in Isaac Mizrahi) will be accompanied by their MMDG Music Ensemble (led by Ethan) with lead vocals by Broadway star Marcy Harriell. Ethan found some time between rehearsals to answer a few of my queries.

Thank you for taking the time for this interview, Ethan!

Thanks for interest!

Was the first time you collaborated with the Mark Morris Dance Group in 2017 when Pepperland premiered evening-length? Or did you join creative forces while you were in The Bad Plus that you co-founded on 2000?

Interview: Composer Ethan Iverson Connecting With Mark Morris For THE LOOK OF LOVE I was Mark Morris's music director for about five years, approximately 1997 through 2001. In the 90s I was young and dumb, with a desire to play jazz but lacking skill and, therefore, gigs. To survive, I played for dance classes all over New York City. I ended up playing for Mark's class, then his rehearsals, then his performances. Mark's genius was a profound influence on me: I was the nerdiest kind of jazz pianist imaginable, and through Mark I began considering the larger world of communicative art.

I co-wrote a MMDG score with Zakir Hussain, "Kolam," and then there were two collaborations with The Bad Plus, "Violet Cavern" and "Spring, Spring, Spring" (the latter to Stravinsky's Rite of Spring in the TBP arrangement).

Interview: Composer Ethan Iverson Connecting With Mark Morris For THE LOOK OF LOVE In a way, playing with Mark prepared me to work with The Bad Plus, which was notably communicative within a landscape of insider jazz. After 17 years on the road with TBP, I left, and Mark Morris welcomed me back with an invitation to oversee the music of his Beatles project, "Pepperland." It was like I had written the script!

At what point of pre-production did you start becoming involved in The Look of Love? At inception? After casting?

Mark and I have been talking about Burt Bacharach for years. I believe the success of "Pepperland" - which we have done about 80 times -- suggested that it was time to tackle Bacharach.

I'll be on the road playing piano at all performances with MMDG. The lead singer, Marcy Harriell, is a Broadway star, and the band includes great Brooklyn jazz cats. I'm very proud of the score and will enjoy being in the pit with this project just as much as touring jazz clubs.

Interview: Composer Ethan Iverson Connecting With Mark Morris For THE LOOK OF LOVE Do you have a favorite Burt Bacharach song or two?

I've got to say, with total honestly, that every song in Mark's "The Look of Love" is a masterpiece, with the exception of "The Blob," a forgettable surf-rock tune from the terrible Steve McQueen movie that I have transformed into genuine suspense, if not even horror. Pushed to the wall, I'd say I love Burt's "Do You Know the Way to San Jose?" best.

The New York Times described The Bad Plus' music as "post-60's jazz and indie rock. What genre of music did you grow up listening to and eventually studying?

I was always a jazz person, but at this point am quite conversant with European classical music as well. Like any American of my age and demographic, a certain amount of radio rock and commercial TV themes is my folk music.

Interview: Composer Ethan Iverson Connecting With Mark Morris For THE LOOK OF LOVE You also write interviews for your website Do The Math. What initiated your writing prowess?

At first, when The Bad Plus had our surprise breakout in 2003, I just wanted to give back, and share our love of the jazz tradition with our young fans (many of whom liked our Nirvana cover but hadn't heard of the jazz greats). In time it turned out that writing was easy for me, and at this point I've written literally millions of words on DTM as well as published articles in the New Yorker, the Nation and JazzTimes.

Interview: Composer Ethan Iverson Connecting With Mark Morris For THE LOOK OF LOVE What in the near future for Ethan Iverson? A continued promo tour for your 2022 release of Every Note is True?

I am very busy, playing gigs with my trio and with legendary drummer Billy Hart. A second album for Blue Note is in the works. There are also various commissions as composer and curator in 2023. Still, this Bacharach/Morris situation is one that means a tremendous amount! Marcy and I accompanied the dancers in a run-through yesterday and we all got so excited! It's going to be fabulous!

Thank you again, Ethan! I am most anxious to experience your music in The Look of Love.

For tickets to one of the four live performances of The Look of Love October 20th through October 23rd, click on the button below:



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