Stories » For a guy at the cutting edge, Ethan Iverson is fixated on history / Boston Globe

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For a guy at the cutting edge, Ethan Iverson is fixated on history / Boston Globe

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For a guy who thrives at the cutting edge of jazz, Ethan Iverson is mighty fixated on history. It's part philosophical - to make great new music, he believes, requires a profound understanding of the music of the past. And it's part selfish. Iverson, a pianist best known as one third of the iconoclastic trio The Bad Plus, writes a scholarly and well-loved blog called Do The Math, and he likens his deep historical dives (transcribing 30 Bud Powell recordings, for instance, before penning a four-part, 15,000-word essay) to taking his morning vitamins.

Then there's the simple fact that, at 43, Iverson has already realized his big musical dream.

"I wanted to play music that I've never heard before," he says, "and in The Bad Plus that was achieved. So in terms of my personal journey, the obvious next step for me was to look at the masters. That's what I'm into. That's what I'm dealing with every day in my personal practice."

The Bad Plus has become famous for its radical deconstructions of rock songs, from Aphex Twin and ABBA to Neil Young and Blondie. Since 2001 the group has toggled between cover tunes and knotty originals, throwing in an ambitious reimagining of Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring. Last month The Bad Plus released "It's Hard," a set of covers named after a song by the Who that doesn't appear on the album. Huh? "I don't know what to say," Iverson says. "I have answers, but the more you explain some of these things the less potential they have."  Photo  CASEY KELBAUGH