A perfectly paired duo got to the heart of the matter in a space fit for their music. Tenor saxophonist Mark Turner and pianist Ethan Iverson took the stage of the intimate Simons Center Recital Hall on Wednesday evening for the first performance of their residency at this year’s Spoleto Festival USA.
Decisive and refreshingly direct in their delivery, they blurred the line between jazz and classical styles.
A majority of the mindful duo’s music was original material from their 2018 release "Temporary Kings" on the ECM label. They started the set with “Lugano,” a darker, folk-sounding melody inspired by the beautiful Swiss town where they recorded it. The duo rollicked through “On the Beat,” with its intermittent finger snaps and syncopated figures, holding the attention of the mostly full Recital Hall.
Mark Turner’s composition, “Myron’s World,” inspired by, and in tribute to, alto saxophonist Myron Walden, followed. Turner’s opening rubato solo was the feature, and he demonstrated the full range of the instrument with a rolling combination of arpeggiated figures against Iverson’s rhythmic comping.
Midway through the set, Iverson introduced two of the three standards for the evening. “Mark and I are interested in writing contemporary music. In this duo situation, we are also curious about reinvestigating some familiar jazz masterpieces,” Iverson said.
Billy Strayhorn’s “Chelsea Bridge” and John Coltrane’s “Giant Steps” were complementary additions to an hour-long set populated mostly by originals. "Chelsea Bridge" was especially decadent with its easy conversation between Turner’s and Iverson’s lush phrasing. Warne Marsh’s “Dixie’s Dilemma” closed the contemplative set.
Mark Turner and Ethan Iverson have four more shows, two Friday and two Saturday: an exquisite bookend to this year’s Wells Fargo Jazz Series.
Reviewer Leah M. Suárez is a Charleston-based musician.