Costumes Are Mandatory
Far from your classic session combining a young cutting-edge stalwart and revered master, Costumes Are Mandatory is a quirky assemblage of odds and ends. Framed as an homage to Lennie Tristano, it sometimes teams pianist and project instigator Ethan Iverson and alto great (and former Tristanian) Lee Konitz and sometimes features piano pieces that possibly were recorded to fill out the album. It sometimes plays things straight and sometimes features overdubs and echoey or prepared piano effects. And then there’s the scat vocal Konitz sings, a bit uneasily, on “My Old Flame.”
Iverson deserves credit for his candor in saying in his notes that Konitz basically had to be talked into playing blues (something he doesn’t like doing) on Iverson’s “Blueberry Ice Cream,” that the altoist was “skeptical” about the Tristano-inspired piano overdubs on “It’s You” (Konitz’s rip on Tristano’s “It’s You or No One”) and that the raw final take on “My Old Flame” required “judicious” overdubbing. However split the album’s personality is, it boasts strong moments, including a compelling duo reading of “Body and Soul” by Konitz and bassist Larry Grenadier, who contributes a gorgeous solo; Iverson’s deep-in-the-keys reading of Fats Domino’s “Blueberry Hill”; and Konitz’s first-ever recording of “Try a Little Tenderness,” on which he achieves an unusual sweet-and-sour tone with a mute.
Costumes is framed by different takes of “Blueberry Ice Cream.” The first boasts a cool, Mancini-esque melody and gliding Lee. The second version, slower and wider-spaced, highlights Konitz’s surpassing inside game. Both versions are carried by Grenadier’s weighty but luminous walking bass. He and drummer Jorge Rossy, his onetime partner in the Brad Mehldau Trio, achieve real liftoff throughout.