Wednesday, July 8, 2020

'Racing a Butterfly': Anne Mette Iversen memorializes via small-group jazz an encounter while running

Bassist-composer Anne Mette Iversen
A major force in acoustic small-ensemble writing, Anne Mette Iversen has a visionary grasp of program music in jazz. The Danish bassist, a luminary in the Brooklyn jazz scene at the turn of the century,  is now based in Berlin.  This CD expands on the legacy of her founding connection with Brooklyn Jazz Underground and is released on its label, BJURecords.

In "Racing a Butterfly," Iversen and four other players have lots to do in projecting her visions onto a picturesque screen. The genesis is the sight and the feeling of visually tracking a butterfly during a run one morning in France. There was an interplay between runner and insect that seemed playful and intentional to Iversen, so she decided to translate the experience into music.

In the title tune, appropriately, the theme seems to have lots of air beneath its wings. Peter Dahlgren's trombone solo lifts the well-formed theme to a higher plane. Often, though Iversen's music doesn't spotlight extensive solos, her band members have defining solo turns that make the compositions memorable. John Ellis' tenor-sax solo in "Triangular Waves"  is an example, and Otis Brown III's super-animated drumming behind Danny Grissett's piano solo caps the distinctiveness of that track.

The leader's bass solo gives characteristic flair to "Parallel Flying," just before the horns enter with a wistful melody. Normally, nothing raucous ruffles the Iversenian landscape, yet there is a wealth of nuanced expression in the compositions and the way they are elaborated, with unfailing unity in the ensemble portions.

The closest to disturbance is "Cluster," whose character is established by an insistent chordal pattern in the piano, after which Ellis' saxophone darts and swoops over a restless theme. Dahlgren's bluesy trombone outing yields in due course to a variegated drum solo punctuated by piano chords, recalling the track's assertive opening.

To reconfirm the theme of the album and put a seal on the band's internal rapport, "Butterflies Too" closes out the set restfully all around, but not before everyone gets a fleet workout in "Reworking of a Butterfly."

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