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Anne Mette Iversen’s Double Life: So Many Roads

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The title So Many Roads evokes a journey that abounds with possibilities. The tracks-a prologue, four chapters and an epilogue-suggest a short story, a more well-defined path. Both conventions are at work here. Bassist Iversen and her group-John Ellis on saxophones, pianist Danny Grissett, trombonist Peter Dahlgren and drummer Otis Brown III, augmented by the 4Corners string quartet-are more than capable of adhering to the compositional bounds set down by Iversen, but they simultaneously delight in teasing them.

They’ve had a lot of time to come up with the ideas that manifest on So Many Roads: Iversen spent five years developing and tweaking this music. Yet for all of its intricacies and complexities, it’s ultimately a deceptively uncluttered, accessible work. “Prologue,” naturally, sets it all up-Iversen solo for three-plus minutes, alternatively reflective and nearly jolly. The introduction of strings and band at the onset of “Chapter One” serves notice that while this music may be at its heart through-composed, it is by no means set in stone-Ellis’ soprano sax and Dahlgren’s trumpet bring a sturdy swing to what might in lesser hands have become a staid exercise in the “jazz-meets-classical” realm. Iversen’s not interested in that.

Each of the following three “chapters” establishes its own identity quickly and determinedly. The second, the longest, comes closest to standard straight-ahead as the string quartet sits things out. “Chapter Three” is airy and somber, bluesy and moody, while the fourth and final gives everyone ample opportunity to open up wide (Grissett’s solo is especially terrific, Brown’s thundering), quartet included. The two-minute epilogue, piano and strings in polite conversation, neatly ties together this brief (37 minutes) but highly rewarding road trip through Anne Mette Iversen’s fertile mind.

Originally Published