Edgy, Restless Tunesmithing and a Playful New Album From Anne Mette Iversen
Bassist Anne Mette Iversen’s new quintet album Racing a Butterfly is streaming at Bandcamp. Her themes are translucent but her structures are unpredictable, and her signature sense of humor is a welcome presence in a world where artists often take everything too seriously. This is also one of this year’s great drum records: Otis Brown III’s counterintuitive drive and wry flash are irresistibly entertaining.
The first track, Triangular Waves opens with a playful but bracingly kinetic exchange between John Ellis’ tenor sax, Peter Dahlgren’s trombone and Danny Grissett’s piano. The bandleader’s spare, dancing, loopy lines anchor a contrast between Grissett gravitas and a boisterously amusing, New Orleans-tinged drum solo from Brown.
The title track is a vintage 60s postbop tune at heart, spiked with amiable, conversational counterpoint between the horns and sudden tempo shifts, Dahlgren’s soaring solo handing off to Grissett’s spacious but energetic wee-hours tableau.
Parallel Flying is a diptych. Iversen takes a rare and subtle solo as a pensive intro, Brown meeting her with whispery brushes on the snare, Grissett and the horns entering on a similarly moody note. Dahlgren and then Grissett bring in lyricism, both sunny and more distinctly unsettled. He leads the segue into the conclusion, which after a little dramatic foreshadowing takes off at a racewalking pace.
Dancing Butterflies gets a brief, uneasy full-band intro, then the band follow an edgy, deliciously acidic series of harmonies to an achingly crescendoing soprano sax solo from Ellis and an unexpectedly waltzing interlude fueled by Grissett’s rippling lines.
Clustering is a jaunty update on stark, modal McCoy Tyner-style anthemcs, bright horns over a stern, emphatic backdrop, Brown having fun hitting the clave and then breaking it for loose-limbed hints of funk.
The group stay in lyrical, upbeat 60s mode with Reworking of a Butterfly, with resonant, ebullient trombone, sailing soprano sax and Grissett’s emphatic close harmonies. They wind up the record with Butterflies Too, its wary intro slowly expanding to fond ballad territory. This album really grows on you: the camaraderie is contagious and the band are obviously having fun with these smart, purist tunes.