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Music making, like life itself, is all about balance. In both worlds, highs and lows, triumphs and tragedies, harmony and melody, chaos and order, the clinical and the emotional, the simple and complex, and so much more are constantly being balanced on the scales. Rarely are things in perfect equilibrium, yet so many people strive to reach that place; bassist Anne Mette Iversen is one of those people, and So Many Roads is her musical treatise on the art of balance.
This work initially took shape as a travel down imaginary highways, but Iversen quickly realized that so much of what she was making was connected to her own experience; So Many Roads essentially taps into five years of her life. It's a record that's intensely personal, but she's never self indulgent in the way she presents this music. She didn't provide any long-winded descriptionor any description at allfor what inspired various chapters of this piece, preferring instead that people connect to the music in their own respective fashion(s). She also didn't title anything; the work simply stands as a four-chapter statement bookended by a prologue and epilogue.
Iversen has always had a knack for creating heartfelt music with a cerebral edge, and this album is no different. Her compositional acuity and bass playing acumen are on display throughout as she works with her longstanding quartet, augmented by trombonist Peter Dahlgren, and 4Corners, a string quartet that appeared on the Best Of The West portion of her Best Of The West + Many Places (BJU Records, 2008). With these musicians at her disposal, Iversen is able to create something magical, juxtaposing ideas, themes, personalities, and moods against one another.
"Prologue," a three-and-a-half minute solo bass journey, is cathartic, yet completely controlled. "Chapter One" finds the strings settling into a slowly waltzing theme. The setting changes when John Ellis
' soprano saxophone meets with nervous and hurried strings, but the theme returns. The music then morphs, turning into a flowing swing waltz that underscores Dahlgren's trombone solo, but it returns to its original state as "Chapter One" concludes. Iversen, pianist Danny Grissett
get things moving on "Chapter Two," which focuses in on swooping interplay and individual statements from Ellis and Dahlgren. "Chapter Three" is a tranquil setting worth savoring. Dahlgren floats over warm and inviting string textures, Ellis works over supportive-and-sensitive comping from Grissett, and Iversen charms with her patient and well-paced bass elocution. The piece ends with a trombone cadenza that's all about thoughtful contemplation. "Chapter Four" proves to be the most intense section of music on the album, but the work ends in a state of calm, as Grissett and strings pacify during "Epilogue."
So Many Roads, despite its individual track and chapter designations, is a single work and deserves to be heard as such. It's a wonderful example of art reflecting life.
Personnel: Anne Mette Iversen: acoustic bass; John Ellis: soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone; Peter Dahlgren: trombone; Danny Grissett: piano; Otis Brown III: drums; Time Rudloff: violin; Sarah McClelland: violin; Anne Soren: viola; Mats Larsson: cello.