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When jazz artists are noted for infusing classical elements into their work, it’s often code for: doesn’t swing, lacks soul. Such is not the case with Anne Mette Iversen, a Danish bassist/composer who has been based in Berlin since 2012 (after working out of New York City for 14 years). While she incorporated classical-composing theories into her writing for Invincible Nimbus, as a bandleader she leans toward cutting her cohorts loose.
Ternion Quartet, one among several projects Iversen heads up, strikes a well-tuned balance between ensemble discipline and a loose-limbed swagger that results in some serious fun. The all-European quartet includes drummer Roland Schneider and two ace frontmen: alto saxophonist Silke Eberhard and trombonist Geoffroy De Masure. The tandem oozes chemistry, navigating Iversen’s often labyrinthine melodies with a precision leavened by playful irreverence. During solo sections, each routinely supports the other with contrapuntal lines. On “Dig Your Heels In,” for instance, Eberhard embarks on a coy and darting alto excursion while De Masure plays a flatulent riff underneath. On the briskly swinging “Within a Diapason,” the two players feint and dodge and chase each other in a Mingus-like dance. Da Masure, it should be noted, is among the very best of trombonists. He revels in the instrument’s corpulent tone, gleefully diving into lower-register rasps, but also stringing together slinky runs with a trumpeter’s dexterity.
Invincible Nimbus lags when the tempo slows. The two-and-a-half minute “Ghost Word 3,” is an unwelcome dirge. “The Invincible Nimbus of Mystery,” at nine minutes the album’s longest piece, trudges along, lacking the compositional finesse or emotional heft to qualify as a ballad.
But the band more than makes up for these disappointing detours with the lively interplay and overall verve that marks the remainder of this 10-track effort.—Eric Snider
Featured photo by Dieter Duvelmeyer.