The pandemic pause gave Ethan Iverson an opening. An unusual break in the hectic touring and recording schedules of legendary drummer Jack DeJohnette and bassist Larry Grenadier allowed the pianist to recruit the pair, who provide stellar support on a collection of rangy compositions that comprise Iverson’s debut for the Blue Note label. Said to be inspired by Duke Ellington’s approach on 1962’s Money Jungle
, with Charles Mingus and Max Roach, Every Note Is True
nods to Iverson’s eclectic work with The Bad Plus while also charting some new directions for the ambitious composer and instrumentalist.
Apropos of the album’s title, the music feels as if its creators were intent on not wasting any notes — it’s more about relaxed statements of provocative melodies, gentle improvisations and solid but agile groove making than it is about speedy displays of technical prowess. Textures are earthy, sometimes hinting at Americana and classical forms, but also provocative, reaching for a whole greater than the sum of consistently impressive performances by three reliable players.
Brief opener “The More It Changes” is an outlier — a kind of hymn with a 44-voice choir singing the words of Iverson’s wife, Sarah Deming — and points to the project’s title and mission. Then it’s on to the trio pieces, each seemingly drawn from the leader’s personal experiences or passions. The looping, rising-and-falling “The Eternal Verities” was inspired by something said by his mother-in-law, while the catchy “She Won’t Forget Me” is an imaginary theme for a TV sitcom. Two tunes draw from Iverson’s interest in crime and mystery fiction. The playful “For Ellen Raskin” is dedicated to the noted children’s author and illustrator, while “At the Bells and Motley,” named for an Agatha Christie story, is built on a bluesy, sticky Mose Allison-esque shuffle that shifts to swing and features a beefy bass solo and some fours-trading. Surprising? Not particularly. A thoroughly satisfying piano trio outing? Yes. — Philip Booth