This is not the first album to feel like an artist’s response to lockdown, and nor is it the first to explore issues around truth, but it is one of the finest. Certainly among the finest of this year, with such a mixture of styles that are truly delightful.
Pianist and composer Ethan Iverson has a long history of collaboration that brings the audience a taste of jazz, orchestral, big band, small group, pop, rock and much else that is creative in music. His latest album - Every Note is True - launched in February 2022 and it’s definitely one that matures with listening.
Featuring Iverson’s piano in concert with the bass of Larry Grenadier and legendary drummer Jack DeJohnette, the album surprises and satisfies in even measure and often both at the same time.
Every Note Is True exudes a sense of melody and harmony and seems to emanate from a pandemic where our sense of what is true was stretched, with music providing the only real truth for many of us.
The complexity of this album begins as we hear an immense 44-voice choir - including Iverson himself fairly high in the mix - on The More It Changes. There is a sense of a quasi-religious plea for the return to normality that still hasn’t reached many of us. The constancy of change is also reflected in the repetitive nature of The Eternal Verities, which sits somewhere between jazz rhythms and classical voicing within the tradition of this rather splendid trio. The sense of recurring truths and the recurring melody call to mind a sense that, perhaps, we will come through this as we have come through much in the past. Listening to this album as the world faces more disruption after a perhaps surprisingly calm pandemic of lockdowns, those eternal truths are what we keep returning to.
If those opening tracks are cinematic, then She Won’t Forget Me is apparently Iverson’s stab at a theme song for an imaginary TV rom-com. It may be an old-fashioned approach, this listening to an album in the order of the artist’s choice, but it does bring something of a narrative and one wonders whether artists ever feared being forgotten about by their audiences as we went into lockdown.
A jazz waltz is always something special to hear and For Ellen Raskin delivers beautifully, in this dedication to one of Iverson’s favourite authors. Another of his favourites is covered in the title of the final track of the album, At the Bells and Motley, from an Agatha Christie story, with the suggestive rhythmic feel of a detective at work.
DeJohnette’s Blue is the only track not penned by Iverson and its brevity is only matched by its complexity and beauty.
The driving Goodness Knows takes us on a perhaps more traditional jazz journey with this adept and adventurous trio, contrasting subtly and suddenly with the solo piano of Had I But Known before we are once more thrown into the trio and Merely Improbable.
The penultimate track - Praise Will Travel - is another blues, acknowledging one of Iverson’s primary goals in both his music and his writing. “I believe in generating karma through celebration,” he says. “We live in an era where the hot take and the think-piece are usually about tearing people down, but I think there should be more room for celebrating that anything good happens at all. In this case, I'm thankful that I get to play with Larry and Jack, and of course thankful for their incredible musicianship. Yes. I want my thanks to be visible.”
The track listing is as follows:
1. The More It Changes (Ethan Iverson)
2. The Eternal Verities (Ethan Iverson)
3. She Won’t Forget Me (Ethan Iverson)
4. For Ellen Raskin (Ethan Iverson)
5. Blue (Jack DeJohnette)
6. Goodness Knows (Ethan Iverson)
7. Had I But Known (Ethan Iverson)
8. Merely Improbable (Ethan Iverson)
9. Praise Will Travel (Ethan Iverson)
10. At The Bells And Motley (Ethan Iverson)