Anne Mette Iversen Quartet - The Milo Songs (2011)


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Anne Mette Iversen
When I think of all the members of the young, exciting roster that the fledgling Brooklyn Jazz Underground Jazz Records has in its ranks, one of the first names I think of is Anne Mette Iversen. She is a serious talent at both acoustic bass and compositions. OK, so there might be a few dozen bass players out there who are that strong in both departments, and quite a number of them I've said those things about them here. But the thing with Iversen is that her artistry divulges a little more of itself with each listen until the music I think was pretty good at first listen turns into an exquisite work of art by the 5th of 6th.

That's what happened when I first got her 2008 double-CD Many Places/Best Of The West, and so it happened again for her next record which went on sale last month, The Milo Songs.

The Milo Songs is not just about Anne Mette Iversen the composer and bassist, however: it's more about Iversen the bassist, composer...and mother. As a student at the New School University of Manhattan, she encountered many teachers who advised her, “don't have kids if you want to be a musician." That notion didn't sit well with Iversen, who defied it and has not only managed motherhood with musicianship, she's used this as the creative impetus for Milo Songs, a set of tunes that strives to capture the child's perspective of things. To bring this vision to life, Iversen called on her AMI Quartet, the same group who made Many Places: John Ellis (tenor sax and clarinet), Otis Brown III (drums) and Danny Grissett (piano).

You might wonder how a classically trained upright bassist who has composed and arranged music for world dignitaries can come up with music from a child's perspective. She got it from her own child, Milo. At two, Milo came up with a melody and, his mom relates it, “would sit and sing it, repeating it over and over like a mantra, as he was quietly engaged in a small, very important task." Every one of the seven tracks on this album is originated from that one little melody.

As hard as I tried to find the common theme or sequence of notes flowing through each song, I'd be lying if I told you I located it. Milo's little ditty may have been the jumping off point, but the jump was apparently long. That's hardly a cause for disappointment, because the songs are all up to the usual Iversen standards. It was, however, easier to spot instances of a childlike approach to the music right in the midst of advanced compositions and arrangements. The whimsical melodic line of “The Terrace" (video above) stated by Ellis is full of interesting counterpoints by Iversen, usually following closely behind. The two perform the spidery theme together that starts off “Trains And Chocolate," and Iversen's bouncy bass dominates “Milo's Brother" without her even moving into the front line. A playful call and response opens “The Storm" that seamlessly segues into the song's theme, and “Cortot's Wheel" is probably the best song of the record in my book due to its urbane, nocturnal harmonies with the leader and Brown percolating and subtly shifting around underneath.

With The Milo Songs, Anne Mette Iversen blows up the conventional wisdom that you can't be successful as a musician if you're raising a family. Her solution for juggling the priorities of two demanding worlds at once was simple: she merged them together. Within an album, no less.

The Milo Songs was introduced to the public last May 24.

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