Mette Henriette: Drifting

The Norwegian saxophonist's trio, completed by piano and cello, plays broadly paced, ostinato-rich, mode-based chamber jazz


Mette Henriette’s eponymous and critically acclaimed double-album ECM debut, released in 2015, was an adventurous affair, a trio CD followed by a 13-piece ensemble outing on the second CD.

For its single-CD successor, she has restricted herself to just the trio, Judith Hamann replacing Katrine Schiott on cello. As Mette Henriette explains, “From the very beginning, I wanted to create material that could grow, expand and contract in different forms. . . Shedding light on different things from different perspectives, playing with foreground and background, repositioning elements and flipping arrangements.”

As before, there are numerous short tracks – 15 alone – on this set, all composed by Henriette, with some lasting barely a minute. Yet their brevity connects them, with hesitant pulses and similar melodic themes appearing on several tracks, while others share sweeping piano arpeggios and urgent dynamic waves. Conversely, the title track and others deliver a rich palette of timbres within unrepetitive structures.

Yet while individual tracks capture the imagination, it is the overall effect that counts the most, the feel of a subtle, intense interaction within the trio that makes for note-perfect musical conversations. Johan Lindvall’s piano often sets the scene in its repetitive runs of notes and occasional melodic lead, Judith Hamann’s cello sets down a deep-toned contrast while the leader’s saxophone quietly, breathily controls proceedings in the higher registers.

It’s often dangerous to over-praise a set, but in its quiet, understated way, I would call this album faultless. Modern jazz chamber music at its finest.

The 7th; Across The Floor; I Villvind; Cadat; Chassé; Drifting; Oversoar; Rue de Renard; Indrifting You; A Choo; Ciedda, Fas; Oº; Solsnu; Crescent; Divining (43.15)
Henriette (ts); Johan Lindvall (p); Judith Hamann (clo). Oslo, 2020–22.
ECM 4841952