Mette Henriette ‘Mette Henriette’ 2CD (ECM) 4/5

mette-henrietteYoung Norwegian saxophonist and composer Mette Henriette debuts on ECM with what may just be the year’s quintessential Scandinavian music album and one that cuts across a variety of genres. Born and raised in the city of Trondheim, Henriette was a precocious talent listening to flamenco on the one hand, and the music of John Coltrane and Albert Ayler on the other. Simultaneously, she began composing at home in the evening and this debut reflects the sum total of the musical experiences she has soaked up thus far. The double CD offers two contrasting sides to her music. The first is more intimate and features Henriette’s trio while the second is an expanded larger collective affair. Together, they serve to showcase the different facets to this immensely talented musician and what this demonstrates beyond doubt is that form and freedom can co-exist in a harmonious relationship. This writer was especially fond of the thirteen piece collective and it is the kind of reflective music that could easily form a passage in the cult hit Swedo-Danish television series ‘The Bridge’. A stark piano-led number ‘Passé’ is a highlight with strings brought in to heighten the tension. Elements of classical music emerge on ‘Pearl rafter’ and Henriette’s saxophone integrates into a cohesive and convincing whole. The first CD has an equally atmospheric quality with minimalist piano and brooding saxophone on ‘oOo’, a candidate for the year’s most unusual title. In terms of Henriette’s playing, while she has clearly taken on board the freer musings of Coltrane and Pharoah Sanders, there is no wild blowing at all. Evocative black and white photos in the inner sleeve transform Henriette into a Bjork-like figure (minus that distinctive hair style) and she is equally photogenic with a not dissimilar silhouette. One of the most intriguing new releases of the year and it just may find its way on to the best newcomer of the year list.

Tim Stenhouse