From Norway we experience today the music of young tenor saxophonist-composer Mette Henriette in a self-titled two-CD set of her chamber jazz (ECM).
The full complement of artists on the set are as follows--Mette Henriette: saxophone; Eivind Lønning: trumpet; Henrik Nørstebø: trombone; Andreas Rokseth: bandoneon; Johan Lindvall: piano; Sara Övinge: violin; Karin Hellqvist: violin; Odd Hannisdal: violin; Bendik Bjørnstad Foss: viola; Ingvild Nesdal Sandnes: violoncello: Katrine Schiøtt: violoncello; Per Zanussi: double bass; Per Oddvar Johansen: drums, saw.
The first disk features trio music with Mette, pianist Johan Lindvall and Katrine Schiøtt on cello for composed-improvised chamber jazz both at times very lyrical and other times quite dramatic. Disk two unveils the 13-piece ensemble for an ambitious music that straddles classical and modern jazz zones in ways that defy easy categorization.
Mette has a lucid, fluid, expressive tenor style that for this music is firmly a part of the whole yet stands out in original ways. It is the compositional confluence in the end that establishes Mette here as a new voice, however. This is at times music of a post-Weill, post-Carla Bley, post-Mantler strength, winding its way organically through intricate part writing, expressive moments of improvisational power with contrasting lyrical reflectiveness. It is the bi-polar arcs of mood and instrumental texture that define Mette Henriette as rooted in the modern yet determined to say her say as a voice of our times. In the end it goes beyond Weill-Bley-Mantler models in ways not easily defined, and that is great.
It is not music easily described because it does not sit comfortably in a single genre. It is avant and sound-color oriented, yet melodically singular when she chooses to evoke a tonal palette. There is ever a sure sense of direction, of strength and fragility, beauty and brashness.
If "third stream" were still a term that has cogency today I could evoke such a term. But in doing that it nonetheless does not do justice to the unexpectedness of Mette Henriette's vision.
Instead I would underscore the idea that we have a new voice of great promise to be heard on this set. Those who gravitate toward "serious" jazz-classical hybrids should most definitely hear this music several times. It is NEW with all the connotations that word has had for us over the years. And it is exceptionally so. I look forward to more of her in the coming years!