With Drifting, Mette Henriette fulfils the promise shown on her debut album.

ECM 2766 / 484 1952

Mette Henriette (tenor saxophone); Johan Lindvall (piano); Judith Hamann (violoncello)

Recorded 2020 – 2022

If great art and great music cannot be rushed, then saxophonist Mette Henriette cannot be accused of being in a hurry. At a time when many musicians have found it necessary to be prolific with their recordings, Henriette has taken her time with her musical output. Not necessarily consciously playing the long game but allowing her music to develop patiently to see where it leads.

In 2015 she released her self titled album for ECM, and in doing so became the first artist to release a double album as their debut. At the time I described the album as an astonishing debut, and this follow up recording continues the trajectory of this remarkable musician’s compositions and methodology.

The first album featured a large ensemble on Disc 2 and a trio of piano, saxophone and cello on the first, and it is that format to which Henriette has returned on Drifting. From the earlier trio, Johan Lindvall returns on piano with new member Judith Hamann on cello.

If the instrumentation is the same, the music is quite different and shows how far the saxophonist has developed in the years between the two albums.

Time is a precious commodity for Mette Henrietta, and this second album, like its predecessor was recorded over a two year period.  Paradoxically the music is timeless, and it is impossible to discern which of these pieces were recorded or composed first.

If Henriette is steeped in free improvisation as a method for making music, she is also well versed in using notated scores and structured composition and will use whichever f these methods that serves the music best. Her concern is how the music flows, how the musicians interact, and the space in which it is performed, and uses as her tools to achieve this an uncanny use of space, silence, dynamics and texture.

This is not to say her music is not melodic or rhythmically interesting, but these moments are carefully sculptured by design or in the moment, and in the overall context of the piece that is being performed. There are no solos per se, just an ensemble working as one.

The music is broad in scope with the brief opening ‘The 7th‘ exploring the textural element of the three instruments and ‘Chassé’ evoking a feeling of a classically composed miniature. The lyrical side of the trio is heard in the lovely title track with Mette’s tenor saxophone sound to the fore, beautifully accompanied by Hamann on cello, and also on ‘Rue du Renard’ jointly composed by Henriette and Johan Lindvall.

A longer piece, ‘Indrifting you’ follows a similar path yet is much freer sounding, the dialogue more open yet the saxophonist takes the lead in proceedings with a tenor line that is inherently lyrical and yet full toned even at its quietest moments.

It is this interest in the acoustic instruments and the nuances and timbres that can be coaxed from them that make Mette Henriette’s concept so compelling. All too easy to mark this down as a contemporary chamber jazz, but there is far more to be heard within the trio’s music, as the group dynamic is once again shaken up on ‘A Choo’, and the unearthly sounds heard on ‘0 °’.

With Drifting, Mette Henriette fulfils the promise shown on her debut album and in doing so reveals another perfectly sculptured soundscape, while also giving notice that if we too are patient there is much more to come.

Reviewed by Nick Lea