Dec 10 2015
It’s a rather startling debut from saxophonist Mette Henriette Martedatter Rølvåg. A self-titled double-album that features, for its opening frame, a trio format where she’s joined by pianist Johan Lindvall and cellist Katrine Schiøtt. and then the second half has her with with her 13-piece sinfonietta. While there’s plenty to differentiate between the trio album and the large ensemble, it’s remarkable just how joined they are at the hip when it comes to a united vision.
The trio pieces are a crosshatch of contemplative reveries and can’t-sit-still fidgeting. They are both tranquil and lively, and the trio display a deft touch at handling that very delicate combination. “A Void” and “In Circles” show how a little bit of dissonance can go a long way to rounding out the serenity, punching the melody up with streaks of personality that transcend the sublime. “The Taboo” is an instance where Rølvåg adds just enough heat to singe the edges of the melody while leaving the heart of its lyricism unharmed.
But mostly what you’re in for are solemn, almost heartbreaking tracks like “I Do,” “O” and “.oOo.”… songs that would be just as home in the rafters of an ancient church as they would as the stand-in for a morning sunrise over snow-capped mountains. Lindvall and Schiøtt snap right into place with Rølvåg’s impressionistic touch. Complementing both the sharp melodic streaks that mark these tunes and the implied rhythmic possibilities that could emerge within the gaps of relative silence, the pianist and cellist bring a fullness to these tracks that might otherwise seem either too sparse or too fussy were the emphases served up in anything but exactly the right amounts. There is a pervasive sense of constant motion, even when the music achieves a supreme calm.
Part 2 of this double-release has Rølvåg’s opening trio expanded out to a 13-piece sinfonietta. It’s where Rølvåg lets all the personality loose that her trio hinted, suggested, alluded to on the album’s first half. It begins with the dreamy “Passé” and its faint echo of fellow Norwegian tenor saxophonist Jan Garbarek. Thankfully, if there was any influence here, it was only a brief one… something that’s settled immediately, first, with the sing-from-the-heart folk dance of “Pearl Rafter,” then the lush, droning harmonies of “Veils Ever After” followed by the punchy “Unfold.”
An interesting quality to the album is how it’s dominated by a large number of very short pieces. Approximately half of its 35 tracks are under two minutes in duration. The dual benefits provided by this approach are, one, Rølvåg doesn’t mess around with shaping the melodic center of songs, staying quick and to the point, and, two, the brief but striking ambiance that enshrouds those melodic fragments like fine mist leaves the ear wanting more. That said, on those tracks were Rølvåg takes more time to flesh her ideas out, the effect of the music is no less profound. The untamed cries and roar of “Wildheart,” the thick introspection of “All Ears” and the epic scene changes of “I” all add to the burgeoning drama and vivid serenity that define this lovely debut.
Your album personnel: Mette Henriette (tenor sax), Johan Lindvall (piano), Katrine Schiøtt (violoncello), Eivind Lønning (trumpet), Henrik Nørstebø (trombone), Andreas Rokseth (bandoneon), Sara Övinge (violin), Karin Hellqvist (violin), Odd Hannisdal (violin), Bendik Bjørnstad Foss (viola), Ingvild Nesdal Sandnes (violoncello), Per Zanussi (double bass) and Per Oddvar Johansen (drums, saw).
Released on ECM Records.
Jazz from the Trondheim, Norway scene.
Available at: Amazon