Norwegian saxophonist Petter Wettre strikes out on his own, releasing two discs on his newly created label Household Records
. While the label is new, Wettre’s horn playing has graced nearly forty dates over the years. His own releases as leader have been impressive, especially Meet The Locals
(Resonant, 1998) and The Mystery Unfolds
(BP, 2001). Both power trio records add a few guests here and there with ambitious selections from post-bop jazz, funk, and the avant grocery isles.
Interestingly, when he is paying the bills, the outwardness of his music is reined in.
Nonetheless, Wettre’s choice of music and style, be it avant or bebop does not alter or take away from his immense talent. You can draw lines from his playing to Sonny Rollins, Joe Henderson and Joe Lovano. His desire to play a bit out, although kept mostly under wraps here, is manifest in some crisp extended technique.
Of the two discs, the quintet session Household Name is the more straight-ahead. Both Wettre’s quintet and the trio share Anders Mogensen on drums. Live At Copenhagen Jazzhouse has Anders Christensen on bass and the quintet opts for Per Zanussi in that seat instead.
The quintet was recorded in studio, with drummer Mogensen taking a Tony Williams approach throughout. His aggressive stick work sets this session as a post-hard bop workout. From the opener, pianist Håvard Wiik (from the band Atomic) displays mighty runs at the keyboard fueling Wettre’s saxophone flight. He also trades off with guitarist Palle Pesonen, who plays both bop guitar and a bit of wah-wah mash on “Kosher.” All the music here (except one track) is comprised of Wettre originals. He has a talent for writing catchy tunes, as with the blues influenced “Fluffer” and the speedy “Placebo,” where the band tears through the changes at a breakneck pace.
The highlight here, though, is the sax/piano duo rendition of Strayhorn’s “Lush Life.” Wettre opens with the most casually rushed statement of the themes, you feel he knowingly holds back a rush of technique and emotion. When Wiik comes in, they stroll through the track with a bar closing melancholy that holds its own to Coltrane’s version with Johnny Hartman.
The trio recorded its portion live in Copenhagen November 2002. Wettre’s playing feels more at home here. He is given less restrictions and more space is developed here for listening and imagination. He also acts (and reacts) better in this smaller ensemble. Going head-to-head with Mogensen on the opener, “Geronimo," the date infuses the listener with the vigor of Wettre’s soul. When the bass comes in you certainly are hooked.
Wettre's playing is meatier here. Carrying the weight of the performance makes him shine. His tune “Omnipresent” has a strong Sonny Rollins feel with cascades of lyricism and brainstorming. He swaps his saxophone for bass clarinet on a couple tunes, the prodding “Bad Hair Day” and the Dolphy-like “Catch.”
Wettre could be described as the Norwegian James Carter. Full of talent and capable of enormous runs of extended technique. Like Carter, he is finding his own voice by mastering the approaches of the greats that have come before him.