Thursday, 15 September 2016

ACT Music and Vision Music bring first rate performances of music by saxophonist and composer, Marius Neset that naturally defies boundaries

Saxophonist and composer, Marius Neset (b.1985) was born in Bergen, Norway, home to the internationally renowned Nattjazz Festival. He grew up listening to bands from the so-called ‘Bergen wave’ of post-rock such as Royksopp through to the great classical composer of his hometown Edvard Grieg, as well as more contemporary art music. He took up the saxophone at the age of five and had lessons on drumming something which he says ‘…gave me a rhythmic base that was very important…’

In 2003, Neset moved to Copenhagen to study at the Rhythmic Music Conservatory where the great English pianist and large ensemble arranger Django Bates was professor and became Neset’s mentor. The saxophonist went on to become the star turn in Bates’ student big band StoRMchaser recording a CD Spring is Here. Meanwhile Neset also released his debut Suite for the Seven Mountains that year featuring a string quartet and the Swedish drummer Anton Eger.

In 2010, Django Bates took him to London to play at a concert at Kings Place marking his 50th birthday. Neset also appeared as a guest in Django Bates’ long time ensemble Human Chain at the famous Ronnie Scott’s club. Recorded by BBC Jazz on 3, he wowed the audience with his contrast of lightening virtuosity and tender, ethereal lyricism. This led to his being signed by the UK independent jazz label Edition Records with his first album, GoldenXplosion, released to glowing press reviews. By the time of his second CD on Edition Records, Neset had started developing his interest in larger ensemble music and a wider palette of instrumental sound.

Neset’s composition and arranging skills have come into even sharper focus with a new album Lion for the Munich-based ACT Music and Vision released in 2014 in collaboration with the celebrated Trondheim Jazz Orchestra.

Now from ACT comes a new release of Marius Neset’s music entitled Snowmelt recorded with the composer on saxophone and his fellow quartet members, Ivo Neame (piano), Pettter Eldh (bass) and Anton Eger (drums) with the London Sinfonietta conducted by Geoffrey Paterson


Described as Neset's most ambitious, cherished and personal project to date the album Snowmelt has its origins in a fifteen minute piece for solo saxophone and chamber orchestra and five live singers commissioned by the Oslo Sinfonietta and premiered in 2013. This led Neset to compose a whole album that required a larger body of strings and would include his own quartet. The composer speaks of his desire to seek ‘chaos and dissonance while also being drawn to lyricism and tenderness…(and) find the point when everything makes sense.’

In eleven movements or sections Snowmelt opens with Prologue where the saxophone opens with a shrill motif that is developed through varying techniques that bring some fine textures and timbres. There are some lovely sonorities from the saxophone in Arches of Nature: Sirens where the music grows quieter and more reflective, around which the orchestra weave some lovely woodwind passages before drums bring a beat as the music gains in energy with a pulsating theme.  
In Arches of Nature: Acrobatics bass and drums bring a steady rhythmic drive to which the piano joins in this jazz inspired section.  Marius Neset’s saxophone weaves around as do the woodwind of the orchestra, full of an improvisatory feel as the saxophone finds its own way ahead with piano, bass and drums acting as a jazz group. There are some terrific passages before building wildly through the orchestra and going into Arches of Nature: Circles introduced by a trumpet to which drums join in a steady beat. There are flurries of woodwind and a flowing string passage that immediately brings a nostalgic air out of which the saxophone is gently heard, then piano in a lovely blossoming of ideas. Soon the saxophone emerges more fully within the orchestra as the music rises in an uplifting theme. There is a sudden halt as the music fragments only for the saxophone and orchestra to regain their melodic flow to lead into the next section.

The saxophone gives a little motif over a repeated piano idea and hushed strings as Arches of Nature: Caves arrives. They are soon interrupted by a faster, rather light-hearted section where little staccato phrases are delivered by saxophone, drums and various instruments in a syncopated rhythm that soon flourishes through some terrific passages as the instrumentalists weave some great ideas before leading into Arches of Nature: Paradise where the piano brings a languid section over quiet drums to which the saxophone adds similarly languid tones. There are some very fine, subtle rhythmic qualities as the music slowly finds its way ahead. The piano brings fine little phrases over a mellow, hushed orchestral layer with rhythmic support from the drums, the piano ever developing the theme. Here one might ask ‘is this jazz or classical?’ The answer surely is yes to both. Soon the piano and drums develop an idea to which the strings join and out of which grows a repeated idea from the saxophone and others, as the strings begin to soar up against the rhythm creating a quite wonderful effect.  

As we move into Arches of Nature: Rainbows drums alone are left. The saxophone adds staccato phrases before strings bring a more flowing melody, a quite lovely idea that continues to unfold before leading to a lovely saxophone melody over strings. The music rises up before finding some richer, lower phrases for saxophone and moving into Arches of Nature: Pyramiden where saxophone, drums, piano and bass lead off with a lively, jazz theme. There are many varying rhythmic ideas as the music swirls and the orchestra joins. The London Sinfonietta provides some terrific orchestral playing here before leading with an energetic swirl of instruments to a sudden end.
The Storm Is Over opens with hushed strings that gently weave ahead with many little details. The saxophone is quietly heard emerging from the strings in this most gorgeous moment. It emerges little by little with its lovely theme before the orchestra brings a lovely tapestry of sound. The piano peers through as the music finds a lovely flow, rising through fine passages before quietening. The orchestra arrives at a lovely hovering passage before the wind join, as does the saxophone, as the music rises again through some more quiet wonderful passages, the saxophone finding a rich, sonorous tone as it plays over the orchestra, weaving some fine ideas to a hushed orchestral coda.

The saxophone opens Introduction to Snowmelt with a series of held notes, creating a primeval quality, wonderfully played; slowly developing before suddenly becoming louder as a theme develops out of the opening ideas. Neset draws some spectacularly fine sonorities and textures from his saxophone weaving the most wonderful ideas. Later a repeated rhythmic idea for saxophone and drums is suddenly found to which the orchestra subtly join as we are led into Snowmelt with the saxophone bringing a theme over a syncopated accompaniment. As the music develops, Neset creates some very fine orchestral sonorities, constantly shifting. The piano joins drums and bass to develop the music in a more jazz orientated direction, before rising in intensity through passages of terrific saxophone playing over a very fine tapestry of orchestral sound. Later the music falls through passages of gentler music where the saxophone seems to become distant over the quartet along with some lovely, subtly shifting orchestral ideas. As the music slows there is a quite wonderful outpouring of melody from Neset’s saxophone and strings bringing this work to a gentle end.

Here is music that so naturally defies boundaries and is all the better for it. Neset is a terrific saxophonist with his quartet and the London Sinfonietta under Geoffrey Paterson delivering first rate performances. This is a disc that is likely to have a wide appeal. 

The recording made at Air Studios, London, England is excellent. The three fold digipak CD folder has photos, tracking information and artist’s details but no notes. However, much information can be obtained via the composer and record company websites and


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