Source: artist website
Norwegian saxophone virtuoso and innovative composer MARIUS NESET is one of the most prominent musicians to have emerged from Norway in recent years. He will be at Kings Place with his group on Saturday 3 February. Interview with Tomasz Furmanek:
LondonJazz News: Why does Norway have such a thriving jazz scene?
Marius Neset: There are many great music schools and conservatories in Norway, and the country has a long musical tradition. Norwegian folk music is rich and kept alive, and we have some great composers too, like Edvard Grieg, Fartein Valen, Ole Bull and more. Therefore many jazz musicians were able to incorporate the typical Norwegian music and its sounds into their way of playing jazz – like, for example, Jan Garbarek or Arild Andersen, and I think that, consequently, has influenced most of the young players nowdays too.
LJN: How different is your music from music of previous generations of Norwegian musicians?
MN: It’s a little hard for me to answer that question, but I’m not sure if I’m a “typical” Norwegian jazz musician – whatever that is! It’s not something that I think a lot about. I’m influenced by lots of music from all over the world. Lately I’m highly influenced by composers like Olivier Messiaen, Gustav Mahler and Schönberg. I love being in the mountains and I often say that silence is music as well. So, maybe being from Norway makes me feel this way!
LJN: In what direction or directions is contemporary music headed?
MN: To be honest I don’t know, as music always takes me to new places that I wasn’t prepared for! Right now I’m composing a new work for London Sinfonietta and myself, and I think it has taken a very interesting direction, especially my approach to harmonies in that work is something new in my music. I’m always listening to new music, studying music, practising, composing and performing, and all these things affect me very much when it comes to which direction to go!
LJN: Django Bates became your mentor at Copenhagen’s Rhythmic Music Academy. What was the experience of working with him like for you?
MN: It was a fantastic experience, with one of the most inspiring musicians I have ever met. He opened many doors for me in terms of both playing and composing, and I’m very inspired by his approach to composing.
LJN: Did the Danish school of jazz influence you?
MN: I think every place where I meet new musicians in some way influences me. There were many great musicians at the school. I studied together with Anton Eger, Petter Eldh, Magnus Hjorth, Morten Schantz and many more, and we learned a lot from each other all the time. It was a very creative period. To be honest I don’t know how it has influenced me, as what I learned most was from studying on my own. Of course Django Bates had a lot of influence on me. I cannot say if Danish school is much different from other schools in Europe, because I haven’t studied in other European schools. I was in Berklee when I was 17. That was a little different in the way that the Danish school gave me more freedom. The American one was based more on a programme that everyone had to follow. I think both ways of teaching were good for me.
In the end what really influences me is what I am listening to, what I am studying, who I play with – composing and being creative – and it was like that when I was in school too. The most important thing is to follow your heart and to do what you want to do, which is what I am doing now and did when I was studying. So, in terms of what style my own music is and how I play, I am not sure the school itself has influenced me very much.
LJN: What is the inspiration and idea behind the new album Circle of Chimes ?
MN: To me, it’s the most personal album I have ever done, and maybe for the first time I have done an album where the main inspiration for the music were things that happened in my life and around me. It took me a long time to create this rhythmic circle that starts the album on tubular bells, but that was a very strong idea which became a fundamental part of at least four to five songs on that album. Perhaps it’s not always easy to hear it, but, for example, the song Life Goes On is based on that rhythmic idea – even if I have taken that pattern away from it. You know… In the end I don’t care about these concepts, it’s just a tool that can help me in creating music and gives me original ideas. I will always, at some point, go and break my own rules and let my ears decide what sounds best.
LJN: Classical cellist Andreas Brantelid seems to have quite a central role in the music too.
MN: Andreas is one of the most musical people I have ever met. His way of phrasing and the control he has over the instrument are just incredible. For example, the way he plays the intro to Prague’s Ballet! I find it very inspiring how he forms the melodies and uses dynamics in all registers, still making the music breathe with a nerve! That is hard to explain!
LJN: Downbeat magazine selected you as the only European resident for their “25 for the future” list of young musicians destined to shape the future of jazz.
MN: That was a great honour, which I totally wasn’t prepared for. There are so many great young musicians everywhere today, so I am very thankful when things like that happen. On the other hand, it’s not something that I’m thinking much about. I’m too busy with the music and I’m focused on developing my music practically all the time. But when it comes to my attention that people like it and they tell me it touches them or gives them something special, that’s a fantastic feeling.
LJN: Our writer Dan Paton said of Snowmelt with the London Sinfonietta that is has been the most successful of your works “in achieving effective contrasts and space”. Does that sound reasonable?
MN: I’m very proud of that record, and the concert with LSO at St. Luke’s in 2016, it was really a highlight to me. London Sinfonietta played my music so fantastically, and I’m really happy and excited about the fact that we are going to do a new project together very soon. I’m composing it at the moment. It will be performed on the opening concert of The Kongsberg Jazz Festival in Norway this year.
LJN: We will see you very soon performing at Kings Place in London. What will you play?
MN: We will play music mainly from my new album Circle of Chimes, with a few older songs as well. I’m looking forward very much to the gigs next week and to coming back to The UK!
King’s Place , Hall One, Saturday 3 February, 8pm.