(ACT Music – ACT 9051-2. CD review by Adrian Pallant)
It’s almost ten years since Marius Neset’s ‘Golden Xplosion’ onto the European jazz scene with his debut album of that name, on the Edition Records label. Since then, this master of remarkable saxophonic technique has forged a prolific career, recording an impressive series of albums. His projects have featured Ivo Neame, Anton Eger, Petter Eldh, Jim Hart, as well as Trondheim Jazz Orchestra and London Sinfonietta – all pivotal in realizing his often complex, Nordic-folk-influenced compositions.
Neset describes latest ACT Music release, Tributes, as marking “a new phase” as it represents his final work in Copenhagen, Denmark (“my life for the past seventeen years”) before returning to his native Norway. This time he worked solely with the Danish Radio Big Band (DR Big Band) conducted by Miho Hazama – a remarkable collective with the ability to provide every texture, colour and dynamic he needs as this album’s composer and saxophonist; and their variation, precision and integration across these 50 minutes is especially striking.
With an audible deep breath, the leader unleashes his solo tenor fire on the opening three minutes of Bicycle Town Part 1 (the Danish capital, where he did favour two wheels) which impetuously falls over itself with signature, firecracker self-harmonies and rapidly percussive pops. Pictorialising a single cyclist gradually joined by others for a ‘wild ride’, the arrangement sees DR Big Band doing just that – swelling to a colourful, grooving spectacle led by fabulous drums, electric bass and baritone sax. Part 2 feels like the band’s great descent from the summit, gathering exhilarating pace behind Neset’s soulful ‘yellow jersey’ improv, towards its triumphal arrival march.
The continuous journey heads into Tribute, a wistful clarinet-embellished waltz (referencing Beethoven, Mahler, Grieg, Queen and Brad Mehldau) with lithe soprano sax feature for Hans Ulrik; and throughout the album, the sumptuous weave of Neset’s arrangements and influences is enthralling to hear and re-hear. Across a ten-minute span, Farewell and Leaving the Dock are his emotive goodbyes, the former with the towering grandeur and literal echo of his duo work with tubist Daniel Herskedal; and segueing into the latter, a rumba-like pulse summons mellow trumpet lines and elegantly glinting ballroom piano.
A tradition of Norway is Children’s Day – and the final work, in three movements, reflects the joys of childhood (undoubtedly for Marius, also parenthood, as he became a father for the first time this year!). Calypsoing Part 1, inspired by his young nephew’s birthday party, is cheeky and mischievous. With all manner of abrupt ‘interruptions’ from different sections of the band, including ‘impertinent’ rock guitar, it’s all in the spirit of ‘Who do I listen to first?’! Part 2 suggests a nod to Weather Report, its bass-soloed romance providing a lush setting for fluid trumpet feature; and Neset’s familiar world of ‘organised chaos’ returns in bustling Part Three as his tenor improvisations expand on the band’s impetuous, resounding crescendo.
Marius Neset’s distinct style of contemporary jazz composition and performance has long since come of age, and Tributes celebrates that with typical vivacity and geniality.
Released on 25 September at ACT Music.
Categories: CD review
I look forward to listening. I discovered Marius listening to Morten Schantz’s Godspeed and was transfixed by his contribution.
I tried Morten Schantz’s Godspeed because Marius Neset was on it. Loved it. Different routes to the same thing?