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ACT 9035 - 2






  1. Prologue

  2. Arches of Nature : Sirens

  3. Arches of Nature : Acrobatics

  4. Arches of Nature : Circles

  5. Arches of Nature : Caves

  6. Arches of Nature : Paradise

  7. Arches of Nature : Rainbows

  8. Arches of Nature : Pyramiden

  9. The Storm is Over

  10. Introduction To Snowmelt

  11. Snowmelt

    Marius Neset - Tenor, soprano saxophone

    Ivo Neame - Piano

    Petter Eldh - Bass

    Anton Eger - Drums

    London Sinfonietta conducted by Geoffrey Paterson

    Marius Neset is still only in his early 30s but since his first album as leader was issued in 2008, he has an impressive record of achievement to his name. The Norwegian-born saxophonist, now resident in Denmark (Copenhagen), comes from a musical family. Nature and nurture seem to have combined to produce a considerable talent - Neset is the only European artist to be included in Downbeat's list of “25 for the future”. Snowmelt, both written and arranged by him, was first played live at the London Jazz Festival in November 2016. It provides something of a contrast with his previous album for ACT as a leader, Pinball, which was a more straight-ahead offering, although even there, a cello, violin and flute could be found among the backing musicians. It isn't, however, his first experience of writing for a larger group. Lion (2014) featured music commissioned for the 2012 Molde Jazz Festival and was a collaboration with the Trondheim Jazz Orchestra. And, in 2013, Neset was commissioned by the Oslo Sinfonietta to write a piece lasting fifteen minutes for solo saxophone, chamber orchestra and five voices, an experience which whetted his appetite for a more ambitious work. There are modern classical influences apparent in his compositions as well as folk music, and jazz, of course. This isn't an unusual mix in his native Norway.

    He brings to this symphonic jazz project a trio of musicians closely associated with him. The British pianist Ivo Neame and Swedish drummer Anton Eger are members of the widely-esteemed trio, Phronesis. Swedish double bass player Petter Eldh is a sought after musician who has played primarily in Denmark but lives in Berlin. Then, of course, there is the substantial presence of the London Sinfonietta, a nineteen piece chamber orchestra. The disc opens with a brief Prologue to the Arches Of Nature suite. Neset on soprano sax is at first fierce, then haunting. One track segues into another throughout the suite. I was most taken by two of the later pieces. The first of these is Rainbows, where there is a superlative and passionate tenor sax performance from Neset, ably buttressed by the orchestral strings. Then, Pyramiden features some lively soprano saxophone with full rhythm section participation, followed by surging orchestral pyrotechnics, carrying the piece through to a decisive ending. Of the others, Circles is distinguished by dreamy and delicious soprano playing while on Paradise Ivo Neame's discursive approach on piano is notable alongside Neset's tenor and a rhythm section that riffs urgently over the orchestra. The suite as a whole has considerable merit with inspired moments surfacing time and again from orchestra and jazz quartet alike.

    Another (stand alone) highlight is The Storm Is Over which initially does suggest, after what has gone before, a period of calm. That's not to say the piece lacks dynamism though it clearly posseses a romantic sensibility. Neset is nothing short of splendid on soprano and tenor saxophones and Neame is not far behind on piano. All of which brings us to Snowmelt. There's a brief introduction lasting around four minutes, mournful, tentative and exploratory in nature before emergence into something more sparky. The main work, of just under twelve minutes, follows, full of movement and life. The plucked strings evoke the thaw suggested in the title. Neset's tenor surges over the rhythmic pulse of the orchestra. There's a near folk-dance flavour at one point. Latterly, Neset strikes a rich vein of lyricism on soprano sax. Piano and bass, in particular, also play their part. It's a highly satisfying finale.

    I'm tempted to rate this album as a worthy addition to a canon of similar works that would include the likes, for instance, of Maria Schneider and Tim Garland. I want to stop just short of that, however. Sufficient to say that Marius Neset has the potential to be ranked with the very best, as a jazz musician and as a composer/arranger. Watch this space.

    James Poore

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