Marius Neset & London Sinfonietta – Snowmelt

snowmelt(ACT Records)

The young Norwegian saxophonist was clearly a burning new star in the jazz firmament from the first time he was heard in Django Bates StoRMChaser band and on his first album back in 2008.

That first release added a string quartet to his jazz group and that mixing of jazz and classical influences reaches its highest peak yet with this composed suite for Neset’s Anglo-Scandinavian quartet – Ivo Neame on piano, Petter Eldh on double bass and Anton Eger on drums – with the British contemporary orchestra.

It’s an extraordinary work, brimming with the rhythmic excitement and complex layering that we have come to expect from Neset’s smaller group albums, but what is most impressive is the way that as composer he has extended his ideas so coherently throughout the album’s 11 tracks (and 239 pages of orchestral score).

The Marius Neset Quartet with London Sinfonietta

The Marius Neset Quartet with London Sinfonietta

The suite opens with a prologue of Neset’s solo soprano, full not only of his virtuoso technique and finely-focussed tone but with a musical language which clearly transcends any genre, the folk music and jazz improvisation clearly infused with influences from classical composers. With reference to the work as a whole, Neset acknowledges inspiration from Mahler, Stravinsky and Alban Berg.

The driving rhythms and complex energy patterns one hears in Neset’s quartet – Eger has always been a vital collaborator – are successfully (and miraculously so) expanded throughout the ranks of the Sinfonietta in a piece like the Acrobatics section of the seven-part Arches Of Nature sequence which fills most of the CD. Just as he has done on his smaller group albums, Neset can drop from giddy busy-ness to slow sublimity at the turn of a track and with perfect logic, and so Circles, which follows on Acrobatics, is full of limpid pools of strings with lyrical saxophone singing above them.

After the sometimes frenetic pace of the Arches Of Nature sequence comes the peace of The Storm Is Over which, together with the similarly gorgeous final title track (preceded by another solo saxophone introduction, this time on tenor), provide the final, resolving and reflective depths of what is a hugely rich listening experience.

Surely one of the finest releases of 2016?

  • There are live performances by Neset, his quartet and London Sinfonietta at LSO St Luke’s on 18 November as part of the EFG London Jazz Festival and at Turner Sims in Southampton on 22 November.


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  1. 2016 Festive Fifty – 20-11 – thejazzbreakfast

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