Winner of the Parliamentary Jazz Award for Best Media, 2019

by Ian Mann

August 12, 2014


An album that once again confirms Neset's status as one of the most exciting young jazz musicians in Europe.

Marius Neset & Trondheim Jazz Orchestra


(ACT Music + Vision ACT 9031-2)

Now aged twenty nine the Norwegian saxophonist and composer Marius Neset burst on to the international jazz scene in 2011 with the release of “Golden Xplosion”, his stunning leadership début for Edition Records. The album revealed Neset to be an extraordinarily fluent and gifted saxophone soloist as well as an ambitious composer of scope and vision. The presence of his former tutor Django Bates on piano and keyboards added even greater weight and authenticity to one of the most outstanding début recordings of recent years.

Neset’s dynamic live performances enhanced his already burgeoning reputation and by the time of the release of the even more ambitious follow up, “Birds” in 2013 Neset was already something of a star. By this time his working quartet comprised of the entire membership of Phronesis with Ivo Neame on piano, Jasper Hoiby on double bass and Anton Eger at the drums, a heavy weight line up on anybody’s terms. “Birds” also deployed the services of British vibraphonist Jim Hart plus a number of other guest musicians as Neset continued to expand his sonic palette to create music that drew on jazz, folk and contemporary classical influences.

In June 2013 Neset moved from Edition to the Munich based label ACT where a larger budget allowed him to record an album of material originally written for and performed at the 2012 Molde Jazz Festival. The festival commission teamed Neset with the Trondheim Jazz Orchestra, an ensemble of young musicians who are largely products of the acclaimed jazz course at Trondheim Conservatoire. The line up includes a number of musicians who have already appeared on the Jazzmann web pages including saxophonist Hanna Paulsberg, bassist Petter Eldh and tuba player Daniel Herskedal who appeared on “Birds” and who also collaborated with Neset on the extraordinary duo album “Neck of the Woods” (Edition Records, 2012). The programme also includes big band versions of the title tracks from Neset’s two previous releases.

For the record the full ensemble comprises of;

Marius Neset- tenor & soprano saxophone
Hanna Paulsberg - tenor saxophone
Peter Fuglsang- alto saxophone, flute,clarinet
Eirik Hegdal- baritone & soprano saxophone
Eivind Lonning- trumpet
Erik Eilertsen- trumpet
Erik Johannesen -trombone
Daniel Herskedal- tuba
Jovan Pavlovic- accordion
Espen Berg- piano
Petter Eldh- bass
Gard Nilssen- drums, percussion,vibraphone, marimba

Ingrid Neset - additional flute and piccolo flute on “Sacred Universe” and “Birds”

Given the ambition exhibited on both “Golden Xplosion” and “Birds” it comes as no surprise to see Neset successfully realising his compositional visions with a larger ensemble. The expanded line up offers him even greater opportunities for expressing himself as a writer with rich colours and textures combining with his trademark audacity and joie de vivre - as Neset describes the Molde festival appearance- “the music was energetic, wild and colourful - like a lion ferociously chasing its prey”. “Lion” is full of exuberant contemporary big band writing that bears the influence of Django Bates, Gil Evans and Frank Zappa among others. 

The opening title track is a ten minute epic with a strong narrative arc that goes through many stylistic and dynamic changes. It commences with breathy, sepulchral brass rumblings with Herskedal’s tuba prominent before other elements of the brass and woodwind gradually pierce the gloom. A former drummer, Neset has spoken of his love of a groove and there are plenty of these here, not only from drums and bass but also from the massed wind instruments as the music develops into a richly textured polyrhythmic stew full of colourful textures. There are more reflective moments too and also episodes of more freely structured playing, some of these positively boisterous as Neset and his colleagues evoke the spirit of Bates’ celebrated Loose Tubes. Individual soloists are not listed but there are notable contributions here from trombonist Johannesen and bassist Eldh.

The big band version of “Golden Xplosion” places greater emphasis on Neset himself who features on the reeds only intro, the counterpoint between the horns leading into a skittish groove that propels the rest of the track with drummer Nilssen and bassist Eldh much in evidence. Neset himself also appears as a soloist on another piece that is jam packed full of ideas and which sweeps up and down the gears majestically.

Neset was writing the music for the “Birds” and “Lion” projects simultaneously and it may well be that “In The Ring” is a companion piece to “Boxing” from the “Birds” album. It begins with another reeds fanfare before hitting a groove that positively dances like a butterfly but which packs a punch thanks, in part, to Hegdal’s pugnacious baritone. Johannesen solos effectively over the patter of Nilssen’s drums, shades here of the late Albert Mangelsdorff. There’s a woozily lyrical interlude featuring tenor sax and piano before a frenetic finale featuring crazily racing horn lines and Nilssen’s dynamic and dramatic drumming.

“Interlude” is a short (fifty five seconds) snippet of solo tenor saxophone which acts as the overture to a large ensemble arrangement of “Sacred Universe”, one of the key tracks from the “Birds” album. Even as a quartet performance this piece was almost orchestral in its scope and Neset places even greater emphasis on these virtues in the context of this larger line up. The piece begins in gently elegiac fashion with the sound of Pavlovic’s accordion, Berg’s piano and softly sinuous soprano sax, presumably from Neset himself. It’s an opening that reflects Neset’s growing interest in folk forms. Eldh’s passage of solo bass leads into an exhilarating, grooving, large ensemble section with engaging solos for soprano sax and trumpet followed by a lush quasi orchestral coda that seems intended to embody the sheer vastness of the universe.

“Weight OF The World” is less dolorous than its title might suggest, indeed it’s full of vim and vigour with Hegdal’s baritone sax rasping belligerently above the muscular grooves of Eldh and Nilssen. Pianist Berg is more lyrical with a flowingly expansive solo that leads to a rousing ensemble section fronted by Neset’s tenor and propelled by Nilssen’s hyper active drumming.

The lovely “Raining” is the album’s one true ballad with its fragile and evocative piano and trumpet intro subtly developed with the addition of bass and accordion plus other items of brass and woodwind. With the addition of drums the piece assumes something of the character of a slow march before metamorphosing into a delightfully ethereal passage featuring Herskedal’s astonishingly beautiful and evocative tuba playing over a backdrop of dampened piano strings. It’s a piece that demonstrates the extraordinary versatility of the band and offers further evidence of Neset’s growing maturity as a writer.

The album closes with an arrangement of the title track from “Birds”. The familiar “Morse code” opening motif is augmented by Pavlovic’s accordion in a jaunty replication of a dawn chorus that expands and develops throughout the piece. This is joyous life affirming music that again has something of the spirit of Loose Tubes running through it. Neset is the featured soloist, his playing growing in intensity above increasingly complex underlying horn charts and Nilssen’s kinetic drumming. The piece resolves itself with a reprise of the intro, creating a second “Dawn chorus” with Pavlovic’s accordion at its heart.

“Lion” repays ACT’s faith with an album that once again confirms Neset’s status as one of the most exciting young jazz musicians in Europe. The new pieces are as busy and exciting as any that have gone before and the arrangements of the older tunes are significantly fresh and different to more than justify their inclusion here. Loose Tubes fans will love it, more conventional jazz listeners may find it all a bit too busy, showy and intricate but with “Raining” Neset shows that he can take a mood or idea and run with it, an interesting development that speaks of a growing maturity as both player and writer.

Neset impresses with his playing, writing and arranging skills and he is well served by a terrific band featuring some of Scandinavia’s best young jazz musicians. Engineer August Wanngren also deserves credit for capturing their sound so well.

Marius Neset and the Trondheim Jazz Orchestra play at Ronnie Scott’s, London on Monday August 18th 2014. For details please visit

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