fri 08/12/2023

Albums of the Year 2020: Marius Neset – Tributes | reviews, news & interviews

Albums of the Year 2020: Marius Neset – Tributes

Albums of the Year 2020: Marius Neset – Tributes

The Norwegian saxophonist finds reasons to be cheerful

This year of all years – surely – we need music which takes us to better, happier places. And the new album from Norwegian-born saxophonist/composer Marius Neset does that. It also gives us a bit more hindsight and context as to what his two previous albums involving large ensembles were all about.

One can now see more clearly that the 500+ pages of dense orchestral scoring that he painstakingly wrote for his quintet and the London Sinfonietta in Snowmelt and Viaduct were his ‘années de galère’ as a composer.

Tributes (ACT) is not simple music by any means, and yet there is a complete sense of release and freedom, palpable throughout the album, and stemming at least in part from a feeling of kinship with the jazz musicians of the Danish Radio Big Band. Neset has also clearly enjoyed working with the band's new Chief Conductor Miho Hazama, who apparently gave constructive input to give when it came to lightening some of the textures. She is a wondrous musical alchemist, and hers is a name to watch out for in 2021.    

Listen to the opening of “Children’s Day”, the first of the pieces in order of composition. The pure joy of that bouncy calypso brings a smile every time. Neset also has a clear message to give and a story to tell, and the titles of tracks like “Leaving the Dock" and “Farewell” leave some obvious clues: this is the album in which he wants to thank Copenhagen, his welcoming base ever since he first landed there as a teenage student. The seventeen years he has spent here have formed him. He has described Tributes as "the last thing I did there", before returning to his native Norway with a young family.Those seeking an affirmation of life need look no further.

What a year otherwise. Far more events have been dreamed, planned, scheduled...and then cancelled, than have actually happened. As I write, this the yo-yo-ing of policy has just produced the third enforced closure of the London gig scene this year. In America, Wynton Marsalis' new epic Fonky Lowdown was a mind-bogglingly complex and multi-layered response to the ills of society, but it does stick in the mind. And in British jazz we have had sadness compounded with more of the same: a roll-call of larger-than-life presences left us this year: Don Weller, Keith Tippett, Peter King, Ron Mathewson...  

Two More Essential Albums from 2020

Allison Neale – Quietly There (Ubuntu)

Immanuel Wilkins - Omega (Blue Note)

Gigs of the Year

Joshua Redman with Eric Legnini and Antoine Pierre at Flagey in Brussels in January

Brad Mehldau’s Trio at the Barbican in March

Track of the Year

Fred Hersch - “After You’ve Gone” (yes, a deliberate hint to Trump) from Songs from Home (Palmetto)


Miho Hazama is a wondrous musical alchemist – remember the name


Editor Rating: 
Average: 5 (1 vote)

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