mon 20/05/2019

CD: Marius Neset & Trondheim Jazz Orchestra - Lion | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Marius Neset & Trondheim Jazz Orchestra - Lion

CD: Marius Neset & Trondheim Jazz Orchestra - Lion

Norwegian saxophone virtuoso challenges Trondheim's collective with large-scale compositions

Prodigious Neset takes to a bigger canvas

Norwegian saxophonist Marius Neset is not yet 30, and he already has several acclaimed albums with smaller forces to his increasingly neon-lit name. With this release of new and adapted work for 12-piece big band, he sets out to work on a larger (and notoriously complex) canvas. It’s intense, dramatic and finely wrought, with numerous changes of style and direction.

Some tracks are adapted from two previous albums, Birds and Golden Xplosion; others are original. The lion theme is everywhere: the Nordic blonde Neset himself, his gleaming sax over one shoulder; the brassy, golden sound of the orchestra (superb throughout); the fearlessly carnivorous approach to other musical genres. Ironically, the title track “Lion” is the least leonine, musically, moving from a luscious, fluttering opening statement to a joyous and multifaceted musical debate, all sides of the band throwing riffs at one another over some fiendishly subtle rhythm from the drums and Petter Eldh’s bass.

Apart from the new “Lion”, however, the adaptations are the most interesting, with the greatest dramatic movement and variety of musical texture. “Golden Xplosion” opens with an athletic saxophone duo, before exploding into fast-running brass rhythm and Nymanesque piano, over which Neset’s tenor fires phrases of exhilarating, somersaulting virtuosity. A couple of the middle tracks couldn’t quite live up to these high dramatic standards, but there was flawless playing, beautiful textures and some breathtakingly skilful arranging to be heard everywhere.

Neset was a pupil of Django Bates at Copenhagen’s Rhythmic Music Conservatory, and that influence is to the foremost, especially in the complexity of the rhythmic constructions. In places, Neset gives the impression of seeing Bates’ style as simply his starting point, and his exploration of orchestral textures is notable.     

Finally, the excellence of Trondheim’s music-making, and its dependence on Norway’s enlightened dispersal of its petrodollars, should be noted. For similar money as maintains the TJO, other oil-rich nations have bought a Manchester City substitute’s leg.

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