LJF 2017: Marius Neset at Ronnie Scott's

John Watson enjoys great music from an extraordinarily creative saxophonist, as Marius Neset and his quintet play a sold-out gig at Ronnie Scott's

Marius Neset may be from a peaceful Norwegian village, but his playing is absolutely volcanic. The blazing lava of sound erupts from the bell of his tenor and soprano saxophones - a glorious outpouring of emotion, with quite astonishing technical control.

It’s been a joy to follow the development of his playing since he first visited the UK for - despite the furious intensity of his improvising at times - he now demonstrates a powerfully effective use of space and long melodic lines. He began his performance with his quintet at Ronnie Scott’s on Thursday night with the ringing of gentle bells, followed by notes on the tenor so soft they were barely breathed, building slowly towards the complex intensity we associate with his style.

And that complexity is almost mathematical in structure. In his solos, Neset will create a dense string of phrases, then invert the phrases and then mix the original line and the inversions. The result is almost dizzying in its impact - just marvellous to hear.

I enjoyed his quartet two weeks ago at the Belgrade Jazz Festival in Serbia - with the excellent Ivo Neame on piano. For the quintet sold-out date at Ronnie’s, Dan Nicholls replaced Neame very effectively, and the performance was considerably enhanced by the addition of Jim Hart on vibes, marimba and percussion. Mike Janisch was again the bassist, and the immensely dynamic Anton Eger was again on drums.

The repertoire at Ronnie’s, as at Belgrade, was mainly from Neset’s new ACT album Circle Of Chimes, with Neset compositions including Sirens Of Cologne, Prague’s Ballet and 1994. The encore, on solo tenor, was a new piece he had written for flute (his sister is an accomplished flautist) and it reminded me of the Hardanger fiddle folk dances of his homeland, such as hallings and hoppas.

Great music indeed, and so much still to look forward to from this extraordinarily creative player.

Photo by John Watson

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