Marius Neset: Live At Royal Albert Hall – BBC Proms

The Norwegian saxophonist revived the old jazz and strings idea at the 2022 Proms in London, ranging from the uplifting to the muddied

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Neset’s extended work Geyser was specifically composed for the London Sinfonietta in conjunction with his own group, reviving the old debate as to whether the combination of strings and jazz is ever something to be encouraged or admired. Certainly, there has always been a underlying prejudice in some quarters which could never get to grips with the likes of Stan Getz, Charlie Parker and Clifford Brown performing over string-laden backgrounds.

Looking at this hybrid in its entirety there is much to admire in terms of amalgamation, good solos over the ensemble and periods of gloriously uplifting music. On the downside, there are moments of fracture, the odd dragging tempo and slightly uncomfortable transitions in some of the tempo changes. Taking a piece like On Fire, we get the contrasting elements of a romantic opening with luxuriant strings complemented by Neset’s tenor saxophone developing into an exuberant middle section that gets awfully muddied as it develops.

The saxophonist does not dominate as one might expect, although he solos on both horns displaying the passion he is noted for. Neame gets space on Out Of Sight and Meeting Magma – on the former he is joined by the excellent Jim Hart, whom also graces Flow in agile fashion, set against the bowing faction.

There are enough contrasting themes and variations to keep the listener alert from the opening of Waterfall (violins to the fore) to the dramatic finale that graces Outbreak. It is only at the denouement that we realise this work has been performed in front of an audience, totally silent until this juncture.


Discography
Waterfall; On Fire; Out Of Sight; Under The Surface; Lava; Flow; Meeting Magma; Outbreak (64.02)
Neset (ts, ss, pc); Ivo Neame (p); Jim Hart (vib, mar, pc); Conor Chaplin (b); Anton Eger (d, pc) plus the London Sinfonietta. Royal Albert Hall, London, 3 September 2022.
ACT 9056-2