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Birds - Marius Neset
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 25 March 2013
WHOEVER adheres to the 5-star rating system for music reviews may need to begin to think again with the likes of Norwegian saxophonist Marius Neset and his contemporaries on the current jazz circuit! The last couple of years have seen Neset's career advance rapidly, with everything he touches turning to gold. In 2011, he wowed jazz fans and critics alike with his Edition Records debut, `Golden Xplosion', revealing an astounding mastery of composition and sax-playing, his distinctive `self-accompanied soloing' technique leaving eyes and ears pleasantly smarting from his apparently inexhaustible displays of melody, pace and complex rhythm (and how dare he appear so cool, post-gig?!).

It's evident that Neset's roots lie in the folksong and atmospheres of his homeland, imbuing both his playing and writing with contrasts - sometimes heady and exhilarating; then shifting to an other-worldly paradise, musically capturing vast landscapes and a sense of time standing still. His recent duo recording with tuba player, Daniel Herskedal (`Neck of the Woods') sumptuously revealed much of the latter.

For his new release, `Birds', Marius Neset has surrounded himself with jazz's finest - Ivo Neame (piano/keyboards); Jim Hart (vibes); Jasper Høiby (bass) and Anton Eger (drums). Add to this an accomplished gathering of brass players - along with Bjarke Mogensen on accordion, and sister, Ingrid, on flutes - and one begins to understand the scale of this project. Neset takes compositional credits throughout an album of extraordinary variety, complexity and maturity - one which is exceptionally well balanced and produced.

The title track implies an energetic, `avian conversation' of squawks, chirps, tweets and calls, all building from a single note beginning. As this near-eleven-minute opener establishes itself, the saxophone comparisons with Wayne Shorter and Michael Brecker become clear, as do the creative and rhythmic influences of Neset's legendary mentor, Django Bates. It's elaborate stuff, demanding much from each musician, before concluding with a lyrical flute coda which then merges into the marvellously distant, brass-sustained `Reprise'.

`Boxing', complete with commentator, crowd and `seconds out' bell, has the quintet bounding around the canvas, none of the players pulling any punches. Jim Hart's vibes shine, in conjunction with the always excellent piano of Ivo Neame, whilst Høiby and Eger thrash things out as only they can! Melodically and rhythmically, it's a tour de force (with a cheeky `knockout' finish!).

That contrast mentioned earlier is typified by an elegant transition into `Portuguese Windmill', Marius then picking up the tempo on soprano, eventually leading into a beautiful, lyrical interlude from Neame. The appropriately-named `Spring Dance' follows as a spritely tenor and flute duet - to my ears, evoking Milhaud or Poulenc - and given a characteristically precise, percussive edge by Anton Eger.

The Brecker-like `Field of Clubs' drives along with a bright demeanour, suggesting all the memorability of a TV theme tune, before free-falling into the dreamy `The Place of Welcome'. Neset deftly displays, in writing and playing, his understanding of light and shade with this calming episode: Høiby's recognisable and appealing bass to the fore; vibes and keyboards adding to the feel-good.

`Sacred Universe' and `Math of Mars' take us up into the stratosphere - and what a place to inhabit! Neset floating above piano and vibes, the next minute an engaging piano trio (intruigingly not sounding like their usual partnership, Phronesis!); and then Ivo Neame's keyboard-painted galaxy providing a magical basis for the ethereal tuba and tenor of Herskedal and Neset; sublime drums, whispers and soprano sax overlays integrated with brass take us out into the unknown...

Finally, a rallying curtain call from `the Birds', heralded and maintained by Eger's snare: `Fanfare', a triumphant, upbeat and folksy closing number from an extraordinary collective. All that's missing, after the big finish, is your applause!

Another superbly-produced masterpiece from pioneering British label, Edition Records, proclaiming as always the creativity, originality and energy bursting out of the current contemporary jazz scene.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 25 March 2013
So, just how do you follow up a five star album and rave reviews for your live performances? Well, with another five star album of course. And that's what Marius Neset has done with Birds, released shortly on Edition Records. If anything, Birds is even more joyous and expansive than Golden Xplosion, the cover photo of a leaping-for-joy Marius does more than hint at his energy and youth, it proclaims that being alive is the most precious thing we all have. There are tracks of exuberance and tracks as delicate as a feather, they fuse and meld creating a very satisfying mix. When you have listened to this album, I dare you not to feel happy and optimistic.

Marius has assembled a super-group - the flawless members of Phronesis plus Jim Hart on vibes. And a supporting crew that includes an accordion, his sister Ingrid (a flute virtuoso) and Daniel Herskedal (recently heard with Marius on Neck of the Woods which I reviewed last year). Marius composed all the compositions, it is through-composed and he knew exactly what it would sound like before it was recorded. Yet each musician sounds himself, nothing is forced or artificial. Maybe it is because they can read each other's minds?

Bird sounds, motifs and allusions infuse this album from the triumphant and joyous title track to the close. All the rhythms of a bird's life are here from quiet feeding to noisy roosting. Take the climax to Reprise - you can hear a flock of birds taking off, thousands of flapping wings, then suddenly they are gone, it makes your spine tingle! There are birds that sound like parrots or parakeets. Jasper's bass is a strong, strutting crow in Birds, yet warm in The Place of Welcome alongside Jim's most delicate vibes. Ivo's piano is a nightingale's song at twilight.

The celestial, moving, Math of Mars is like looking into a starry sky, a myriad galaxies stretch out for ever, it is a wonderful near-climax to an album which teems with gems and gently slides into the closing Fanfare with military drum beat and reeds. All the glossy birds line up for a farewell, they trill, preen themselves. whistle, squawk, bicker raucously and show off in glorious colour. It's fantastic fun and we are so fortunate to eavesdrop on it.
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on 23 June 2013
The well-written reviews on this site do full and fulsome justice to a superb performance from Marius Neset. He is a most exciting talent and this is an excellent, involving and intriguing record. I'd like to add the congratulations of this listener, to Neset himself, to his fellow musicians whose playing is quite excellent and to all those involved in the recording and production of this outstanding release.
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on 3 July 2015
Good service, but I was disappointed with the music
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on 1 January 2015
Excellent
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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 30 April 2013
"Birds is as fresh and vigorous as any music being made today and confirms the emergence of a remarkable talent."Irish Times, UK *****

"The title track begins as playful and quirky as blackbird song before developing a complex brass score. Spring Dance is a lyrical duet with Neset's sister on flute. Neset's melodic bop infuses Fields of Clubs, while Math of Mars is dreamy and Fanfare reminiscent of Aaron Copland. Outstanding." OBSERVER, UK *****

"This is a breathtaking album, this final track leaving you breathless and one of those albums which you put on again immediately it ends."York Press, UK *****

"Vibrant, bold and imaginative, Neset's star continues its upwards trajectory." Irish Examiner, UK *****

"What's striking is how teeming with influences the music is, from Nordic folk to American pastoral to Django Bates, Steve Reich and Wayne Shorter. You can find most of them in the epic opening title track, and there's still almost an hour to go. As Anthony Burgess said of James Joyce: here comes everybody." The Independent, UK *****

"Birds takes shape as a one-hour long suite, and is an example of the exceptional qualities the 28 year old saxophonist/composer has." Terje Mosnes, Dagbladet, N, 6/6 STARS

"Neset is in my ears the biggest thing that has happened with the saxophone in Norway since Jan Garbarek in the 60s."Nettavisen, N, 5/6 STARS

"Birds is an astonishing statement, not just of Neset's prodigious talent on tenor and soprano saxophones but also of his fantastic reach and imagination as a composer." Herald Scotland, UK

"It's 25 March and the CD that could still stand on 31 December as the most impressive jazz release of 2013 is available for purchase. Simply brilliant? No, more complexly brilliant. A triumph in every sense." The Jazz Breakfast, UK

"Birds is a strong follow-up to Golden Xplosion, and Neset shows himself as an exciting player, and a newthinking composer." VG, N, 5/6 STARS

"A masterpiece."Jazz Special, DK

"This hotly tipped Norwegian saxophonist has fearsome technique. His follow-up highlights his composing skills with a flurry of resonant tunes. Outstanding record." THE TIMES ****

"An early contender for record of the year. Highly recommended". ALL ABOUT JAZZ, US

"[With Birds] the young Norwegian saxophonist Marius Neset has extended his talents. Each new step by Neset seems to take him forward by a big distance".GUARDIAN ****

"Recording's emphasis is on composition, with unexpected turns and a broad romantic palette". FT ****
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0 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 10 January 2014
Interesting sounds but sometimes bordering to cacophony !! More suited to the aspiring musicologist !! Not a pleasurable listening really
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