Marius Neset Quintet
Brighton Dome Studio Theatre
(presented by Brighton Jazz Club)
Saturday 11th April
In a veritable sea of rising young stars, beyond all the hype, it’s often rare to find a truly original talent. Enter then, Swedish saxophonist Marius Neset, on a first live outing to Brighton’s Dome Studio Theatre. The general creativity of the jazz scene regularly coming from Scandinavia has a legendary reputation. However, Neset, originally from Stockholm, is the latest signing of ACT Records, based in Germany, and has a new album out this year, Pinball also his seventh album to date. This impressive and prolific output has given him the kind of experience likely to make him stand out from the rest. The Dome Studio is packed out accordingly in expectation of this Brighton Jazz Club event, and there is an excited buzz in the air.
Neset brings with him from Sweden, Magnus Hjorth on piano, and Petter Eldh on double bass, both of whom he met while studying at the Institute of Rhythmic Studies in Stockholm. The inclusion in the line-up of the English percussionists Jim Hart, another regular Brighton Jazz Club artist, and Josh Blackmore on drums, gives an innovative foretaste of what is to come.
Dividing his time on stage between marimba and vibraphone, Hart, double beaters in each hand Gary Burton style, sets up an African-influenced rhythm for the opening strains of the first set. On “World Song Part I”, Hart makes his vibraphone send crystal droplets of sound into the still air, and as Neset’s tenor sax soars, piano, percussion, drums and bass all combine, punctuating the main melody at different intervals. There is a tremendous energy about this musical attack on the ears. Neset, like all born composers, has a tremendous ear for a good tune. However, his arrangements are the really outstanding element of his live gigs. On “World Song Part II”, there’s a distinctive descending bass line fused with piano, while Hart’s hands holding the beaters, become a frenetic blur, contributing riveting movement and harmony to the overall spectacle.
The multicultural theme continues on the next piece, as Neset sets up a flamenco-style handclapping, accompanied by the marimba. Hart then proceeds to play double bow on his vibes, rather impressively using one bow on either side of the instrument for “Aberhonndu”, a movement from the current album On this composition, Magnus Hjorth really lets rip with an impressive piano solo, interplaying beautifully with Hart, and introducing Neset’s bass clarinet.
Neset’s current tour shows consist almost entirely of a series of suites, a feature of his unique composition style, rather than the more expected set of songs. On this occasion however, the show is hampered throughout by technical sound faults: speakers crackling and mobile phones going off, which mars the Weather Report-influenced jazz-funk influences in the next section, just as the audience begins to groove on what they are hearing. This is somewhat unusual for the Dome Studio and feels regrettable, as the sparkling improvisational eclecticism of all five players really needs full emphasis and attention.
Neset apologises for the disturbance in charmingly broken English to the audience, but it’s all just as soon forgotten as the momentum builds again with lightning-fast sax and bass runs, and he quickly brings the house down in rapturous applause with a glorious sax solo on ”Fields of Clubs”. As a whole, their dynamic, energetic approach, dexterity and virtuosic onslaught win the quintet warm applause with outright cheering from the audience at the end of the first set.
After the interval, the show evolves into a much more sophisticated, laidback and more recognisable style of European jazz, as Neset introduces a much, breathier, sexier feel for his “Music for Cello and Saxophone”. Each player’s solos are showcased in the mood-changing “Police”, with Petter Eldh displaying considerable expression in emotionally moving, touching bass solos, accompanied by the driving muscular drumming of Josh Blackmore. Here, I’m also noticing that Jim Hart’s percussive experimentation is being exceptionally well received by a more liberal Brighton audience, stomping and shouting, eager for the shock of the new and untried.
On “ Odes of You”, the piano is intelligent and explorative, and with “Lullaby”, Neset introduces one of his trademark techniques: very low, breathy sentences played acapella. When Hart takes a turn behind the drum kit, the rough, choppy phrases of the sax, interspersed with dynamic drum breaks, brings the audience to their feet.
Neset stands with head bowed, sax in hand, seemingly momentarily overcome.
“It’s been fantastic to have you here tonight,” he says, finally.
“Thank YOU!” shouts someone from the front row.
With his evident magnetism as a composer, Neset’s distinctive style, characteristic mini-symphonies, dominated by very fast rhythmic passages, brings great distinction and variety to the live experience, and in many ways redefines jazz. Should you believe the hype? In a word: yes.