London Sinfonietta & Marius Neset

Review by Liam Izod

EFG London Jazz Festival
Jerwood Hall, LSO St Luke’s, London

Norway and Britain – an alliance of EU refuseniks. But if a collaboration between Norway’s foremost jazz talent and London’s premier contemporary chamber orchestra is the sort of partnership Boris Johnson has been unconvincingly advocating, then count me a remoaner no longer.

Marius Neset

Marius Neset

Of course the Snowmelt project is all about making connections, not severing them. The German Act label empowered Marius Neset to compose across the often troubled border between classical and jazz. Despite tensions, the most enlightened musical citizens have always been sitting with Stravinsky in Birdland, taking in a Charlie Parker set, and that is more or less where the St Luke’s audience found themselves for the live debut of Neset’s work with the London Sinfonietta.

Neset is a physical saxophonist, pogoing with his horn like an exuberant punk. Whilst the august interior of St Luke’s might seem far from the spirit of ’76, Neset does something that feels as musically revolutionary; replenishing the wellspring of melody within contemporary classical music. It was an evening of unapologetic melody, and unholy rhythm. Neset started life as a drummer, and his compositions invariably contain more fiendish metres than a multi-story car park in purgatory. Delightfully zany grooves radiated out from Neset and his quartet, animating the 19-piece Sinfonietta.

The first set was more classical in character. The multi-movement Arches of Nature ranged from pensive to lush, often sounding like In a Silent Way-era Wayne Shorter riffing on a Rimsky-Korsakov symphony. Math of Mars, a piece from Neset’s second album, Birds, was freshly arranged with abundant lyricism. It began a euphoric hat-trick of pieces that closed the extraordinary evening, of which Snowmelt – the Act album’s title track – was the most gasp-inducingly joyous. A pizzicato riff that might have started life on an n’goni provided a West African lilt, which ended up underscoring a madcap shanty that bore the imprints of Neset’s mentor, Django Bates.

There will be at least one more outing of this bewitching collaboration, at Turner Sims in Southampton. If you can go, you should. You should bring your friends, you should bring your enemies, because listening to this life-affirming music, you will all rejoice.

The Marius Neset Quartet  takes a bow (Photo © Sebastian Scotney)

The Marius Neset Quartet takes a bow (Photo © Sebastian Scotney)

  • If there are any tickets left for the Turner Sims, Southampton, concert you will find them HERE.
  • And for the most comprehensive review coverage of the EFG London Jazz Festival I’ve seen, go HERE.

Categories: Live review

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2 replies

  1. Great review! Wish I’d been there!

    • It was the best gig of the Jazz Festival possibly the best I have ever seen absolutely amazing. An incredibly talented young sax player a joy beyond belief
      Sandra Bristol

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