After the release of Golden Xplosion in 2011, it was obvious this young man was becoming a formidable force in jazz music.
This latest collection, beautifully recorded, would sit comfortably in the classical section or in the much-maligned ‘world music’ slot of any ‘store’, online or otherwise. While many younger jazz musicians keep their feet in numerous camps, flirting with the myriad influences of hip hop, R&B, rap, or whatever you’re having yourself, Neset is in take-off mode.
Extending his talent way beyond the traditional, and embracing a funkier, folksy approach, he utilises an energetic and orchestral combination of accordion, flute, French horn, tuba, trumpet and trombone, added to the standard quartet fare of saxes, bass, drums and keyboards.
It is an uplifting and complex mix, full of surprises and with more time changes and u-turns than a European Central Bank press release. Immaculate as a player, the marvellous Neset has been compared to Norway’s jazz giant, Jan Garbarak, fused with the late American saxophonist, Michael Brecker (you could add the inventiveness of Wayne Shorter). While there’s no doubting Neset’s virtuosity (he’s got a big, vibrant, mile-a-minute, muscular sound more than capable of a gossamer touch when required), of equal importance are his compositional abilities.
His writing is all about contrasts: the wonderful ‘Boxing’ starts out with a frenetic workout, with Neset’s notes on tenor trading punches with one another amid the clamour of a recorded boxing bout, before Jim Hart’s vibes take hold, gracefully guiding the song away from free-jazz territory; ‘Portuguese Windmill’ starts off as a ballad, but quickly races with Neset’s soprano, before pianist Ivo Neame brings the runaway to heel. The folksy ‘Spring Dance’ is an acoustic duo piece featuring flute (Neset’s younger sister, Ingrid) with soprano sax. ‘Spring Dance’, along with the title piece, ‘Birds’, captures the essence of the album. Even though ‘Spring Dance’ is tightly written, Neset displays his maturity by allowing for spontaneity within the structure. ‘Field of Clubs’ again takes the listener into ‘Boxing’ territory, before seamlessly sliding into the slower, folksy ballads ‘The Place of Welcome’ and ‘Sacred Universe’, where bassist Jasper Hoiby and pianist Ivo Neame stand out. Neset’s orchestral and compositional credentials can best be heard on the inspirational and optimistic hymn ‘Math Of Mars’, before his long-time associate and friend, Anton Egar (drums), marches us towards the joyous, energetic and rousing ‘Fanfare’ — the perfect ‘big band’ closing statement. Vibrant, bold and imaginative, Neset’s star continues its upwards trajectory. Outstanding.