The planet crawls with exciting improvisers, but those who are equally accomplished composers are rare. Several of them record for Dave Stapleton’s UK-based Edition label, including Norwegian saxophonist Marius Neset, whose title track for this album is one of many highlights.
Forty years ago Dave Holland released a masterpiece called Conference Of The Birds on which the reeds of Anthony Braxton and Sam Rivers simulated birdsong. Neset’s opus is more metaphorical, but no less beguiling, evoking that giddy freneticism which is the bird-life counterpoint to gliding albatrosses.
Thereafter some pieces are as disorienting and disquieting as blundering into a hall of mirrors, while others charm with a sense of fun that may be warm or manic, or seduce with a simple beauty.
Neset is joined by the three members of the wonderful Phronesis – Ivo Neame (piano), Jasper Hoiby (bass) and Anton Eger (drums) – plus vibraphonist Jim Hart. A support cast of horns and accordion allow his exhilarating compositions to land massive punches when required, or to shoot off to the extremities of sonic surprise.
While his saxophone playing – especially on tenor – is more engaging than previously, it is the imagination he brings to his composing that remains his greater strength. Not only are the pieces fascinating in themselves, but they engender exceptional improvising from his pool of gifted players. He’s still young, too…