Marius Neset Golden Xplosion Review

Released 2011.  

BBC Review

Neset has amazing potential, but this is a mixed album from the saxophonist.

John Eyles 2011

Still only 25, Norwegian saxophonist Marius Neset seems destined for great things. At the Rhythmic Music Conservatory in Copenhagen, his professor, renowned British keyboardist and composer Django Bates, soon recognised his talent. Neset became a member of the big band storRMChaser and Bates’ small group Human Chain, to great acclaim.

Bates plays piano and keyboards on Golden Xplosion, Neset’s second album, with the rhythm section from Phronesis – Jasper Høiby on double bass and Anton Eger on drums – completing the line-up. In such distinguished company, Neset shines on both tenor and soprano saxophones, displaying rhythmic flair and the ability to produce inventive solos even at the most testing tempos.

All 11 tracks are Neset compositions; as a composer, he displays the same sense of melody as in his solos. The album opens stunningly with a complex duo between Neset on tenor and Bates on trumpet in which the two interweave and complement each other beautifully. However, when this segues into Golden Xplosion, things change dramatically.

Played by the quartet, with Bates on keyboards and E-flat horn, the title-track begins promisingly but soon degenerates into an exhausting mish-mash of multiple time signatures – shouted by the players, for some reason – and sampled sirens. Altogether, it is over-busy and Neset sounds like he is trying too hard. As his co-producer, Eger should maybe have had a quiet word with him. Sadly, the next track, City of Fire, does little to retrieve the situation and it too makes uneasy listening.

In total contrast, at the heart of the album is a series of tracks on which Neset plays unaccompanied, allowing space for his creativity. On the first, Old Poison (XL), he is credited with "tenor saxophone (no overdubs)" – necessary as he manages to sound like several saxophonists playing together. Saxophone Intermezzo I and II plus Epilogue achieve a pastoral tranquility reminiscent of Neset’s countryman Jan Garbarek.

There is plenty on Golden Xplosion to suggest that Neset is well-equipped to be massive in the future, provided he can build on the strengths of this album and avoid repeating its worst excesses.

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