Mariius Neset Golden Xplosion in Phantom TollboothThere is a jazz explosion and an afterglow; this is almost bi-polar.

Label: Edition
Time: 11 tracks /48 minutes

Danish sax prodigy Neset certainly makes a huge impression in this almost bi-polar release, which refuses at first to sit in a corner and give the room a nice ambience, but collapses at the end, exhausted from the early breakneck blowing. Play those tracks live for long and you would be stretchered off.

These early pieces are technically brilliant. If you can have funk played on just two brass instruments, then it happens on Introducing: Golden Xplosion, the skeleton that Neset fleshes out immediately afterwards in the title track proper, when the band enters and the speed doubles. Both this and “City on Fire” are frenetic affairs, complicated enough to put fear into the heart of most rhythm sections, but bassist Jasper Høiby and drummer Anton Eger more than cope; they contribute, adding punch to the climaxes and simmering elsewhere, ready to boil.  

But however clever Neset is, there is a sense that he is drawing attention to himself, rather than trying to thrill the listener. He even notes on the liner credits against “Old Poison (XL)” that the only musician for the track is “Marius Neset: Tenor Saxophone (no overdubs).” Listening to some tracks is like a multi-directional fairground ride: the experience veers between heady excitement and feeling unwell.

Neset gets it right on “Shame Us,” which keeps the bobbing, funky feel of his solo pieces and features proper jazz improvisation. Here his skills serve the music. “The Real Ysj” may be short and another solo piece – with overdubs, this time – but it has good pace and direction.

“Saxophone Intermezzo” takes things right down and is a beautifully mellow ambient track, his tenors playing at the pace of a heartbeat undergoing cryogenics. It may be under three minutes, but it still has shape, and the self-harmonisations can get the goosebumps going. Another highlight is “Angel of the North,” where he again strikes the right balance over its enjoyable eight minutes. Like tasting a good wine, there is time to sip it and let the full flavour reveal itself.

Some of these pieces prove that he can get it very right. Neset has enormous talent, but music history is speckled with self-indulgent players who did not think enough about the listener. On the next release it would be good to see him channel that energy and skill more carefully to the music itself.  

Derek Walker