Marius Neset Bio
“He’s not the future of European jazz, he’s the present.” (Brian Morton, Downbeat, 2022)
Marius Neset (b. 1985) remembers his very first experiences as an instrumentalist, well before he took up the saxophone at the age of eight: “As a 5-year old kid, I got a drum set,” he says, “and it was the beginning of an incredibly exciting – and rhythmical, musical journey. From the beginning it felt natural to me to play around with grooves in different odd meters, and play around with different polyrhythms too.” This particular focus, this ever-present sense of adventure are intrinsic to everything he does, whether working as a solo saxophonist, in a jazz quintet, as part of chamber ensembles or with big bands or symphony orchestras.
Neset made an astonishingly powerful impression when he first emerged onto the European jazz scene as a young saxophonist of protean gifts more than a decade ago.
Django Bates, who was a teacher and a significant mentor at the Rhythmic Conservatory in Copenhagen, had Neset in several of his band, and also appeared on Neset’s breakthrough album, Golden Xplosion (Edition, 2011).
The intervening years have seen him bring his huge creative energy to so many roles in different contexts, as either an instigator or as a catalyst. An aspect of his work which does not often receive the attention it deserves is the substantial catalogue of works which Neset now has to his name as a composer, a list which continues to grow. He has received and fulfilled a flow of major commissions for substantial pieces for large ensembles and orchestras, starting in 2012 with “Lion” written for the Trondheim Jazz Orchestra, first performed at the Molde Jazz Festival, and released as a CD in 2014. The album marked his debut with one of the leading jazz labels in Europe, ACT, with whom he has gone on to make a total of ten albums in his own name.
Since “Lion” Neset has written three major works with the London Sinfonietta: “Arches of Nature” / “Snowmelt” (2016), described as “majestic” by Downbeat, “Viaduct (2018) commissioned by the Kongsberg Jazz Festival, and most recently a commission, “Geyser” from the BBC Proms which was premiered in the Royal Albert Hall in September 2022.
Other commissions have come from Big Bands in both Bergen and Copenhagen, from the Rosendal Chamber Music Festival, where artistic director Leif Ove Andsnes, one of the leading classical pianists in the world, is a close musical colleague and friend, and from symphony orchestras: the Bergen Philharmonic who have commissioned both a saxophone concerto, “Manmade” (2020), released by the Chandos label, and a 20-minute piece for full orchestra without saxophone (2021), and also the Norwegian Radio Orchestra.
Marius Neset has now received well over twenty awards or award nominations for albums and from festivals. The first was received as a teenager from the NattJazz Festival in Bergen. In Norway several EDVARD nominations and Spelleman prize and nominations have followed. He has won prize and been nominated in different categories at the German ECHO Awards. He was also the only European to be listed as one of "25 for the Future" by Downbeat in 2016.
Neset’s dynamism and his organisational capacity are such that this substantial activity as composer runs in parallel with a busy touring schedule as both leader and sideman – he is a member of Arild Andersen’s new quartet which has a new recording on ECM. It is just part of a substantial and growing discography. Neset’s main release in the current quarter (autumn 2022) is with a newly-formed quintet. “Happy”, on the ACT label features Neset’s closest musical associate, Swedish drummer Anton Eger, and other leading lights of European jazz of his generation: Magnus Hjorth on piano, Elliot Galvin on keyboards and Conor Chaplin on electric bass.
The common thread running through Neset’s career is that both his compositions and playing have consistently attracted other world class musicians, not only the jazz-scene, but from from many different genres in the musical world to want to work. The result is that the sheer breadth of Marius Neset’s activity at the top level in all kinds of musical contexts is astonishing, and is still broadening.