Marius Neset captures a city’s mood, blends musical genres on “Prague’s Ballet”

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Scandinavian saxophonist, Marius Neset is having a whirlwind career. His forthcoming album, “Circle of Chimes,” features the genre-fluid song, “Prague’s Ballet.” The song uses symphonic instruments in a jazz arrangement, with some rhythmic elements of rock ‘n’ roll.

Introduction to Marius Neset

Marius Neset is a 32-year old musician. His professional career began in 2008, with a self-titled album. Even before Neset was catapulted to international prominence, he had earned awards for his abilities, as proven by his approach to eclectic jazz.

Even a glance through Neset’s discography shows a busy musician making the most of performance and collaboration opportunities. Neset’s copious output seems the result of a strong work ethic. Between 2011 and 2016, Neset released five albums, several albums of duo work, and roughly 14 albums with other bands, or as part of other bands. The workload seems overwhelming just in list form.

Of course, a great quantity of work doesn’t always attest to the quality of that work. However, a lack of quality is not Neset’s problem. Perhaps one of the reasons Neset can keep up his output is because his approach to music allows for one genre of music to flow into another.

According to Neset’s website, the musician does not believe in the idea of fixed genres. Therefore, listeners should not be surprised when they hear Neset’s jazz, and find that it has more in common with symphonic music, or even rock music. What undergirds the new song, though, is a fundamentally jazz approach.

Marius Neset and “Prague’s Ballet”

The title, “Prague’s Ballet,” has the potential to evoke mental pictures of the European capital. Not to make too much of a title, but it is present for a reason. Prague is known for Bohemia, for its architecture outfitted with spires and its infrastructure complete with scenic bridges.

Neset’s approach to borderless music is clear on “Prague’s Ballet.” The muted sounds remind listeners of how the city might look done in soft colors. But then, the soundscape does not remain soft. “Prague’s Ballet” is intricate and full of texture.

Sound of “Prague’s Ballet”

What sounds like lonely strings are plucked, or otherwise aggrieved. The strings give way to a saxophone that fills the space with its moody motif. The notes evoke the idea of bird wings flapping gracefully to get air beneath them.

Throughout the song, the mix of saxophone and strings creates a haunting tone. Just beneath the almost growing discordance between saxophone and strings, a piano whispers its chords. This reminds listeners of the song’s title, and what it might be striving to express.

At almost two minutes in, the song’s tone changes. The mood is lighter, and the music is spry. Audiences can imagine the movement of dancers’ limbs. Just after two minutes, the song goes quiet–some of the instrumentation vanishes, and the rest plays so soft it is difficult to tell what is playing exactly. Then, almost as suddenly, “Prague’s Ballet” builds again, pulling in some elements of jazz, especially as the soundscape seems to compete against each other. All of instrumentation push the song toward its logical conclusion, and leaves audiences wondering what they should make of the song. The complexity of the track earns it repeated listening sessions.

Thematically, “Prague’s Ballet” might be easier understood in the context of the whole album. However, the track is easy to appreciate. It is not art jazz; it is eclectic. The variances in volume, arrangement and overall mood, display a blend of symphonic music, jazz elements and a driving rock sensibility.

Neset’s new album, “Circle of Chimes,” is due out Oct. 27, 2017.

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Dodie Miller-Gould is a native of Fort Wayne, Indiana who lives in New York City where she studies creative nonfiction at Columbia University. She has BA and MA degrees in English from Indiana University-Purdue University, Fort Wayne, and an MFA in Fiction from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Her research interests include popular music and culture, 1920s jazz, and blues, confessional poetry, and the rhetoric of fiction. She has presented at numerous conferences in rhetoric and composition, and creative writing. Her creative works have appeared in Tenth Muse, Apostrophe, The Flying Island, Scavenger's Newsletter and elsewhere. She has won university-based awards for creative work and literary criticism.

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