Tag Archives: Jim Hart

Review: Marius Neset – Birds – released March 2013

So, just how do you follow up a five star album and rave reviews for your live performances? Well, with another five star album of course. And that’s what Marius Neset has done with Birds, released shortly on Edition Records. If anything, Birds is even more joyous and expansive than Golden Xplosion, the cover photo of a leaping-for-joy Marius does more than hint at his energy and youth, it proclaims that being alive is the most precious thing we all have. There are tracks of exuberance and tracks as delicate as a feather, they fuse and meld creating a very satisfying mix. When you have listened to this album, I dare you not to feel happy and optimistic.

Marius has assembled a super-group – the flawless members of Phronesis plus Jim Hart on vibes. And a supporting crew that includes an accordion, his sister Ingrid (a flute virtuoso) and Daniel Herskedal (recently heard with Marius on Neck of the Woods which I reviewed last year). Marius composed all the compositions, it is through-composed and he knew exactly what it would sound like before it was recorded. Yet each musician sounds himself, nothing is forced or artificial. Maybe it is because they can read each other’s minds?

Bird sounds, motifs and allusions infuse this album from the triumphant and joyous title track to the close. All the rhythms of a bird’s life are here from quiet feeding to noisy roosting. Take the climax to Reprise – you can hear a flock of birds taking off, thousands of flapping wings, then suddenly they are gone. There are birds that sound like parrots or parakeets. Jasper’s bass is a strong, strutting crow in Birds, yet warm in The Place of Welcome alongside Jim’s most delicate vibes. Ivo’s piano is a nightingale’s song at twilight.

The celestial, moving, Math of Mars is like looking into a starry sky, a myriad galaxies stretch out for ever, it is a wonderful near-climax to an album which teems with gems and gently slides into the closing Fanfare with military drum beat and reeds. All the glossy birds line up for a farewell, they trill, preen themselves. whistle, squawk, bicker raucously and show off in glorious colour. It’s fantastic fun and we are so fortunate to eavesdrop on it.

Marius will be touring to promote the album from April onwards. I, for one, will be looking forward to seeing him at Cheltenham Jazz Festival on 3 May 2013, I think it could be my gig of the festival. It is already in my top 5 albums for 2013.

Marius Neset

Marius Neset, tenor and soprano saxophones, and all compositions

Ivo Neame, piano

Jasper Høiby, bass

Anton Eger, drums

Jim Hart, vibes

and many others


Birds is available on Edition Records http://www.editionrecords.com/ and other stores

In praise of…Jim Hart

Jim Hart, vibraphonist, composer, band leader and drummer was nominated in the Downbeat Readers Poll 2012, a rare and deserved honour for a British musician. Gary Giddins says there are two types of vibe player – cool or extrovert. He has forgotten the third type that Jim represents – the fun, almost-surprised-at-his-own-success but quietly-confident-all-the-same very English vibes player. Whether you are lucky enough to see him live or listen to his albums, you are always capitivated.

I first saw Jim as a drummer with Alcyona Mick at a free gig at the Herbert at the greatly missed Coventry Jazz Festival in 2007. He was impressive then. Most recently I saw him on 25 October, again on drums, with Sam Crowe in the lovely surroundings of St Georges Brandon Hill and again I was struck by his effortless quality, he barely moves his arms when drumming, the sticks seem to take on a life of their own. This was a starry gig – Sam Crowe Group and the return to the live scene of Kairos 4tet. Jim subbed for Dave Smith with the Sam Crowe Group. We had lots of new, fairly abstract material from Sam, eagerly lapped up by a local crowd, and Sam was generous to allow space for the other musicians to explore his complex tunes. It was a joyous evening, everyone was pleased to see Adam Waldmann back on stage after his operation. Jim gave an amazing solo which sounded like a clanging American train.

But it is his vibes playing that Downbeat have chosen to celebrate. And is there anything more magical than watching someone play the vibes? The very sound conjures up your childhood xylophone from a Christmas long ago or the thrill of an African balafon played in the hot sun. It’s Jim’s vibes that adds the sparkly quality I love in Ivo Neame’s Caught in the Light of Day ( see my review of that album here).

This summer Jim took his Cloudmakers Trio on tour and I caught them at Cheltenham in July. Cloudmakers consists of Michael Janisch on double bass, Dave Smith on drums and Jim on vibraphone. I’d seen Dave with Outhouse Ruhabi in 2008, a collaboration with Gambian drummers, so I wasn’t surprised to hear some African influences in Cloudmakers. I think all the compositions we heard that night were by Jim apart from some amazing Monk and a George Shearing tune. I particularly remember a very lovely tune called Westbound ( about travelling home to Jim’s native Cornwall, and as I am from Cornwall too, I paid particular attention). It was a very romantic tune and I hope Jim records it so I can hear it again.

We hear the African influence again in Morbid Curiosity on his latest album The Cloudmakers Trio with Ralph Alessi, Live at the Pizza Express, released September 2012. The trumpet of Ralph Alessi is feather light, the perfect foil for Jim’s delicate vibes. The bass is light as are the drums. It is a very sophisticated sound, perfect for intimate venues.

We hear Jim again, as composer and vibraphonist, on Neon Quartet’s Subjekt (released November 2012 on Edition Records). A particularly beautiful track is Springs and Neaps composed by Jim. The combination of Stan Sultzmann’s lyrical sax, the floating piano/organ by Kit Downes and Tim Giles’ sensitive drumming are the perfect setting for Jim’s effortless, gentle landscape. Does this tune describe a spring evening in a Cornish estuary, perhaps the Fal, when the tide is rushing in over beds of early spring flowers? A lovely sight and sound.

This magical world is just one of the reasons why I want to praise Jim Hart.


Cloudmakers Trio with Ralph Alessi available on http://www.whirlwindrecordings.com/