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Bebop Spoken There

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Postage

13,508 (and counting) posts since we started blogging 13 years ago. 926 of them this year alone and, so far, 90 this month (July 27).

Thursday, July 08, 2021

Album review: Daniel Herskedal - Harbour

Daniel Herskedal (tuba, bass trumpet; Eyolf Dale (piano, celesta); Helge Andreas Norbakken (drums, marimba)

Freshly caught from an island off the coast of Norway, the latest programmatic imagined-landscape fantasia from the tuba wizard and his talented compatriots, with publicity photos looking like a flier for a new, moody Scandi crime drama.  This is the core of the band who graced Sage 2 in 2019 and have been rightly lauded for their trilogy of albums Slow Eastbound Train, The Roc and Voyage.

Harbour is an extension of this musical line with Edition Records, rather than Herskedal’s austere 2020 solo lockdown offering “Call for Winter’, which won the Spellemann Award (Norwegian Grammy). Here we have a continuous cinematic vision, blending folk, jazz, classical and Arabic strains – an uninterrupted line from Persian Gulf to Norwegian fjord – by sea of course.  

This version of the band omits the lush viola playing of Bergmund Waal Skaslien, and initially I feared this would be a noticeable loss. While Skaslien is hardly a soloist in the mould of Mahavishnu’s Jerry Goodman, or the remarkable more contemporary Adam Baldych, he augmented the band’s sound perfectly with swooning legato lines. Interestingly, I hardly missed him here, as Herskedal effortlessly takes on both lead and bass lines to compensate, and Eyolf Dale steps up a gear with achingly wholesome melodic lines echoing and inter-weaving with the tuba.

Herskedal’s tuba mastery and extended techniques (singing, puffing, swooping) seem to have reached an even higher plane - literally sometimes, at pitches some trumpeters would be pleased with! But he never strays beyond artistry into showing off, and the composition, sound and orchestration are so well executed that you forget the unusual instrumentation.  Supporting and enhancing the virtuoso tuba and piano is the restless and atmospheric force of nature emanating from percussion maestro Norbakken, who starred on the recent excellent LAN Atlantico (link).

Standout tracks include The Lighthouse on the Horizon, scion of The Lighthouse on the 2019 Voyage, with gorgeous call and response between piano and tuba.  Hunters Point Drydocks is a delightful syncopated romp in fivewith light as a feather tuba bass figures.  Dancing dhow deckhands is an Arabic romp, an intricate and multi-dimensional adventure in the eastern soundscapes beloved of Yazz Ahmed.

Herskedal has pulled off the difficult trick of further developing and extending his line of conceptually similar albums with another significant work sitting on the Nordic classical-folk shoreline of jazz.  Very highly recommended – a marine treasure chest of subtle melody, emotion and rhythmic intrigue, which yields fresh delights at every listening.

Chris K

 Release date: 02.07.21 CD, LP, Digital at Edition and Bandcamp.

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