Daniel Herskedal and Marius Neset: Neck Of The Woods (2012)
Although both musicians are Norwegian, the pair met while studying at the Rhythmic Music Conservatory in Copenhagen, an institution that has played a major role in the development of contemporary jazz in Europe. Both men joined Django Bates' StoRMChaser and recorded with Bates, an ex-Rhythmic Conservatory professor, on Spring Is Here (Shall We Dance) (Lost Marble, 2008). They have also released albums under their own names, including Neset's Golden Xplosion (Edition Records, 2011) and Herskedal's debut City Stories (NORCD, 2010).
Herskedal's original compositions predominate on Neck Of The Woods, the tubist gaining six credits to Neset's three. There's also a cover of Abdullah Ibrahim's "The Wedding," a gentle, spacious rendition that stays close to Ibrahim's version on Water From An Ancient Well (Tiptoe Records, 1986) which featured Ricky Ford on tenor sax.
While Herskedal and Neset are always enjoyable, when the duo combine with the human voice the music verges on the sublime. When the Svanholm Singers, a 20-member male choir, join the musicians they create an ethereal, other worldly atmosphere. On Herskedal's "Neck Of The Woods" the effect is calming and meditative. The combination of saxophone and choir on the melody of "The Christmas Song," another of the tuba player's tunes, invokes the spiritual quality of the festival effortlessly. Herskedal's tuba lineat times almost imperceptiblegives the song a homely, comforting feel.
The album's centerpiece is the traditional song "Eg Er Framand." Arranged by the duo, it features Hallvar Djupvik's pure, emotive tenor vocal. Herskedal and Neset build a mysterious, melancholic atmosphere before Djupvik enters to tell the tale of the stranger who seeks peace. It's a beautiful song, given added pathos by Neset and Heskedal's arrangement and Djupvik's voice.
Herskedal and Neset repeatedly demonstrate the wealth of sounds and moods that can emerge from the interactions between tuba and saxophone. Neck Of The Woods is an uncompromising album, but it's never an inaccessible one.
Track Listing: Neck of the Woods; Preludium; Lutra Lutra; Eg Er Framand; The Shepherd; Ara's Dance; The Christmas Song; Dragon's Eye; Introduction to Swan Island; Swan Island; The Wedding.
Personnel: Daniel Herskedal: tuba; Marius Neset: saxophones; Svanholm Singers: vocals (1, 7, 10); Hallvar Djupvik: solo vocal (4).
Record Label: Edition Records