Tubaist Daniel Herskedal is on a roll. In 2019, shortly after the release of Voyage
(Edition Records), he picked up a Norwegian Grammy as part of Marja Mortensson
's trio for the outstanding Mojhtestasse
(Vuelie, 2018). This was followed by the soundtrack on the closing credits of Joe Talbot's award-winning film Last Blackman in San Francisco
(2019). Towards year's end there was another stunning collaboration with Mortensson, the duo album LååjeDawn
(Vuelie), a loving homage to Norway's nature. Call For Winter
, Herskedal's seventh album as leader, is likewise inspired by Norway's majestic landscape. On this solo outing Herskedal weaves layer upon layer of tuba and bass trumpet lines to create wintry pastoral snapshots.
Before recording in self-isolation became a thing, Herskedal retreated to a cottage in Elgå, a remote area of the Southern Saami highlands, where he built a studio. For two weeks, he spent the days skiing, composing, and recordingsoaking up the space, peacefulness and beauty of his surroundings. These qualities permeate the twelve tracks, whose titles reflect Herskedal's proximity to nature. "Våkenatt," with its circling motif, restful harmonics and tuba-led melody sets the template. The model may be largely unwavering, but the emotional range and textural depth in Herskedal's compositions make for compelling narratives.
Such is the range of Herskedal's tuba, from deep bass growl to high-pitched cry, and so lyrical his playing, that it is not always easy to distinguish tuba from bass trumpet. In the main, though, the trumpet is used harmonically, in multiple parts with tuba, while the tuba plays the further roles of rhythmic engine and melodic lead. Only on the vignettes "Lynx Tracks," with its faintly Arabic tonalities, and the bubbly "Arctic Fox Tracks," does the tuba play solo and sans overdubs. Prominent too, is Herskedal's manipulation of air: on the title track, pulse-like puffs sound like a faint electronic drum beat; panting conjures images of stalked prey on "The Hunting Golden Eagle," while a similar technique is suggestive of physical exertion on "Glacier Hiking."
The gorgeous, hymnal "Time of Water," echoes the haunting mood of Hersekdal's collaboration with Marius Neset
on Neck of the Woods
(Edition Records, 2012), while the rhythmically hypnotic "Vernal Equinox" harkens back to "The Mistral Noir" from Slow Eastbound Train
(Edition Records, 2015). There's a tender, yet epic quality to tunes like "Ice Crystals" and "Permafrost," with Herskedal at his most lyrical. These songs are infused with the sensation of wintry winds, while guttural puttering sounds like a beast in slumber. The album closes with the ballad "By The Fire," a meditation of lyrical simplicity and charm.
Though there is a grand, cinematic quality to these melodic tunes, Herskedal has the poet's feel for nuance, resulting in ravishing harmonics, infectious rhythmic mantras, and atmospheric textures. An impressive work from a singular musician, the tuba has never sounded this cool.
Våkenatt; Call For Winter; Time of Water; The Hunting Golden Eagle; Lynx Tracks; Glacier Hiking; Ice Crystals; The Cliff Nest; Arctic Fox Tracks; Permafrost; The Vernal Equinox; By The Fire.
Daniel Herskedal: bass trumpet.