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Daniel Herskedal: Voyage

Ian Patterson By

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Though Norwegian tubist Daniel Herskedal first garnered widespread recognition with Neck of the Woods (Edition Records, 2012)—a sublime collection of folkloric-cum-hymnal meditations with Marius Neset—his unique talent had already won over the jurists at Getxo Jazz in 2004. Two solo albums on the NorCD label made minor ripples before Edition Records came along. Herskedal's next two Edition releases, Slow Eastbound Train (2015) and The Roc (2017) helped establish his credentials as a composer of hauntingly beautiful music of original design. Voyage is no exception, and like its predecessors, is broadly conceptual, drawing inspiration from the maritime world.

One again, Herskedal teams up with pianist Eyolf Dale and percussionist Helge Andreas Norbakken, though there are new colors to Herskedal's sonic palette. Violist Bergmund Waal Skaslien is prominent throughout, both harmonically—in tandem with the tubist—and as a lead voice. Syrian oud player Maher Mahmoud, who has also collaborated to striking effect with Blood Sweat Drum 'n' Bass, brings Middle Eastern and Mediterranean flavors to Herskedal's melodic and often cinematic arrangements. Throughout, Herskedal weaves neo-classical, folkloric and jazz threads to highly evocative effect, with mood generally trumping individual virtuosity, with several notable exceptions.

Dale shines on the vibrant opener, "Batten Down the Hatches." Here, insistent tuba pulse, skittering drums and choppy piano are suggestive portents of storm, though the pronounced lyricism in Herskedal and Skaslien's unison lines holds forth. On "Cut and Run" Herskedal delivers a deep-bass, rubato solo, an interlude in what is essentially an ensemble piece. To a large extent, in fact, Herskedal harnesses the instruments with quasi-orchestral vision, notably on "The Mediterranean Passage in the Age of Refugees" and "The Great Race, Padua Vs Passat." The former marries brooding intensity with repetitive rhythms that seem to hint at the inexhaustible waves of migrants desperately seeking refuge in Europe, while the latter simmers with episodic, wide-screen drama.

Norbakken is a deft colorist throughout, his martial tattoo underpinning the bold yet elegant "Chatham Dockyard" and his propulsive frame-drum fuelling the visceral "The Gulls Are Tossed Paper in the Wind." Yet it's striking just how much of the music's tensions and rhythmic currents derive from Herskedal's tuba, particularly from his use of looped motifs. Beauty abounds in Herskedal's playing too, in the harmonies forged with viola on the uplifting "The Horizon," which features a delightful piano coda, or in his mournful lyricism on the dramatic, Arabic-hued "Rescue at Sea Operations." Beguiling too, is Herskedal's solo piece "The Lighthouse," where looped, hymnal harmonies form the bedrock for an achingly tender solo.

Voyage marks another arresting chapter in Herskedal's singular musical journey. His embrace of diverse musical cultures results in musical narratives rich in color, textures and depth. The wind is at his back now. Who knows where it will lead him next?

Track Listing: Batten Down The Hatches; Cut And Run; The Mediterranean Passage In The Age Of Refugees; The Great Race, Padua Vs Passat; Chatham Dockyard; The Horizon; The Gulls Are Tossed Paper In The Wind; Molly Hunt's Seagulls; Rescue-At-Sea Operations; The Lighthouse.

Personnel: Daniel Herskedal: tuba, bass trumpet; Bergmund Waal Skaslien: viola; Eyolf Dale: piano; Helge Andreas Norbakken: percussion; Maher Mahmoud: oud (3, 9).

Title: Voyage | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: Edition Records

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