Tag Archives: Daniel Herskedal

Tuba Player and Composer Daniel Herskedal Bridges Worlds on “The Roc”

Daniel Hersekedel

Daniel Hersekedel. Photos by Aga Tomas Zek.

The word ‘tuba’ doesn’t come up often in a jazz context, but the music of tubist Daniel Herskedal makes a convincing argument that it should be more commonplace. He hurdles obstacles presented to unconventional jazz instruments, creating music that sounds like nothing else on the scene. This isn’t some novelty: Herskedal is carving out new territory with a mix of jazz, folk and classical, creating art with an enduring tranquility (which might seem counterintuitive to the huge, booming voice typically associated with the tuba).

Herskedal’s music is wrapped up in new perspectives and fresh surprises. His 2012 release, Neck of the Woods, was a duo collaboration with saxophonist Marius Neset, which also included appearances by the Svanholm Singers Male Choir. The solemn aspects were brightened by harmonic vocal washes, cascading over the lovingly intertwined melodies of tuba and saxophone.

His 2015 release, Slow Eastbound Train, cemented the success of his trio relationship with pianist Eyolf Dale and percussionist Helge Andreas Norbakken. Their sympatico approach to melodic-rhythmic relationships led to music that remained grounded in serenity, no matter how lively it became. And that they incorporated the chamber string orchestra of the Trondheim Soloists into their threadwork of subtle tonal changes added to the beauty of the project.

On his newest album, The Roc, Herskedal builds upon the experiences of those past recordings to produce a sound that is even more expansive than any previous, and he accomplishes it through an immersion in details. Here, he expands to a quintet with violist Bergmund Waal Skaslien and cellist Svante Henryson, joining pianist Eyolf Dale and percussionist Helge Andreas Norbakken. Together, they create a richly textured soundscape that resonates with some of the most delicate phrasings.

Most notable of the influences that make their way into The Roc are from Arabic music. Fresh off the heels of a commission collaboration with oudist Maher Mahmoud, tracks like “Kurd, Bayat, Nahawand To Kurd” and “There Are Three Things You Cannot Hide: Love, Smoke and a Man Riding On a Camel“ reflect how Herskedal’s immersion in non-Western music has provided him additional tools to attain his ultimate vision. It is especially illuminating how he gets those influences to mesh with those of Nordic folk on tracks like “Seeds of Language“ and “The Krøderen Line” or how he’s able to bundle it all up in a jazz framework on “Hijaz Train Station“ and “Thurayya Railways.”

That said, tracks like “Eternal Sunshine Creates a Desert“ and “All That Has Happened, Happened As Fate Willed” show that the soul of this recording still radiates the ambient tones and lush harmonies of the past Herskedal projects, but pieces like “The Afrit“ and title-track “The Roc“ show that while the heart of the album rests in serenity, that’s no obstacle to raising its pulse up a notch or three.

It’s a different sound and a different landscape, but the roots of what has come before are evident in every note.

We spoke with Herskedal about the challenges of bringing an unconventional jazz instrument to the ensemble, immersing oneself in different musics, his process for bringing a project together, and how all of those feed into his new album The Roc.

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The Best New Jazz on Bandcamp: February 2017

Best New Jazz - March

Illustration by Clay Hickson

This month: music inspired by Indonesian Gamelan Orchestras, chamber jazz led by tuba, old-school compositions given new life in the present day, music made in the spirit of protest, music made in the spirit of joy, music from down South and music that’s at home in outer space. All of it is continued proof of the expansiveness of modern jazz.

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