Tag Archives: Jazz

This Week’s Essential Releases: Actress, Ulver, Braxton Cook & More

Seven Essential

Welcome to Seven Essential Releases, our weekly roundup of the best music on Bandcamp. Each week, we’ll recommend six new albums, plus pick an older LP from the stacks that you may have missed.

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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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Album of the Day: Eivind Opsvik, “Overseas V”

On the fifth album by his long-running band Overseas, bassist Eivind Opsvik—a native of Norway who’s been living in New York for two decades now—tightens up his group’s attack, putting a sly emphasis on groove and demanding concision from his band of top-flight improvisers. In fact, even tenor saxophonist Tony Malaby—one of the most loquacious soloists in jazz—reels it in, frequently adding to the rhythmic fabric as much as he elucidates melody. Although Overseas is most certainly a modern jazz combo, the way the record was mixed and the arrangements often suggest a more rock-oriented sound—the tautness of ‘70s post-punk. In press materials for the record the bassist says, “My music doesn’t really sound like Talking Heads or the B-52s, but I listened to a lot of that on the road lately, so the sound and sensibility seeped into my writing.”

Indeed, from the opening bars of “I’m Up on This Step,” a slithering, funky marvel of polymetric precision, the groove is shaped by a number of overlapping patterns: a jagged guitar line by Brandon Seabrook, a stuttering beat from Kenny Wollesen, interlocked, cascading figures by Malaby and keyboardist Jacob Sacks, and the leader’s pumping pizzicato bass. As the tune hits full steam, it seems to unravel into abstraction, with all of the instruments engaging in a feather-light dance as they slowly disengage. “Extraterrestrial Tantrum” percolates inside an ambient glow, opening with rudimentary drum machine, elegant piano chords, and texture-rich guitar and saxophone tones that coalesce into one lovely cloud of sound, while Opsvik offers plaintive arco sobs, drifting into the din. “Brraps!” deploys a heavy funk vibe, with Seabrook channeling Nile Rodgers while the leader virtually sings with his bow; Malaby and Opsvik eventually trade 12-bar solos, demonstrating the lean efficiency at work throughout. “First Challenge on the Road” shows how the group can do a lot with a little, as the bulk of its substance is a repetitive, motorik coda where the guitarist subtly unleashes a constantly shifting series of galloping chords. The energy and timbre of the music could produce clumsy fusion in the wrong hands, but this band masterfully balances power and subtlety, highlighting its time-tested rapport by shaving away all that’s extraneous.

—Peter Margasak

As Collocutor, Tamar Osborn Infuses Jazz With Influences From Around the World

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For more with Tamar Osborn, tune into the February 21 edition of Bandcamp Weekly.

“I’ve always been interested in music from other places, of what happens when humans from different cultures interact, seeing which ideas stick and how it comes together to create something new and redefining. And, hopefully, that comes through in the music,” Tamar Osborn says. Her journey toward that goal is apparent on her new album, The Search. Osborn’s background in Afrobeat, modal jazz, folk, R&B, and classical have led to a place where her ensemble Collocutor possess a sound that is difficult to categorize, but easy to embrace.

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The Natural: Jazz Drummer Paal Nilssen-Love’s Many Incarnations

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Photos by Peter Gannushkin

There’s never been a point for Paal Nilssen-Love where jazz drumming wasn’t an integral part of his life. His father, a British drummer who married a Norwegian woman, moved to the small town of Stavanger, where they opened a jazz club. This allowed the young Paal (pronounced Paul) to meet a host of legendary players, one of whom was Art Blakey. “He came to my parents’ house after a gig in Stavanger when I was eight years old or so,” Nilssen-Love recalls. So it should be no surprise that when it came time to choose an instrument in school, he opted for drums and has never looked back.

His first recording was a 1992 session with the Circulasione Totale Orchestra, led by saxophonist Frode Gjerstad. Since then, he’s appeared on literally hundreds of albums with a vast range of partners. He’s probably best known for his work with saxophonist Mats Gustafsson and bassist Ingebrigt Håker Flaten in the free jazz/garage rock trio The Thing, and with German sax titan Peter Brötzmann in a variety of contexts, ranging from duos to the Chicago Tentet. In recent years, he’s been releasing material on his own PNL imprint.

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