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Matthew Ruddick

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Author of Funny Valentine, an acclaimed new biography of the jazz trumpet player and singer, Chet Baker.
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Friday, 21 April 2017 16:14

Daniel Herskedal Trio, 5th April, Kings Place, London

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Captivating performance by the Norwegian tuba player. 

Imagine, you’ve just released an album (The Roc - reviewed here) and you’re touring to promote it – what’s the safe plan? Play a note-perfect recital of the album? Not if you’re Daniel Herskedal! Instead, leave out some pieces; change others to suit the individual gig - each immediately recognisable but giving the musicians more room to expand and express themselves; introduce solo pieces unassociated with the album and showcase a fellow Norwegian musician.  Its as though the album itself was considered a finished product - move on to the next thing!

The trio: Daniel Herskedal (tuba and bass trumpet), Eyolf Dale (piano) and Helge Andreas Norbakken (percussion), were accompanied on stage by Bergmund Waal Skaslien (who plays viola on the album), while Svante Henryson was replaced by another cellist (whose unfamiliar name, I’m afraid I could not catch).

The musicians took their seats silently and opened the set with Seeds Of Language, followed by the dynamic There Are Three Things You Cannot Hide: Love, Smoke And A Man Riding On A Camel featuring a beautiful cello solo.

The Kroderen Line featured a lovely piano solo from Eyolf Dale. We learned that percussionist Helge Norbakken also worked (coincidentally) as a stoker for steam engines that run on this heritage railway - I can only imagine the rhythms that he introduces to the footplate!

The immersive soundscape of Hijaz Train Station was followed by a lengthy percussion solo from Norbakken, whose organic playing is highly imaginative and enjoyable as well as visually entertaining (his kit seemingly augmented by items recovered from a scrap-yard, often played using items apparently foraged from a walk in the forest, plus his vocal percussion). This led fluidly into the rhythmic Thurayya Railways.

Eternal Sunshine Creates A Desert, played even more austerely than on the album, was an emotive masterpiece.

Eyolf Dale then indulged us with an impressive piano solo, unrelated to the album; classical sounding with a number of distinct movements, given free-rein to demonstrate his unaccompanied skills.  Title track The Roc was another piece varying significantly from the album, dynamic as ever but shorter and more intense as a result.

As a complete surprise and deviation from The Roc, Daniel Herskedal introduced friend and fellow Norwegian, captivating vocalist Marja Mortensson to perform three ‘joiks’; a traditional Sami melodic form that uses the voice as an instrument.  In the first of these, Herskedal accompanied the singer on tuba as a duet – hard to imagine but it worked beautifully!

Joiking, we were told, was not singing ‘about’ the subject, but to ‘be’ it in musical form.  The next “Bird” joik was followed by The Great Mountain and in both of these pieces all the musicians joined in to create masterful representations of these natural subjects.

I found this interlude from The Roc quite insightful into Daniel Herskedal’s approach to composition and playing, for it seems that he has adopted both the Sami ideology of representing the subject in powerful soundscape and the joiker approach to his own instruments, making them extensions of his own vocal instrument as we hear his unusual mouth noises and susurrations throughout his playing.

After bidding farewell to Mortensson with great applause, the set finished with the exuberant Kurd, Bayat, Nahawand To Kurd, although returning for an encore to the sombre All That Has Happened, Happened As Fate Willed to calm us down.

A beautiful and unique evening of wonderful music that left us in awe!

 

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