Chances are good that you have never heard an album where the music perfectly captures the song titles as well as this one. Close your eyes and conjure the images for Norwegian master of the tuba Daniel Herskedal and his trio for Harbour. His may well be the only trio of this kind in terms of instrumentation – Herskedal (tuba and bass trumpet), Eyolf Dale (piano and celesta), and Helge Andreas Norbakken (drums and marimba). Sit back and let this music totally envelope you as if you’re just lying on a beach listening to waves crash or on a boat peering for the faintest glimpse of land on the horizon. Transport yourself to these places musically. Even the three singles already released offer a notion of what transpires on this unique sounding album – “The Beaches of Lesbos,” “The Mariner’s Cross,” and “Arriving at Ellis Island.”
Herskedal is the composer of this entrancing music, having just won a Spellemann Award (Norwegian Grammy) for his solo album Call for Winter. Harbour is his sixth album for the Edition label, reuniting him with his long-time bandmates who somehow produce a sound akin to that of a much larger ensemble on just three instruments. This is the kind of music one can truly get lost in. Credit also goes to engineer August Wanngren who adeptly uses space and minimalist judicious choices of notes and chords to create this expansive soundscape.
Certainly, we don’t think of the tuba as a lead instrument but in the hands of Herskedal it becomes this lower register larger than life flugelhorn as he pushes the boundaries of his instrument technically and sonically to places few on the instrument have ever reached, giving it a lyrical quality that we don’t associate with the instrument. His rhythmic sense varies from glowing to rather offbeat and angular, the kind that can only be handled by musicians who have long collaborated as these have.
Rather than describe these pieces in some detail as this writer typically does, it seems as if Herskedal is taking paintings or crisply formed visual images and putting them to music. His inspiration comes from being close to the ocean and taking shelter from its storms and wild moments. The album was recorded at Ocean Sound Recordings, which sits on an island on the rugged Norwegian coastline. The music evokes a sense of peering out the window at the elements, comforted by the warmth of a fire and other relaxing elements.
Dale’s elegant piano, Norbakken’s use of sticks and percussion, and the leader’s melodious lines allow one to easily envision deckhands scurrying to ready a ship for sail, the glee of ship full of passengers reaching their destination, the excitement of the first to see a lighthouse on the horizon, the relief of a safe harbor after struggling through a turbulent journey, and the joy of coming ashore. In its quiet, imaginative way the album is simply riveting.
- Jim Hynes
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