Daniel Herskedal – Harbour (Edition Records, 2021)
When I let a friend of mine discovering the music of Daniel Herskedal, he gave me back this unmatchable definition: sometime it is emotionally devastating, there’s the metallic taste, the rust, the smell of layers and layers of coating over the fishing boats in it; the stink of the engines, of dead fishes; there’s sailors’ wrinkled faces, longtime away from their homes; and then suddenly Turkish and Egyptian harbors appear. The Norwegian tubist and bass trumpetist brings his unmistakable identity up to another level in Harbour. It’s a folk travel devoted to explore the world, and let the listener in pure contemplation.
Daniel Herskedal is now releasing his sixth record on Edition records, the one following Call for Winter which he was awarded the Spellemann Award, the equivalent of the Norwegian Grammy, for. He has nurtured a sound that is at same time imaginative and familiar, revolutionary yet comforting. His devotion to nuances, to micro breathing variations, are what makes him a player with an unique voice. His music is always immediately identifiable, but it’s his vision, with a very idiosyncratic way of merging traditional folk music with modern arrangements and a dynamic use of the rhythm, that comes unparalled. Harbour couldn’t have been supported by any musician different than two longtime collaborators, Eyolf Dale on piano and Helge Andreas Norbakken at drums.
The evocative opening of the album, the intro theme of The Mariner’s Cross sets the stage of what the listener should expect. Dale and Herskedal create an amazing unison, while the bass register is poignantly breathtaking. The melodic immediacy of the intimate travel is punctuated and reinforced by the masterful use of the percussion set by Norbakken. He similarly reinforces the wistful initial theme of The Lighthouse on the Horizon with occasional metal scraps, delicate brushed and a superior use of the silence. Herskedal moves in no hurry, patiently waiting for Dale to create a dyanamic comping at the 3.20 mark. When one minute later the main theme of the song is brought in, it turns in an enthralling, seething and lyrical highlight of the piano.
Ice-free is built on an up-tempo piano intro that starts with a Radiohead feel, before moving towards an, amazingly balanced, contemporary chord progression. Herskedal and Dale elegantly alternate through a middle-eastern melody that sounds both plaintive and ebullient. In Dancing Dhow Deckhands Herskedal makes a masterful show of the incredible use of breathing techniques, and he produces a sound closer to the one of libanese trumpeter Ibrahim Maalouf. Again a dynamically charged interplay with his partners is the most captivating moment of the track (listen to the intricate left hand patterns played by Eyolf Dale or the incredibly seamless movement of Norbakken through the riddles of metric varations of the main theme).
Harbour is an exploration of the world rooted deep and meaningful investigation of the folk traditions, only occasionally tinged by jazz, but eventually elicited by a strong use of the interplay within the trio. Yet none of this solves the riddle of how this album can be so hypnotically pleasant, so engaging, balancing humble moments of beauty through caressing listening.
Daniel Herskedal Harbour
1 The Mariner’s Cross 3.14
2 Ice-free 3.08
3 The Lighthouse On The Horizon 7.19
4 Hunters Point Drydocks 4.31
5 Arriving at Ellis Island 3.49
6 Dancing Dhow Deckhands 5.55
7 Like A Ship in The Harbour 4.10
8 The White Lion Docks in Point Comfort 4.03 9 Port of Call 3.53
10 The Beaches of Lesbos 5.10
Daniel Herskedal tuba and bass trumpet
Eyolf Dale piano and celesta
Helge Andreas Norbakken drums and marimba