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Music Review Daniel Herskedal, King’s Place, London

Brilliantly innovative performance from the Norwegian jazz tuba player and a trio of top-drawer musicians

PUBLICITY for this concert chose to focus on Daniel Herskedal as the headline draw, yet in truth his three Norwegian companions could have had equal billing.

That’s not to downplay Herskedal’s enormous talent but to recognise the utterly superb musicianship of his accompanists, Bergmund Waal Skaslien on viola, Eyolf Dale on piano and Helge Andreas Norbakken on drums and percussion.

It would be hard to imagine a group of jazz musicians operating in such complete harmony and understanding or with such inventive command of their instruments. They really are remarkable.

Herskedal is certainly something to behold as he coaxes a selection of extraordinarily moving noises out of the French horn and tuba. The latter is not an instrument to hog the limelight and in many ways the frontman was the least eye-catching presence on stage.

Norbakken is particularly fascinating — a compellingly versatile and highly original percussionist who scampers over his home-spun kit with the lightest of touches before crashing in with bass drum interventions that feel like depth-charge detonations.

Gently moaning and whispering under his breath in a kind of drum-scat, everything he does seems be invested with the greatest of meaning.

And Skaslien captivates with his chameleon-like ability to turn his viola into something it’s not — on one composition, The Mediterranean Passage, it’s as if it were a balalaika.

Dale, so often presented with the telling melody or motif on piano, is a master of making the most of that privilege through exquisite understatement, especially in the quiet spaces of each song.

But it is Herskedal who lays the platform for such brilliance with his compositions. At the King’s Hall they are mostly from his new album Voyage, a beautiful collection of oceanic-themed tunes which, he observes, could have been for film music but are not.

He has had the foresight to bring together incredible musicians to play his work and for that we must be truly grateful.


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