SONIC EXPOSURE :: Daniel Herskedal

“People say to me I should make music for movies. I’m happy that’s what people think, because hopefully that means they listen carefully, and imagine pictures and stories in reaction. That’s often what music is for me—telling stories, the deepest ones you have, without using any words.”

Photo by Roar Vestad

Photo by Roar Vestad

Telling stories, depicting landscapes

Daniel Herskedal is a talented composer, bandleader and tuba player from Norway. He’s young, but already highly experienced. His music might be found under jazz at your local record store, but with his new album, Slow Eastbound Train (out on Edition Records next month), he goes far beyond. Elements of Middle Eastern music, western classical music and Indian classical, infused with the free flow and spirit of jazz, assemble a distinctive, ritualistic, intricate and full of depth, yet highly alluring and accessible, whole. With his tuba and bass trumpet, and backed up by a battery of talented musicians—Eyolf Dale (piano), Helge Andreas Norbakken (percussion), The Trondheim Soloists (string chamber orchestra) and Erik Johannessen of Jaga Jazzist in the producer chair—Herskedal has created a cinematic album that will add a lot of color and soul to any eclectic music collection. A fruitful and highly expressive meeting between traditional and out of the box thinking.

Igloo logo The story?

Herskedal :: I’m from Molde, Norway, residing in Copenhagen, Denmark, and Molde. I’ve been playing the tuba since I was 14. Before that I played French horn. In recent years, I’ve also been using a bass trumpet during gigs and recording sessions. I started playing in school bands in Molde, and I was introduced to the jazz world by workshops arranged by Molde Jazz Festival. Later I studied both classical and jazz music in Trondheim, Norway, and Copenhagen. I started touring when I was around 17 years old, and since then I’ve been a part of several bands and projects, like Trondheim Jazz Orchestra. During the last few years, my career as a composer has been growing fast. I’ve composed music for large orchestras, for instance the album ‘Dagane’ from 2013, and Trondheim Jazz Orchestra: ‘Kinetic Music’, released in 2011. I also composed for The Russian Patriarchate Choir of Moscow (commission for the festival Olavsfestdagene in Trondheim 2013) and many more. I have great ambitions as both a tuba player and a composer.

When studying in Copenhagen, me and Marius Neset (Norwegian jazz musician and saxophonist) started a duo together. Marius had already released an album on Edition Records, and he was the one who introduced me to Dave Stapleton and his Edition label when we released the album ‘Neck Of The Woods’ in 2012. After that, me and Dave started planning an album where I would be the band leader, composer and main soloist. The result is ‘Slow Eastbound Train’—new band and new compositions. I’m very exited and proud to release this music on Edition Records. In these challenging, and fast developing times for record labels, Dave and his crew are always one step ahead of the challenges record labels run into. Edition possess skills that I’ve never experienced in any label I’ve worked with before, with a clear strategy and vision for the label and its artists.

Igloo logo Sound & style?

Herskedal :: I see myself as a crossover artist, mixing jazz and classical music with different styles of folk music. I’ve been touring and playing a lot with folk musicians from Norway, Eastern Europe, Middle East and Brazil, and learned a lot from them. I find great inspiration in listening and learning from music that existed before jazz and modern European classical music. For instance, these days I’m completing my first big band commission, where me and oud player Maher Mahmoud from Syria (whom I toured with in Syria and Norway in 2008/2009), will be the soloists. I’ve been taking lessons in classical Arabic music from Maher, and my music is very much inspired by Arabic music. This process started already when I visited Syria, and some of the music in ‘Slow Eastbound Train’ has some Arabic influences. Later this year, I’ll visit Istanbul, Ramallah and Beirut, to dig deeper into Middle Eastern music. My goal is not to sound like a folk musician, but there’s a whole lot to learn for me about expression, ornamentation, scales, different ways of improvisation, structures, and much more, from this kind of musicians.

Igloo logo The new album?

Herskedal :: In February 2014, I went to Rio de Janeiro to compose the music for what is now being revealed to the world as ‘Slow Eastbound Train.’ I went there not because I wanted the album to sound like Brazilian music; I went there in order to get away from daily routines and focus, and at the same time get inspiration from people that music is an essential part of their lives. As for the production process, Erik Johannessen (of Jaga Jazzist) produced both the compositions and the recording sessions. He pushed me to take the music in new directions, to make it sound less Norwegian national romantic, which had been the case with many of my earlier compositions. Erik and I have worked together in the past in the Magic Pocket band and Trondheim Jazz Orchestra; however, musically we think and operate quite differently. That’s one of the reasons I asked him to produce this album, to help me to get out of my musical comfort zone, and create new expressions and sounds.

In March I recorded the music, together with Eyolf Dale (piano), Helge Norbakken (percussion), and The Trondheim Soloists (string chamber orchestra). This was the first time I played with Eyolf and Helge, and we had only one day of rehearsal, and two days of recordings, but these musicians are extremely gifted and professional, and I had been wanting to play with them for a long time. I knew that they would catch my compositions really fast and take the music to the next level with their interplay and soloing, and so they did. On top of that, to compose and record music for The Trondheim Soloists was a dream come true. I learned a lot from the process, it was a great inspiration to work with all of them. I can’t wait to hit the road with this music (which hasn’t been played live before).

The titles of the compositions refer to things that you see and experience as a traveling musician, the travel itself, scary and beautiful nature and weather phenomena, what you see and think when you look outside the window of a plane or a train on your way to a concert, or on your way home. Traveling and waiting is 90% of my job, it gives me time to ponder and philosophize.

All of the tunes on ‘Slow Eastbound Train’ are originals, except for one: “Bydlo” by Modest Mussorgsky. Ravel made an arrangement for symphony orchestra and tuba soloist, which I rearranged for this album. Ravel’s arrangement is the most beautiful ever arranged for classical tuba, and for sure one of the most difficult to play. This piece of music is kind of holy for classical tuba players, something you shouldn’t mess with. I’m really looking forward to the reactions on this one.

Igloo logo Memorable reaction?

Herskedal :: Every time I release music, people say to me I should make music for movies. I’m happy that’s what people think, because hopefully that means they listen carefully, and imagine pictures and stories in reaction. That’s often what music is for me—telling stories, the deepest ones you have, without using any words. Funny experiences: Tuba is a funny instrument, some people start smiling and laughing when they see it, not the check-in staff at airports though. I sometimes do school concert tours in Norway, and I remember one kid shouting when we entered the stage, before we started playing: “OH NOOOO, NOT TUBA!!!”. Some people say I sound like a cruise ship, and when I was young and played French horn for my dog, he ran away and peed all over my brother’s jacket.

Igloo logo On heavy rotation?

Herskedal :: At the moment: Ola Kvernberg’s latest album: ‘Mechanical Fair.’ And I just got a goat horn as a gift, so I’m listening to traditional Norwegian goat horn music, trying to make it sound right myself. Who knows, maybe I’ll bring it on stage one day.

Igloo logo Live?

Herskedal :: I’m on the road most of the time with many different projects. Right now the concert I have in mind, is the Slow Eastbound Train release concert. It’ll happen at Victoria – Nasjonal Jazzscene in March, with Eyolf, Helge and a string quartet. More dates will be confirmed soon, and It’ll be posted on my website and Facebook artist page.

Daniel Herskedal | Slow Eastbound Train | Bandcamp | Edition

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