Confined to the bass sections of orchestras, brass ensembles or marching bands, the tuba rarely shines in a solo capacity. Nevertheless, the brass instrument elegantly steps into the limelight in Daniel Herskedal’s wide-ranging collection of new compositions arranged for jazz trio and string ensemble. Featuring Daniel Herskedal on tuba and bass trumpet, Eyolf Dale on piano, Helge Andreas Norbakken on percussions and The Trondheim Soloists – a young musical chamber ensemble of strings players – Slow Eastbound Train was released on the UK-based Edition Records in March 2015 last.

Daniel Herskedal - Slow Eastbound Train (2015)
Daniel Herskedal – Slow Eastbound Train (2015)

A young tuba and bass trumpet player from Molde, Norway and now based in Copenhagen, Daniel Herskedal has been active on the Nordic jazz scene for the past decade and a half and recently released the noted Neck of the Woods in 2012 with saxophonist Marius Neset and a choir ensemble.

From the very first notes, Slow Eastbound Train immediately captivates and plays like an elaborate suite. As suggested by the title, the cover artwork and the looped chord progression and breathed-through rhythm imitating an old steam engine, listening to the album is tantamount to boarding a train carriage progressing across an ever changing landscape.

On Slow Eastbound Train, every instrumental permutation is playfully explored through a wonderfully eclectic mix of styles – from Middle-Eastern music to jazz improvisation – whereby the tuba or the bass trumpet constantly switches between solo lead and musical dialogue with the piano, the string section (in pizzicato or bowed mode) or the highly original percussions of Helge Andreas Norbakken.

The tuba on the beautifully titled “The Solar Winds Effects on Earth” has a cosmic resonance, and similarly, most song titles induce synaesthetic metaphors with “Rainfall”, “Moonsoon Coming” or “Sea Breeze Front” eliciting a variety of sounds, smells and colours. The ethereal and textured acoustic quality of the tuba or bass trumpet is also at times reminiscent of Jon Hassell’s processed trumpet sound and his “Fourth World” approach.

Ten of the eleven tracks on the album are new compositions and “Bydlo” is a reprise of the 4th movement of Modest Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition”, one of the rare classical parts written for solo tuba.

Combining a wonderful melodic flair with constantly shifting rhythms, virtuoso improvisation and subtle loops or layering, Daniel Herskedal’s Slow Eastbound Train is a true delight for the senses.