Some Serious Tuba

Life

Daniel Herskedal’s Slow Eastbound Train is hard to categorise. For those who like genres, it’s probably somewhere between jazz, classical and ambient; although it defies them all to some degree. Norway-born Herskedal has managed to bring together folk melodies, unpretentious harmonies and virtuosic playing to create a highly atmospheric record.

 

It is a remarkable album simply in terms of Herskedal’s tuba and bass trumpet playing. Take, for instance, what appears to be an overdub effect in ‘The Mistral Noir’. This provides a powerful backdrop to his fluid melodic style. In terms of technique, his playing moves smoothly through the registers of the instrument, with ample pitch bending and muffled effects giving the piece a level of expression inaccessible to most other brass musicians.

 

The pizzicato string ensemble which begins ‘Rainfall’ is a similarly successful accompaniment to the melody, simultaneously heard in the tuba and the piano. Being present in both a high and a low octave, the tune carries the piece convincingly and the harmony has room to develop once the piano solo begins. The tuba effectively replacing a bass is not a unique idea, but creates a pleasant alternative which matches the overall natural feel of the album.

 

It is a shame, therefore, that tracks such as ‘Snowfall’ use such a plodding string line. This is not so much a criticism of the music, but its arrangement; when the piano part is added it is hard to hear Herskedal and instead the piece sounds unfortunately similar to a vintage computer game soundtrack.

 

On the whole, however, the pieces are well put together and arranged. ‘Crosswind Landing’ is a particularly fierce and virtuosic offering, freer in style and drum part, retaining its intensity throughout.

 

Verdict: This is a good album with some really excellent qualities. While it suffers at times in matching the tuba with the band, Herskedal’s impressive playing makes this easy to forget.

 

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