If you think a saxophone and tuba duo album sounds a bit hard core and unrelenting, think again.
From the opening title track, which sets Neset’s lustrous tenor saxophone against a bass line from Herskedal and the Svanholm Singers, a wordless choir of voices, it is clear that the sound palette will be much broader than the personnel listing suggests.
On Preludium Neset multi-tracks his instruments into luscious horn sections and then interweaves his soprano sax with Herskedal’s gently pumping tuba. Lutra Lutra features Eastern European rhythms and both intertwine at speed.
Neset’s Ara’s Dance features a Nordic folky tune in the Garbarek mould, which the two horns play in tandem before Herskedal takes up a bass line while Neset continues with the melody, the two coming together again from time to time. It builds such a lovely swing that I find myself surprised to realise is no rhythm team behind them – they had somehow created one in their subconsciousnesses, and therefore in mine.
And Herskedal’s The Christmas Song, with the choir in ethereal mode behind the horns, is going to become a staple of my festive listening come December.
The two Norwegians met at the Rhythmic Conservatoire in Copenhagen where British jazz genius Django Bates teaches, and both have the marvellous free-ranging inventiveness coupled to superb instrumental technique that one can only assume is fostered in that school. So, while both musicians are clearly instrumental virtuosi, they use their prowess in the pursuit of beautiful and moving music, not showing off.
All the tunes are originals with the exception of the closer, a tender reading of Abdullah Ibrahim’s anthemic The Wedding, and the earthy, traditional Eg Er Framand, featuring Hallvar Djupvik as tenor soloist, and what sounds like Herskedal singing, didjeridoo-like, through the tuba.
It’s beautifully recorded, sensitively programmed to make a rich and rewarding whole. Just simply brilliant.