Daniel Herskedal: brass; Marja Mortensson: vocals; Ola Kvernberg: strings, electronics; Helge Andreas Norbakken: drums

Recorded Autumn 2023 in Norway by the artists

Herskedal’s ability to draw beautiful sounds from tuba and bass trumpet is unparalleled in jazz.  This stunning set showcases his talent on both instruments with subtle reverb, shimmering electronics, and ghostly vocals providing glacially cool settings for the tunes.  While the music is firmly situated in its country of origin, it also draws upon folk traditions from across the Northern hemisphere with strings, electronics and vocals crossing oceans and skipping between countries.

Norbakken’s drumming prowls across each track with ominous intensity to keep the listener alert; at times his playing mirrors the Irish bodhran, at other times the kletteslaatten of traditional Norwegian folk music, and at other times there are hints of Native American drum patterns.

While there are 8 compositions in the set, the ways in which musical motifs build and shift suggests either a suite (albeit one without the conventional structural patterns of a suite) or a film track.  There is a strong sense of narrative from the opening track ‘To render in paint’ to the closer ‘Your inner shadow’.

The song titles toy with ideas of light and shade, including ‘Eclipse cycles’, ‘Two shades’, ‘Light a candle’ and the title track, and the music shifts easily from ethereal grey to pulsating brightness.  On ‘Light a candle’, track 4, a repeating bassline hints at dubstep , albeit slowed, over which Mortensson’s wordless vocals drift in and out of sense and meaning.

On the title track, Herskedal’s introduction has an air of a ballad, sparse and eloquent in the lilt of its phrasing and the way in which a tune builds from repeated phrases.  Although early in the year, I am guaranteed to play this recording many times and will definitely feature in my best of list.