|Marius Neset and Daniel Herskedal -Kings Place 2014.|
Photo Credit Roger Thomas
(Sage Gateshead, Hall One. Day Two of the Gateshead International Jazz Festival; 5th April 2013. Review by Rob Edgar)
The solo repertoire for tuba is sparse. Not quite a handful of concerti, most notably Vaughan Williams'...and yet it is an extraordinarily versatile instrument.
Jazz seems to have allowed this deep voice a renaissance, and one of the figures at the forefront of this rebirth is the duo of Daniel Herskedal. He and Marius Neset played Hall One at Sage Gateshead on the second night of the Gateshead International Jazz Festival. It was a good to hear how they have developed since their set which I heard at the 2012 Kings Place festival. Last night was more pared down; Herskedal did without loops and effects this time, relying merely on a touch of reverb, and the results were astonishing: the beginning of the set left the audience marvelling at his superhuman lung power as he created a drone - for Neset's nimble, legato playing - using circular breathing, at times the tuba became a percussive instrument as he spat bass riffs comprising of short staccato stabs, It really could sound like a bass guitar at others.
It must be quite daunting to perform in such a vast space as a duo playing (seemingly) homophonic instruments; there is simply nowhere to hide; but there was subtle harmony coming from Herskedal singing into the tuba producing some strikingly clean multiphonics (with less 'buzz' than is normally associated with this technique), Neset – and I really can't work out how this is even possible – provided percussion in his solo spotlight which saw him clicking the keys of his saxophone whilst retaining a clear single note.
A set which makes heavy use of extended techniques runs the danger of sounding too dry, academic, or self-indulgent, but where the duo are most interesting is in their harmony: often it seems to have more in common with that smothering 19th Century Romantic sound, but it manages to avoid slipping into unrestrained, treacly sentimentalism and builds on that tradition rather than being mere pastiche.
They played for about 45 minutes, providing much food-for-thought. My only complaint: I wanted more.