Daniel Herskedal and Marius Neset ‘Neck of the woods’ (Edition) 3/5

The unusual setting of a saxophone and tuba due recording, even by the eclectic standards of the jazz idiom, is given an interesting twist here by the inclusion on several numbers of a vocal choir. It is certainly not the first time, though, in jazz history that this has been achieved. Donald Byrd famously conceived an entire album around this concept on his majestic 1964 Blue Note album ‘A new perspective’. Quite possibly in the case of Herskedal and Neset the addition of a third instrument, in particular a bass or even piano, would have enhanced matters. Nonetheless there is a good deal on offer to hearten the soul as exemplified by instantly catchy ‘Ara’s dance’, on which both co-leaders are outstanding, and with a notable Garbarekian influence discernable from Neset. Vocal layers help embellish ‘The Christmas song’ which is melodic and melancholic in equal measure while the uptempo piece ‘Lutra Lutra’ has a decidely Balkan flavour to it. On the opener ‘Neck of the woods’ the choir plays the surrogate role of keyboards and strings and this is a very effective way in which to start the album. More esoteric echoes are to be found on ‘Eger Framand’ where the sound of the tuba is akin to that of a Mongolian throat singer. Quite extraordinary! The one standard, Abdullah Ibrahim’s ‘The wedding’ is quite unrecognisable here with an approach similar to a traditional Scandanavian folk song. All in all a promising future for this most inventive of duos and, perhaps, a trio format might elevate them to even greater heights.

Tim Stenhouse