For those unfamiliar with his work, Daniel Herskedal is a Norwegian jazz musician regarded as one of the most talented jazz tubaists on the scene today. I know what you are thinking: tuba as a lead instrument in jazz? Outside of larger jazz ensembles and the New Orleans Brass Band scene, it is of course fairly rare for the tuba to make an appearance in jazz, especially as a lead instrument. The tuba typically isn’t considered a versatile jazz quintet instrument, but in Herskedal’s hands, it is transformed into something beautiful; capable of creating romantic, delicate moments on ballads and intense, bold statements on more audacious tracks.
For whatever reason, the UK Jazz scene has never been fully embraced by Americans. Aside from being embarrassingly narrow-minded of us, this exclusionary mindset has resulted in our missing out on some truly noteworthy modern jazz. Subterranea is the debut album from six piece ensemble Mosaic, led by 2015 Kenny Wheeler Jazz Prize winner and British vibraphonist Ralph Wyld. A unique and at times chaotic album, it is one that deserves to be heard and discussed.
George Burton represents what many of Jazz’s most exciting figures hoped the genre would become: precarious, dynamic, revolutionary…unable to be contained. Few personify this aesthetic better than Charles Mingus. Not surprisingly, the influence of Mingus (a man who never allowed himself to be restrained by the so called “rules” of genre) are found all over this record. In fact, The Truth Of What I Am takes its title and inspiration from Mingus, who once said: “In my music, I’m trying to play the truth of what I am. The reason it’s difficult is because I’m changing all the time.”
Derrick Hodge lives in a world that most modern jazz musicians can only dream to be a part of. A world where he can afford to take creative risks and still maintain his relevance in the fiercely competitive 21st Century jazz scene. Fortunately these risks frequently pay off, and have led to Grammy Awards, recordings with Robert Glasper, Mulgrew Miller, Clark Terry, Terence Blanchard, Common, Q-Tip, and Kanye West (just to name a few), and a recent performance at The White House as part of NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert Series and President Obama’s SXSL music festival. Simply calling Hodge a successful musician would trivialize how important of a figure he has become in modern jazz.