CD review

Jasper Høiby – “Planet B”

Jasper Høiby – Planet B
(Edition Records EDN1149. CD review by Jon Turney)

The great Phronesis have announced that they are taking a break at the end of 2020, so it’s good to find that Jasper Høiby is already enmeshed in another flexible and powerful trio.

This CD, the first of a projected four, features the outstanding young British saxophonist Josh Arcoleo and French drummer Marc Michel, a polyrhythmic match for Anton Eger. The music is mostly by Høiby, but each of the players carries equal weight. The leader’s bass has its usual astonishing heft, accentuated by occasional use of multi-tracked bowing, and loops. The drums have a fizzy energy. And Arcoleo is a revelation on tenor. He has not put out a recording of his own since his Edition debut in 2012, though he has made increasingly impressive contributions in bands led by others including John Law and Jeff Williams. Here, he rises to the challenge of the pianoless trio with a range of expression and tonal richness that make the band sound arresting indeed.

But it’s not just about the music, Høiby wants us to know. He is intent on provoking thought about the things that trouble him about the world. And to that end a few tracks feature voiced contributions from various worthies under or over the instruments.

This is harder to evaluate. Aside from the programmatic opener – a lengthy statement from Charles Eisenstein over bowed basses – they aren’t particularly obtrusive. You can read them on the insert, then appreciate this CD as a blindingly good instrumental set, with a few extra bits. But I’m not sure they add much, either.

The problem is familiar. An artist lives in the world. Music can seem very separate, save emotionally. Words, for the concerned player, might bridge the gap. At one end of a spectrum, a really good song marries sound and sense in a way that calls to mind the definition Don Paterson once gave of a poem: a machine for remembering itself.

Høiby goes the other way, with found texts, read not sung. They aren’t, to my mind, especially striking ones. But they mean a lot to him, so let him bring them into the mix if he wants. After all, by some process we’ll never fathom, these reflections on reimagining ourselves and our world have helped nourish a superb set of pieces. From the Ayleresque screams from Arcoleo that open Consciousness, through the impassioned soloing of Life is a Gift, to the chorale-like bass and sax sounds of Never Give Up, the trio put their collective virtuosity at the service of music that wears its heart on its sleeve without descent into sentimentality. Stirring stuff, in the best way.

Jon Turney writes about jazz, and other things, from Bristol. jonturney.co.uk.  Twitter: @jonWturney 

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