Jasper Høiby ‘Planet B’ LP/CD (Edition) 5/5

Planet B is the new project and title of the first of four albums to be released over the next five years by bassist Jasper Høiby. Each album will focus on four global topics of vital importance; Humanity, Climate Change, Artificial Intelligence and Monetary Reform. If this first album – which focusses on Humanity, is anything to go by, we are in for a real treat in the years to come. Featuring Høiby on bass and electronics, Josh Arcoleo on saxophone and Marc Michel on drums, this is a trio recording with a difference. Planet B uses a powerful, imaginative mix of thought-provoking voice samples and loops, knitted together with an open, inspiring approach to expressive, innovative jazz from this incredible trio of musicians.

Perhaps best known for his work with Phronesis, Danish bassist and composer Høiby’s music has long since been shaped by thoughts around ecology and the political landscape that affects us all as human beings. With this release, he successfully pulls together his reasoning into a musical art-form that conveys relevance, conviction and an independent thinking that surely will resonate with many of us.

He can’t, of course, in a musical sense, achieve this all on his own. The contribution of the fiery young British saxophonist Josh Arcoleo and adventurous French drummer Marc Michel cannot be underestimated. Together this trio shape a new musical language, their deeply intuitive performances raising the trio bar. Høiby’s vision and message is embraced to the full, with high production values not taking anything away from the earthiness and immediacy of the performances.

The session kicks off with the contemplative “Story of Self”. Hushed bowed strings lusciously working their way around the spoken words of the story of self. Throughout this recording, the spoken word and the music compliment each other perfectly. They are integral to one another. We hear words of wisdom from great thinkers and philosophers such as the incomparable Jiddu Krishnamurti, mindfulness master Ram Dass, and civil rights leader John Robert Lewis. The readings are crafted beautifully together with the music, creating a sense of sincerity, of genuine love and respect. “Reimagine” is an exploratory piece that builds in essence and strength, like the beginning of a journey for the trio, leading us into the explosive opening of “Consciousness”, a wonderful piece that plays out like a Nordic folk song, gentle yet auspicious in nature. “Interconnectedness” is perhaps on more familiar Høiby territory, yet reminding me of just how great a sax-bass-drums trio can sound. Think JD Allen or Jason Rigby Trio and you’re somewhere close. “Never Forgotten” is uneasy, meandering, menacing even. The interplay between this trio is a highlight of the whole session, and this track is a perfect example of how cool and ‘on it’ the performers are. The exhilarating “The Dinosaur” is more experimental, with its powerful drums encouraging the searing, soaring sax to go further out into the cosmos, just to see what happens. I love the eeriness that lurks behind “We Didn’t Earn The Sun”. Høiby’s bass combines perfectly with the melancholic melody of the sax, with drums building as the trio combine with a deep, resonating natural force. “Life is a Gift” is reminiscent of a Mark Guiliana Jazz Quartet piece, melodically alluring yet deep and meaningful, with the added bonus of Høiby’s driving bass solo and Arcoleo’s stunning sax improvisations. There’s so much feel and emotion in his playing it’s just a delight to listen to, so expressive. “Never Give Up”, like all of the pieces on this album, carries such a powerful message. The way Høiby sensitively handles the subject matter is incredible. I can feel a part of this, I feel ‘involved’… somehow energised by the music and the message. The album comes to a close with “Reimagine (Outro)” and I can now pause for reflection. And hit the play button once more.

Planet B sounds exceptional. But it also ‘feels’. It feels like something special is happening. It feels important. It feels timely. It feels emotive yet well-thought through. Make no mistake about it, this is a powerhouse of a performance from the trio, one that will reverberate for months and possibly years to come. We await the second instalment from Høiby and co with much anticipation.

Mike Gates