Fauna 5 ‘Haptics’ LP/CD (Jaeger Community Music) 5/5

Fauna 5 is an exciting Danish quintet led by drummer and composer Andreas Skamby. “Haptics”, the group’s debut release, is a thrilling exploration of the meaning, and the common experience of touch-sensation, for both animals and humans. The expressive nature of the music sits well with the inspiration that led to these eight original tunes, with the bandleader commenting: “With a single deviation, seven of the eight issues on Haptics are based on wildlife and the experiences and observations that have aroused enthusiasm, amazement and curiosity in me.”

The thriving, vibrant Danish jazz scene is represented well here, with saxophonist/clarinettist Jonas Andreasen, synths/pianist Mathias Jæger, bassist Jens Mikkel Madsen and trumpeter Scott Westh joining drummer Skamby on a journey of high-spirited Scandinavian contemporary jazz. Recorded, mixed and mastered in FinlandStudio by Jacob Worm, the sound is crisp and clean, with a natural warmth mirroring the thoughtfulness and energy coming from the performers themselves.

The alluring opener “Fauna” swirls with harmonic beauty. There’s also a clear purpose though, with Skamby’s drums creating, as they do throughout the entire album, such a cool vibe. There’s an almost hypnotic feel to this tune, with the sax and trumpet intertwining in and around Jaeger’s luscious keys. There’s a curiosity that comes across in Skamby’s compositions that I love. Even on the solid groove of “Frogeye”, reminiscent perhaps of a young, effervescent Bugge Wesseltoft, questions are asked, answers are found, and the band play on in impeccable style. The reflective opening of “Play” leads the listener into an almost Brazilian vibe, with some excellent soloing. “Animal Locomotion” mesmerises with its cohesive, engaging and immersive nature. It’s like a journey, with the intuition of the musicians deciding where to take the listener. The ethereal “Dancing Birds” has a beauty to it that personifies what this album is all about. Fabulous writing, matched by collectively engaging musicianship and great soloing. “Haptic Sensation” is defined by a freedom of spirit. Skamby’s edgier drumming is juxtaposed against Madsen’s driving bass, subtle, melodic horns, and Jaeger’s free-flowing piano. The subtle, alluring “Hibernation” takes its time to unfold, like an old storyteller allowing the listener to appreciate the whole atmosphere, time and place of his wondrous tales. There are many intelligently played-out nuances and turns of pace on this album, but none more so than on the extraordinary final tune “Instincts”. This really did make my heart skip a beat. Blindingly brilliant writing and performing.

It’s difficult to pigeonhole the music of Fauna 5, and quite frankly I wouldn’t want to. There are many musical influences within the band’s music; jazz, electronica, ambient, folk, and many more besides. The key thing for me though is the originality and the wonderful spirit with which it is played. It’s a mighty fine debut for sure and a quite fabulous slice of contemporary Scandi-jazz.

Mike Gates