JASPER HØIBY — Planet B (review)

JASPER HØIBY — Planet B album cover Album · 2020 · 21st Century Modern Buy this album from MMA partners
3.5/5 ·
Charismatic Danish double bassist Jasper Høiby, known fto millions as the British trio Phronesis' frontman, comes with his second solo album. Recorded in 2019 as a bass-sax-drums trio, it has been announced as the first release in a four-piece series, an "environmental" one. Released in March 2020, it's subject sounds quite outdated in the light of corona virus pandemic collapse in the big part of the world though.

Tightly composed,"Planet B" opens in a manner of a classic neo-prog rock album from the early 80s - with speaking words. As label's site says: "Planet B is a conversation about who we are as a people today, how we exist in relation to this earth and to each other, and where we want to go from here. Let us be inspired together and explore what a re-imagining of this planet can be.”

Nothing is wrong with taking on serious social and existential themes as a basis for jazz music, and adding some text is great if it helps to reach the target. Amiri Baraka's collaborations with early free jazzers is well known till now, as well as some more modern projects (incl. let say Anthony Joseph,etc). Poetry works with jazz in some cases quite well. Just speaking texts are probably more risky business since it often gives an anchoring effect on originally free jazz music nature. "Planet B" is such an example - returning voice with some speaking messages sounds a bit pathetic and moralizing over the free and creative sound.

Coming back to the album's music, it is more chamber than Phronesis works or even Høiby's first solo album. Two young musicians on board - British saxophonist Josh Arcoleo and French drummer Marc Michel - fulfill expectations of such an acoustic trio in full. Sound is warm and deep and energetic, and there are plenty of tuneful moments.

The trio sounds best when all three go towards more free improvisation (still never crossing the conceptual frame), the return to speaking voice destroys the album's atmosphere and leaves a mixed feeling though.

With full respect to the album's idea, I still have a feeling a solely musical edition (without words) would have sounded more integral and impressive.
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