CD REVIEW: Jasper Høiby - Fellow Creatures

Jasper Høiby - Fellow Creatures
(Edition Records EDN1075. CD review by Jon Turney)

The first half-minute confirms the class you might expect from this session. As Folk Song's striking theme statement from leader Jasper Høiby’s bass gradually gives way to Mark Lockheart's sax and Laura Jurd's trumpet, and they build from a slightly mournful beginning to swirl of impassioned exchanges, this album establishes right away that it has something special.

After ten years at the heart of Phronesis, the most insistently recognisable of piano power trios, Jasper Høiby is exploring new outlets for his playing and composing. Although this is a quintet, with Will Barry on piano and Corrie Dick on drums, the music is a little looser and airier than Phronesis in full cry, but as full of the kind of delightful detail that makes you want to listen again. The 10 pieces, all by Høiby, have attractive themes, with the inexhaustible rhythmic energy of the bass often in the foreground, but never domineering. Everyone has space to deliver brilliant playing, with Lockheart - also heard on Edition's strikingly melodic 2015 trio release with Høiby and Liam Noble, Malija - conveying something of the consummate command, and the bustling urgency, of early Sonny Rollins. Barry carries off the Phronesis unison piano-and-bass thing with aplomb on several tracks, and offers fleet, rippling solos, especially on World of Contradictions. But for me it is the bass and trumpet that catch the ear most readily, most often. Both players have a sound on their instruments, Høiby rich and dark, Jurd ripe, round and ever-so-slightly sour amid sweetness, that grab the attention every moment.

The programming is nicely varied. There are some moodily reflective harmonies, perhaps reflecting some of the ecological sentiments the leader highlights in his notes. But there is nothing remotely earnest about the musical results. Song for the Bees is an unexpectedly cheerful dance. Before, the penultimate title, is a sly, skipping, pas de deux for bass and saxophone. The full quintet then return for breezy closer, Plastic Island, prefaced by some off-mike joshing that suggests everyone was having a good time in the studio.

As well they might. They have produced a recording that you'll be seeing on plenty of year's end lists, a delight from start to finish. 

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

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