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Jasper Hoiby - Fellow Creatures Rating: 4 out of 5 Hoiby's compositions provide the framework for some superb musical conversations. This is a band that has the potential to be far more than just an inspired one-off.

Jasper Hoiby

“Fellow Creatures”

(Edition Records EDN1075)

The Danish born bassist and composer Jasper Hoiby has been a regular presence on the Jazzmann web pages, mainly due to the exploits of the phenomenally successful Anglo-Scandinavian trio Phronesis featuring pianist Ivo Neame and drummer Anton Eger. Originally conceived as an outlet for Hoiby’s writing the trio has developed into a highly democratic and interactive unit over the course of its ten year existence with a series of critically acclaimed albums and with all three members now contributing material to the group’s repertoire. Phronesis have also acquired an enviable reputation for the quality and dynamism of their exciting stage shows with two of their albums having been recorded at live performances. This is a band with an international reputation and, in jazz terms, a huge and loyal following.

Away from Phronesis Hoiby has also worked as a highly respected sideman with the groups Kairos 4tet, Malija, Red Kite, Fringe Magnetic and Compassionate Dictatorship and in bands variously led by pianists Sam Crowe, Richard Fairhurst and Ivo Neame, saxophonists Marius Neset and Mark Lockheart, vibraphonist Jim Hart and vocalist Julia Biel.

However “Fellow Creatures” represents Hoiby’s first album release under his own name and features a new quintet, sometimes referred to as Qualia, that includes long term associate Mark Lockheart plus three highly talented young musicians, trumpeter Laura Jurd, pianist Will Barry and drummer Corrie Dick. 

Hoiby says of the line up;
“It’s been a dream of mine for a while to start a larger ensemble and to have the option of writing for two melody instruments as well as the trio”.

He continues;
“With this project it was very important to me to explore things that I wouldn’t be able to with Phronesis and so, although I still think the record has things in common with the trio, it is also in many ways, an attempt to break away and try new ground with this band. The music here may seem less explosive at first but I hope some of its subtlety and richness will be revealed by repeated listens”.

The album is semi-conceptual with some of the tune titles, plus the writing itself, being inspired by the book “This Changes Everything” by the Canadian author Naomi Klein of which Hoiby says;
“the book talks about what we have to do to make sure that we don’t devour this beautiful planet, along with all its natural resources. It discusses how we can seize this environmental crisis and transform our failed economic system to build something radically better for everyone”.

The album is also informed by the recent death of Hoiby’s sister Jeanette (1971-2016) after a long regressive illness that cost her her sight, her blindness providing some of the inspiration for the Phronesis albums “Green Delay” and “Walking Dark” plus the “Pitch Black Project”, a series of live concert performances that featured the trio playing in complete darkness, an unforgeable sensory experience for both band members and audiences alike.

Of the structure of the new album Hoiby has commented;
My wish was to tell a story with a whole record and to cherish that intimate relationship between an album and its listener that used to be commonplace, perhaps a return to the days when you would listen through from start to finish, again and again, until you grew to know every single note, space and emotion and it became an inner part of your world, your personality even. My own musical inspirations started like this and I think it’s an important part of what’s shaped my musical DNA. This record is a celebration of the album as a narrative, as well as the personalities expressing it, and who bring so much to the tunes”. 

In general the music on “Fellow Creatures” is intentionally less complex than that of Phronesis with greater use of conventional time signatures, the idea being that these simpler structures would provide the individual musicians with plenty of space in which to express themselves. It’s an idea that has worked has very well with Hoiby’s compositions seeming to unfold organically and logically, both in terms of the individual tunes and the album as a whole. Critical reaction to the album has been universally favourable so Hoiby’s methods certainly seem to be working.

The album commences with “Folk Song” which is ushered in by some typically dexterous Hoiby bass, this joined by the rustle of percussion and the sound of dampened piano strings. Lockheart and Jurd combine to pick out the melody, which as Peter Bacon pointed out in his review for the Jazz Breakfast, does bear a somewhat off-putting resemblance to that of the sickly Aled Jones song ‘Something In The Air’. However this is soon forgotten as Lockheart and Jurd push deeper into improvised territory, delicately probing and sparring as Dick adds succinct but colourful commentary. This more freely structured episode eventually gives way to a fresh, folk inspired melody that acquires something of an anthemic quality before the piece quietly resolves itself with the sound of the leader’s bass. This may be a predominately British band but this piece, in particular, sounds typically Scandinavian.

I’ve often commented upon Hoiby’s ability to combine a memorable melodic hook with a powerful groove and these qualities both come to the fore on the urgent bustle of the title track which bears many of the hallmarks of Phronesis’ best work albeit with the additional colour of the two horns.  After a lengthy introductory passage of intense, tightly knit ensemble playing Jurd and Lockheart cut loose with a series of effervescent trumpet / saxophone exchanges above the propulsive but relentlessly inventive backing provided by Barry, Hoiby and Dick. Hoiby’s bass feature lowers the temperature again shortly before the close.

“World of Contradictions” begins with the sound of unaccompanied piano and adopts a gently lyrical feel with Dick deploying brushes. The horns pick up the melody, lightly intertwining with each other before the rhythm section ups the ante and the tune takes on a darker hue with the tension subsequently diffusing with Barry’s flowing but pithy piano solo.

“Little Song For Mankind” begins with the gentle intensity of a three way exchange between piano, bass and drums. The performances of both Barry and Dick are astonishingly mature throughout the album and their abilities are particularly well showcased here. Eventually the horns join the party as the piece gathers momentum and their vivid, often fiery, exchanges provide another highlight before the composition resolves itself by releasing the tension in a well judged diminuendo.

The leader’s bass launches the charming “Song For The Bees” with its sunny South African inspired melodies. Hoiby is at the heart of the music as Jurd and Lockheart deliver unison melody lines before breaking off to exchange ideas as Dick chatters colourfully around them. A touch of flamenco adds to the mix of tasty musical flavours. With Barry sitting this one out the two horns are given full rein in the front line. Lockheart and Jurd are superb throughout the album, we’ve come to expect nothing less from the saxophonist but its Jurd’s performance that really catches the ear, her contributions are superlative throughout, colourful, inventive imaginative and, again, astonishingly mature. Of course Hoiby’s writing for the instruments is also an enormous help as he, together with the players, skilfully avoids all the tenor / trumpet front line clichés.

Both Jurd and Lockheart are in superb form on the richly colourful “Tangible” with its lushly colourful horn voicings allied to a typically muscular but melodic Hoiby bass solo and the martial patter of Dick’s brushes. Barry also impresses with an expansive piano solo. It’s probably this tune that evoked John Fordham’s to remark in his Guardian review;   
“there are pieces with the simmering folk-anthem eloquence of Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music bands”.

It’s the leader who introduces “Collective Spaces”, the sound of his bass transposed against a sound akin to that of falling rain. The leader remains the fulcrum throughout as Lockheart and Jurd again converse intelligently accompanied by Dick’s quirkily intelligent drum commentary. Hints of Haden again but with Barry sitting out.

Another solo bass intro for “Suddenly, Everyone” which re-introduces Barry to the fold and features some muscular Phronesis like trio exchanges alongside an incisive Lockheart tenor solo and Jurd’s fluent and spirited reply. Lockheart was once Jurd’s tutor at the Trinity School of Music in London but on this album the two very much function as equals. It’s the familiarity of each with the other’s playing that makes this pairing so effective and adds to the colour and vivacity of their exchanges.

“Before” finds the duo of Lockheart and Hoiby jousting in friendly fashion on a piece that sounds as if it may have been inspired by a Sonny Rollins calypso. Great fun and probably a real show-stopper when performed live.

That spirit of fun is also readily apparent at the beginning of the concluding “Plastic Island” with its opening snippet of studio banter. Then it’s down to business with a hefty odd meter groove providing the framework for more vigorous horn exchanges, the whole thing shot through with a healthy, if slightly grotesque, sense of musical humour that is reminiscent of Frank Zappa or Django Bates. 

“This music is an encouragement to the love between human beings and an acknowledgement of our belonging to a nature that I believe we all share as fellow creatures” says Hoiby and certainly the love and rapport between him and his new bandmates is apparent throughout this excellent new album. Hoiby’s compositions provide the framework for some superb musical conversations, particularly those between Lockheart and Jurd, but everybody plays well throughout and acquits themselves superbly with Dick’s contribution particularly impressive. Hoiby’s bass still plays a key role and although the music does indeed have much in common with Phronesis it’s also substantially different.
This is a band that has the potential to be far more than just an inspired one off but one suspects that the busy schedules of the individual members will ensure that it becomes no more than just an occasional project. The quintet will launch the album at London’s Kings Place on Saturday 10th September 2016 but there don’t seem to be any other dates scheduled, which is a pity.   

Fellow Creatures

Jasper Hoiby

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Album Review

4 out of 5

Fellow Creatures

Hoiby's compositions provide the framework for some superb musical conversations. This is a band that has the potential to be far more than just an inspired one-off.

Jasper Hoiby

“Fellow Creatures”

(Edition Records EDN1075)

The Danish born bassist and composer Jasper Hoiby has been a regular presence on the Jazzmann web pages, mainly due to the exploits of the phenomenally successful Anglo-Scandinavian trio Phronesis featuring pianist Ivo Neame and drummer Anton Eger. Originally conceived as an outlet for Hoiby’s writing the trio has developed into a highly democratic and interactive unit over the course of its ten year existence with a series of critically acclaimed albums and with all three members now contributing material to the group’s repertoire. Phronesis have also acquired an enviable reputation for the quality and dynamism of their exciting stage shows with two of their albums having been recorded at live performances. This is a band with an international reputation and, in jazz terms, a huge and loyal following.

Away from Phronesis Hoiby has also worked as a highly respected sideman with the groups Kairos 4tet, Malija, Red Kite, Fringe Magnetic and Compassionate Dictatorship and in bands variously led by pianists Sam Crowe, Richard Fairhurst and Ivo Neame, saxophonists Marius Neset and Mark Lockheart, vibraphonist Jim Hart and vocalist Julia Biel.

However “Fellow Creatures” represents Hoiby’s first album release under his own name and features a new quintet, sometimes referred to as Qualia, that includes long term associate Mark Lockheart plus three highly talented young musicians, trumpeter Laura Jurd, pianist Will Barry and drummer Corrie Dick. 

Hoiby says of the line up;
“It’s been a dream of mine for a while to start a larger ensemble and to have the option of writing for two melody instruments as well as the trio”.

He continues;
“With this project it was very important to me to explore things that I wouldn’t be able to with Phronesis and so, although I still think the record has things in common with the trio, it is also in many ways, an attempt to break away and try new ground with this band. The music here may seem less explosive at first but I hope some of its subtlety and richness will be revealed by repeated listens”.

The album is semi-conceptual with some of the tune titles, plus the writing itself, being inspired by the book “This Changes Everything” by the Canadian author Naomi Klein of which Hoiby says;
“the book talks about what we have to do to make sure that we don’t devour this beautiful planet, along with all its natural resources. It discusses how we can seize this environmental crisis and transform our failed economic system to build something radically better for everyone”.

The album is also informed by the recent death of Hoiby’s sister Jeanette (1971-2016) after a long regressive illness that cost her her sight, her blindness providing some of the inspiration for the Phronesis albums “Green Delay” and “Walking Dark” plus the “Pitch Black Project”, a series of live concert performances that featured the trio playing in complete darkness, an unforgeable sensory experience for both band members and audiences alike.

Of the structure of the new album Hoiby has commented;
My wish was to tell a story with a whole record and to cherish that intimate relationship between an album and its listener that used to be commonplace, perhaps a return to the days when you would listen through from start to finish, again and again, until you grew to know every single note, space and emotion and it became an inner part of your world, your personality even. My own musical inspirations started like this and I think it’s an important part of what’s shaped my musical DNA. This record is a celebration of the album as a narrative, as well as the personalities expressing it, and who bring so much to the tunes”. 

In general the music on “Fellow Creatures” is intentionally less complex than that of Phronesis with greater use of conventional time signatures, the idea being that these simpler structures would provide the individual musicians with plenty of space in which to express themselves. It’s an idea that has worked has very well with Hoiby’s compositions seeming to unfold organically and logically, both in terms of the individual tunes and the album as a whole. Critical reaction to the album has been universally favourable so Hoiby’s methods certainly seem to be working.

The album commences with “Folk Song” which is ushered in by some typically dexterous Hoiby bass, this joined by the rustle of percussion and the sound of dampened piano strings. Lockheart and Jurd combine to pick out the melody, which as Peter Bacon pointed out in his review for the Jazz Breakfast, does bear a somewhat off-putting resemblance to that of the sickly Aled Jones song ‘Something In The Air’. However this is soon forgotten as Lockheart and Jurd push deeper into improvised territory, delicately probing and sparring as Dick adds succinct but colourful commentary. This more freely structured episode eventually gives way to a fresh, folk inspired melody that acquires something of an anthemic quality before the piece quietly resolves itself with the sound of the leader’s bass. This may be a predominately British band but this piece, in particular, sounds typically Scandinavian.

I’ve often commented upon Hoiby’s ability to combine a memorable melodic hook with a powerful groove and these qualities both come to the fore on the urgent bustle of the title track which bears many of the hallmarks of Phronesis’ best work albeit with the additional colour of the two horns.  After a lengthy introductory passage of intense, tightly knit ensemble playing Jurd and Lockheart cut loose with a series of effervescent trumpet / saxophone exchanges above the propulsive but relentlessly inventive backing provided by Barry, Hoiby and Dick. Hoiby’s bass feature lowers the temperature again shortly before the close.

“World of Contradictions” begins with the sound of unaccompanied piano and adopts a gently lyrical feel with Dick deploying brushes. The horns pick up the melody, lightly intertwining with each other before the rhythm section ups the ante and the tune takes on a darker hue with the tension subsequently diffusing with Barry’s flowing but pithy piano solo.

“Little Song For Mankind” begins with the gentle intensity of a three way exchange between piano, bass and drums. The performances of both Barry and Dick are astonishingly mature throughout the album and their abilities are particularly well showcased here. Eventually the horns join the party as the piece gathers momentum and their vivid, often fiery, exchanges provide another highlight before the composition resolves itself by releasing the tension in a well judged diminuendo.

The leader’s bass launches the charming “Song For The Bees” with its sunny South African inspired melodies. Hoiby is at the heart of the music as Jurd and Lockheart deliver unison melody lines before breaking off to exchange ideas as Dick chatters colourfully around them. A touch of flamenco adds to the mix of tasty musical flavours. With Barry sitting this one out the two horns are given full rein in the front line. Lockheart and Jurd are superb throughout the album, we’ve come to expect nothing less from the saxophonist but its Jurd’s performance that really catches the ear, her contributions are superlative throughout, colourful, inventive imaginative and, again, astonishingly mature. Of course Hoiby’s writing for the instruments is also an enormous help as he, together with the players, skilfully avoids all the tenor / trumpet front line clichés.

Both Jurd and Lockheart are in superb form on the richly colourful “Tangible” with its lushly colourful horn voicings allied to a typically muscular but melodic Hoiby bass solo and the martial patter of Dick’s brushes. Barry also impresses with an expansive piano solo. It’s probably this tune that evoked John Fordham’s to remark in his Guardian review;   
“there are pieces with the simmering folk-anthem eloquence of Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music bands”.

It’s the leader who introduces “Collective Spaces”, the sound of his bass transposed against a sound akin to that of falling rain. The leader remains the fulcrum throughout as Lockheart and Jurd again converse intelligently accompanied by Dick’s quirkily intelligent drum commentary. Hints of Haden again but with Barry sitting out.

Another solo bass intro for “Suddenly, Everyone” which re-introduces Barry to the fold and features some muscular Phronesis like trio exchanges alongside an incisive Lockheart tenor solo and Jurd’s fluent and spirited reply. Lockheart was once Jurd’s tutor at the Trinity School of Music in London but on this album the two very much function as equals. It’s the familiarity of each with the other’s playing that makes this pairing so effective and adds to the colour and vivacity of their exchanges.

“Before” finds the duo of Lockheart and Hoiby jousting in friendly fashion on a piece that sounds as if it may have been inspired by a Sonny Rollins calypso. Great fun and probably a real show-stopper when performed live.

That spirit of fun is also readily apparent at the beginning of the concluding “Plastic Island” with its opening snippet of studio banter. Then it’s down to business with a hefty odd meter groove providing the framework for more vigorous horn exchanges, the whole thing shot through with a healthy, if slightly grotesque, sense of musical humour that is reminiscent of Frank Zappa or Django Bates. 

“This music is an encouragement to the love between human beings and an acknowledgement of our belonging to a nature that I believe we all share as fellow creatures” says Hoiby and certainly the love and rapport between him and his new bandmates is apparent throughout this excellent new album. Hoiby’s compositions provide the framework for some superb musical conversations, particularly those between Lockheart and Jurd, but everybody plays well throughout and acquits themselves superbly with Dick’s contribution particularly impressive. Hoiby’s bass still plays a key role and although the music does indeed have much in common with Phronesis it’s also substantially different.
This is a band that has the potential to be far more than just an inspired one off but one suspects that the busy schedules of the individual members will ensure that it becomes no more than just an occasional project. The quintet will launch the album at London’s Kings Place on Saturday 10th September 2016 but there don’t seem to be any other dates scheduled, which is a pity.   


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