Jasper Høiby: What It Means To Be Human

Danish bassist marries Coltrane and Rollins inspired jazz with environmental protest, underlining the message with voice samples

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Changing tack in a fair wind requires courage, and Høiby’s stepping down of Phronesis in 2020 was certainly a bold move. Yet for a certain type of artist the need to chart new waters is irresistible, and as this second in a planned quartet of thematically linked releases shows (the first was 2020’s Planet B), fortune can favour the brave.

In purely musicological terms Planet B’s lineage is broadly post-Coltrane and Rollins, though that only really tells half the story. Høiby’s ambitious series will tackle some of the weightiest issues of our times, interweaving carefully selected voice samples into the music. The focus on this volume is Høiby’s longstanding environmental concerns, walking a finely balanced line between hope and despair.

Vision Of Outrage immediately sets out the central thematic dichotomy. Atop a cavernous arco drone, Ruby Sales proclaims “I think that we have to begin to have a conversation that incorporates . . . a vision of love with a vision of outrage”. The urgent need for tough love to save our endangered planet introduces a palpable fire to the music, prompting a free-blowing passage fizzing with indignant frustration.

Yet amidst dejection there can be optimism, and following the reflective One Voice the mood gradually pivots towards the possibility of a better future. On Clock Of The World the voice of Grace Lee Boggs reminds us that “we no longer recognise that we have the capacity within us to create the world anew”, while on Life Force Seeds Dr. Jane Goodall takes hope from the activism of younger generations – it’s in our hands.

Those mourning Phronesis will hear consolatory echoes of Abraham’s New Gift on the pulsating Onwards. Set alongside the deep spiritual jazz of the closing track, it demonstrates the great potency, versatility and emotional range of Høiby’s remarkable Planet B.

Discography
Vision Of Outrage; There Will Be No Struggle; Clock Of The World; Earthness; One Voice; Spiritual Geniuses; Her Deepness; Life Force Seeds; Onwards; What It Means To Be Human (41.08)
Høiby (b) with Josh Arcoleo (ts); Marc Michel (d). Copenhagen, 26-28 October 2021.
Edition Records EDN1200