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Høiby, Hart and Neame: Thinking Big

Geno Thackara By

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No one's ever accused the members of Phronesis of lacking imagination. This isn't the space to talk about that particular trio, as it comes during a gap in the action, but two of its members concurrently demonstrate that they're just as restless even in some very different contexts.

Jasper Høiby
Planet B
Edition Records
2020

Unity has been one prime theme of bassist Jasper Hoiby's career, as eloquently shown on his solo debut Fellow Creatures (Edition, 2016) and the most recent Phronesis release preceding this one, the superb We Are All (Edition, 2018). His aim in a more general sense, though, is that of so much art in general: envisioning possibilities that don't yet exist. Both themes meet in the obtuse-yet-approachable Planet B. Høiby inspiringly approaches the climate crisis with a firm insistence on new thinking and bold ideas, as stated in one key moment here: "The opportunity that we now have to reimagine everything ... what an opportunity. What a time to be alive."

A few of these spoken passages outline his thoughts with obvious straightforwardness in the course of this recording. Even more thought-provoking is the way the compositions themselves illustrate the same ideas. A speech about discovery underpins the opening "Story of Self," for instance, which starts out in aimless chaos before gradually coalescing into some kind of form and understanding. "Interconnectedness" has Høiby's bass loping in step with Josh Arcoleo's weaving saxophone line, making a simple and provocative motif with Eastern flavor and mystery.

The small and unfamiliar format (bass/sax/drums) requires the players to be careful and attentive even while they sound like they're coasting smoothly. It's all of a piece with the leader's compositions, which are among the most patient and subtle he's produced to date. This is a work that stimulates the synapses without neglecting the heart. Ambitious as it is, Planet B is only the start of a years-long series with three more big-idea themes still to come: fortunately such a big-thinking endeavor couldn't be in smarter hands.

Jim Hart and Ivo Neame
Multiverse
Edition Records
2020

In striking contrast to almost anything he's done in piano-trio mode, Ivo Neame sure enjoys the chance to juice up his keys and truly make some noise. Though Jim Hart's guitar work is (only slightly) less raucous, the two are certainly well-matched in intensity and adventurous abandon. They start by heading straight for outer space and spend the running time of Multiverse following any weird flight of fancy that arises. The title track to Neame's solo release Moksha (Edition, 2018) gets reprised here in a haze of vaguely Bitches Brew-like electronics. Next with "The Exchange," things are propelled with a vibraphone careening wildly back and forth before tipping into outright hallucination.

From there, things only continue to chang while never getting any less far-out. The material is loosely rooted in jazz, if you need a term for it—there's a lounge-ish melody lurking through "Transference," while the semi-creepy "Serie de Arco" provides some strange kind of carnival music for an alternate universe. Such descriptions are really less important than the sheer twisted fun of trawling for loud and startling sounds, the kind to help weirden your day and maybe scare the neighbors. If the results won't please everyone, that's the inevitable result of taking off and eagerly leaving this planet behind.

Tracks and Personnel

Planet B

Tracks: Story of Self; Reimagine; Consciousness; Interconnectedness; Never Forgotten; The Dinosaur; We Didn't Earn the Sun; Life Is a Gift; Never Give Up; Reimagine (outro).

Personnel: Jasper Høiby: bass and electronics; Josh Arcoleo: saxophone; Marc Michel: drums.

Multiverse

Tracks: Moksha; The Exchange; Au Contraire; Room 1003; Serie de Arco; Transference; Back Home.

Personnel: Jim Hart: drums, vibes, marimba, percussion; Ivo Neame: Fender Rhodes, piano, mellotron, Hammond organ, clarinet; Matt Calvert: synths, sampling, electronics, production and mixing.

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