Energy like this can’t be conveyed through a speaker.

Phronesis’ Jasper Høiby released his solo project, Fellow Creatures, a couple of months ago to general critical acclaim. It was a brilliant album full of inventive writing that pulled from Høiby’s experience in Phronesis, as well as his own worldviews. I was blown away by his writing for horns which was, at times, beautifully melodic, and at others, unconventionally rhythmic. Having just scene Høiby and his band perform the material from this album live, I’m completely overwhelmed by the sense of joy and the infusion of energy into this set of excellent compositions.
I was initially struck by the extent to which the five musicians (Høiby on bass, Mark Lockheart on tenor sax, Laura Jurd on trumpet, Will Barry on piano and Corrie Dick on drums) were in sync with each other on stage, especially seeing as this was only their second live performance as a band. Particularly impressive, was the back and forth improvisation from Laura Jurd and Mark Lockheart, which featured an incredible amount of dexterity, extended techniques and astonishing contrasts in tone. Considering the frequency of improvised sections, there was a surprising lack of full blown solos. There were only a few occasions where one musician attempted to stand out from the rest of the group, which was only one example of the refreshing lack of ego in this performance. Despite Høiby’s name being the selling point for this ensemble, he felt less like a soloist with a backing band, and more like an equal member of the ensemble, but that’s not to say that his individual performance – or any of the musicians’ for that matter – was any less impressive.

The performance began with the first two tracks from the new album, ‘Folk Song’ and ‘Fellow Creatures’, the latter of which opened enthusiastically with the track’s particularly strong bass line played by Høiby and Barry. Following this, we were treated Høiby’s commentary, which included an amusing anecdote about the fire drills at the venue and a scathing, if humorous, criticism of the current political climate in Britain following the ‘Brexit’ vote and the subsequent appointment of Theresa May as prime minister. This frustration with the state of the world provided a little context for piece that followed, ‘World of Contradictions’.

Perhaps my favourite moments of the afternoon occurred just before, and during, the band’s performance of ‘Song for the Bees’. I almost laughed aloud when, in order to signal to the band that this song was to be played next, Høiby stuck his hands out to his sides and fluttered them up and down in imitation of a bee. The song itself (my favourite from the new album) featured some particularly impressive bass playing from Høiby as well as beautiful back-and-forth improvisation between Jurd and Lockheart.

After the show concluded, I had the chance to briefly meet Jasper Høiby. They say you should never meet your heroes, but I’m not so sure. Jasper Høiby is not only a brilliant composer and performer, he’s also very nice in person. This album launch concert was excellent. The band exuded a seemingly unending amount of energy and enthusiasm from start to finish, and beautifully showcased Høiby’s brilliant, folk tinged jazz compositions. A must see if ever you have the opportunity.

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