Jasper Høiby: Harmonic Forms That Stir The Human Mind
By Susan FrancesComposer, bassist, and bandleader Jasper Høiby embraces his craft with a passion that stirs the human mind. His latest release, What It Means To be Human, is the second in a series of four albums from Høiby’s jazz trio Planet B, featuring saxophonist Josh Arcoleo and drummer Marc Michel.
The compositions convey many messages to audiences regarding a handful of global topics of vital significance that reflect on humanity, climate change, artificial intelligence, and monetary reform. The free-form structure of the harmonic patterns is pleasing, inciting the listener to turn inward, opening a new level of consciousness that connects one with other humans and the universe at large.
Born in Copenhagen, Høiby is a visionary artist who proves to be a sensitive collaborator with his bandmates, Josh Arcoleo and Marc Michel. He cites, “I met Josh years ago through common friends on the London Scene. I was blown away by his sound and energy and knew we’d work together in the future sometime. Met Marc much later also in London; we played together, and it just felt super great, open and natural.”
He touts, “I love the collaboration of a band, but someone needs to lead and make the final decision. It is very rare that a whole band can sustain the same vision consistently.”
He reveals on his website that “Planet B came into existence as an urge to be able to more directly communicate philosophical and political ideas through the music. I had collected inspiring audio and video clips of interesting people for a while, and the idea was to somehow incorporate these into the music. I wanted to show and share my inspirations and help them to create a positive debate about our future on this planet. Both live and in the studio, the clips are used as part of the improvising so one thing can feed the other. I’d say this band mixes my love of total free music with more detailed rhythmic playing; it’s constructed as to always be right in the moment.”
Being engulfed in the exotic swirls of “Her Deepness,” swaddled in the placid soundscapes of “One Voice,” mesmerized by the bluesy musings of “Vision of Outrage,” and enchanted by the floating sensations of “Clock of the World,” Høiby reels the listener in and takes one along a journey of awareness, absorbing new thoughts and experiencing new melodic sensibilities. The trio’s melodic expressions are innovative, progressing organically like poetry in motion.
He describes, “My vision for the four album series is to do more than ‘just’ making another jazz record. I want to open up a conversation and a debate about topics I consider important in the world as well as spread the word of interconnectedness between all living things.”
Like the track “Onwards” from What It Means To be Human, the music is conjured in Høiby’s imagination, as he explains about the arrangement, “It came together inside my mind as a puzzle of rhythms and sounds. Almost with a feeling of explosive urgency.”
African-American social justice activist, scholar, public theologian and vocalist Ruby Sales lends her poetry to several tracks, including “Spiritual Geniuses,” which she recites, “Our parents were spiritual geniuses / Who created a world and a language / Where the notion that I was inadequate or inferior or less than / Never touched my consciousness.” It’s a sentiment that listeners can relate to and feel connected to other humans, similarly to the way that people of all creeds, races, and cultural backgrounds can relate to Maya Angelou’s iconic poem “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.”
Høiby highlights about the track, “The words for ‘Spiritual Geniuses’ are taken from an ‘On Being’ podcast featuring Ruby Sales. She’s a legendary civil rights activist with a lifetime of experience and knowledge, and I felt the importance of making people aware of her existence and her message.”
The recording process for What It Means To be Human was its own unique experience as he imparts, “In the studio, there’s always challenges and a hundred things to be aware of simultaneously, but most problems or challenges can be dealt with in the preparation before so once you get playing it will all flow.”
Poetry in the form of rap and hip hop inspired Høiby early on as he reminisces, “From the age of around 11, I started to listen to lots of hip hop, and I was drawn to the bass from that music first, I think.”
His use of the bass creates a foundation for his music as Josh Arcoleo’s saxophone scrolls animated silhouettes in the sand, and Marc Michel’s drumming adds contour and structure to the atmospheric stargazing and introspection. Høiby recalls, “Since I picked up the bass at about 14, I was always fascinated with making my own grooves. About ten years later, I only started writing when I had to stop playing because of tendonitis. I got drawn into the excitement of creating my own musical universe.”
Jazz became the palette he would use to create his musical universe. He claims his influences in jazz: “Too many artists to mention, but I love jazz with an intense and spiritual energy. The music, regardless of genre, has to move my body, brain, and heart equally.”
He reflects on his growth as a musician, composer, and collaborator, “I think you naturally evolve with age, and perhaps typically you seek out depth and meaning as opposed to fireworks and technicality. I still think that my core values are the same. I want to make meaningful music that engages and moves people as a positive force in the world.”
Høiby’s harmonic forms have a universal effect, stirring the human mind, opening one’s consciousness to new thoughts and experiences, and perhaps becoming aware of another level of truth along the journey. Whatever audiences take away with them from What It Means To be Human will remain permanently imprinted in their consciousness.
About Susan Frances:Born in Brooklyn, New York and raised in eastern Long Island, I always enjoyed writing and made several contributions to my high school literary magazine, The Lion’s Pen. Influenced by writers of epic novels including Colleen McCullough and James Clavell, I gravitated to creative writing. After graduating from New York University with a BA in Liberal Arts, I tried my hand at conventional jobs but always returned to creative writing. Since 1998, I have been a freelance writer and have over three thousand articles to various e-zines including: Jazz Times, Blogcritics, Yahoo Voices, Goodreads.com, Authors and Books (books.wiseto.com), TheReadingRoom.com, Amazon.com, Epinions.com, Fictiondb.com, LibraryThing.com, BTS emag, BarnesandNoble.com, RomanticHistoricalReviews.com, AReCafe.com, Hybrid Magazine, and BookDepository.com. In 2013 and 2014, I was a judge in the Orange Rose Writing Competition sponsored by the Orange County chapter of the Romance Writers of America located in Brea, California.