Led by double-bassist Torben Bjørnskov, whose teachers at the Rytmisk Musikkonservatorium of Copenhagen included legendary bassist Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen, Human Being Human is a Danish jazz trio whose music is anchored in the “traditional” melodic Nordic jazz tradition while also leaning towards a more progressive and experimental approach. The trio includes Esben Tjalve on piano and keyboards and Frederik Bülow on drums. Combining a wealth of experience garnered on the European jazz scenes and in several formations for which they all compose, the three musicians freely explore “improvisation, grooves and moods” on Disappearance, their second LP for Copenhagen-based April Records, released on 10 November 2023 last.
From the outset, the band’s name, which is almost expressed as a question, implies a binary perspective encompassing both the physical nature of existence and a more elevated state of consciousness, empathy and compassion. This duality is further emphasised by the Ernest Hemingway quote included in the press release and illustrated on the cover artwork – “Every man has two deaths, when he is buried in the ground and the last time someone says his name”. On Disappearance, the trio sets out to explore this dualism through the prism of rhythm – in particular with the extensive use of irregular meters – as well as wide-ranging musical influences or instrumentation.
Introduced by a propulsive bass line and a raw funk groove for instance, “Continuation Day” constantly sways between two distinct musical traditions. Borrowing from a late 1960s jazz-funk style as exemplified by influential bands such as The Meters on the one hand, it also references a melodic Scandinavian tradition.
The title track “Disappearance” toys with multiple key changes, polyrhythms and scales while on two superb ballads – “Together Again” and “Aware” – a soaring piano and an expressive double bass take turns in leading the melody.
The entire album is enhanced with subtle electronic layers throughout, but on a track like “When You Find It, You Will Know”, Esben Tjalve clearly alternates between acoustic and electronic keyboards.
Supremely well recorded to sustain a crisp sound, Disappearance is replete with vibrant rhythmic and melodic intricacies which gradually reveal themselves on repeated listening. Concluding the record, “Big Bang” ties in with bassist Torben Bjørnskov’s minimalist modus operandi when it comes to approaching his craft and his teaching practice.
Practising the minimum is something Bill Evans ones said in an interview. And it did not mean that he was practising as little time as possible, but that he was practicing a little amount of material at a time from as many angles as possible.
Thus reigniting the conceptual cycle of life and death underpinning the record, all compositions prompt the listener to marvel at the wonders of our fleeting existence since, as is the case with many jazz trio recordings, “God is in the details”.