Thursday 5 January 2023

'Human First' by Teus Nobel & Liberty Group

'Human First' is the brand new release from Teus Nobel & Liberty Group whose ambitious new project finds inspiration at perhaps the most unlikeliest of times.

Before we dive in to the current release, it seems only right that we take the time to celebrate the incredible talents of the Dutch trumpeter and composer whose phenomenal catalogue of releases and collaborations thus far have long cemented his illustrious career.

Boasting a Masters Degree in Jazz from Codarts University of Arts, Nobel's indelible talents have seen him amass an insurmountable catalogue of solo projects that run the gamut of contemporary jazz from the electronica-meets-analogue aesthetic of 'Social Music' alongside Merlijn Verboom, to the ode to the music of Brazilian composers with the albums 'Saudade' and 'Tanto Amor', or his affections for big band and orchestra ensembles as evidenced via his nine year tenure with the Royal Airforce Orchestra.  In fact there's very little - if anything - that Nobel has not already turned his attention to with performances alongside celebrated theatre orchestras, scores for Dutch TV shows, and collaborations with revered artists from a multitude of backgrounds and disciplines including Frank McComb, Jef Neve, Ntjam Rosie and Seal amongst countless others.

Nobel has always proved to be an artist who has openly worn his influences on his sleeve.  With projects over the years celebrating the influence of his heroes Woody Shaw, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Miles Davis and Ivan Lins, Nobel is very much a progressive, innovative and forward-thinking musician who continually pays tribute to a classic jazz aesthetic and its pioneers.

'Human First' very much continues within this lineage of paying respects to his chief inspirations with the project's title and underlying message stemming from the jazz-fusion icon, Herbie Hancock.  During the turbulent quarantine period that many of us are unlikely to forget in a hurry, the circumstances proved to be an incredibly difficult time for session and touring musicians with live performances shelved for the foreseeable future and collaborations relegated to Zoom-based interactions, but during this time of anxiety, Nobel was afforded the rare luxury of clarity.  While reading Hancock's biography, Nobel was struck by the line, "I realized I was human first, musician second" which are words that helped re-frame his own music and perceptions of himself as a musician.  

So while actually inspired by Herbie Hancock's infinite wisdom, in line with Nobel's subsequent reprioritizing, 'Human First' is poignantly dedicated to his son, Bix.  The sensational 27-minute suite is beautifully brought to life by Nobel's Liberty Group trio which comprises Alexander van Popta on piano, Tuur Moens on drums and Jeroen Vierdag on bass.  Guitarist Teis Semey also features as does saxophonist Jasper Blom rounding out the immeasurable talent assembled for such an exceptional project.  

Pianist Alexander van Popta's exquisite 'When Riku Saw The Colors Dancing', Parts 1 and 2, also feature as the B-side for the vinyl release and are sublime compositions themselves worthy of infinite praise.  

'Human First' is absolutely a celebration; a 27-minute magnum opus that serves as a deeply personal, revelatory experience that imparts Nobel's joy of prioritising his role as "a husband, a father, a brother, a son, and a friend" above all else.

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