Review: Phronesis

(Vortex, Wednesday 12 May, review and line drawing by Geoff Winston.)

A couple of scintillating sets at the Vortex from Phronesis, a young yet seasoned trio, which is never short of fresh ideas, proved to be the perfect foil to the day’s post-election fanfares and fall-out .

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Swedish drummer, Anton Eger, just in from Norway, drove the proceedings with precision and ingenuity, treating his kit as a melodic instrument, rather than simply laying down the beat. On string bass, leading the trio, Dane Jasper Hoiby, resident ten years in the UK, quietly demanded respect for his confident mastery, dextrous, spider-like fingers drawing out assured acoustic patterns. Ivo Neame, on the Steinway, drifted in and out of a flowing, Scandinavian jazz piano style to reveal an assured and personal voice, with phrasing at times bringing to mind Herbie Hancock, and even Jarrett – no bad thing.

Interestingly, coming from a bunch of northern Europeans there was a lot of Latin groove in the rhythms and the spirit of the playing. More than straight jazz, the funk and the heat of the carnival was unmistakable once you’d spotted it.

They included material from their first two albums, opening with the hesitant pace of ‘Five Songs Six Words’. ‘Happy Notes’ saw Neame gliding into lush, romantic piano territory. In the second set they were fully into their stride, oozing class in a very relaxed way. ‘Love Song’ was a nice reminder of the dynamics and humour of the ensemble, with Hoiby asking ‘shall we start together?’ before making his strong case for the acoustic bass.

Eger was at the core of lively, inventive duets, which also allowed each player to stretch out. He swapped between brushes, sticks and mallets, and like Jim Black and Dave King, didn’t allow conventions to get in the way of all sorts of miscellaneous tapping on the body of his kit.

The precise definition of phronesis may be uncertain; the band interprets it as “being proactive and responsive to achieve the optimum.” And, musically, that’s exactly what they do. An enriching and enjoyable evening.

Phronesis’ new CD, Live in London , recorded at the Forge Venue, is due for release on 26th July

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