Phronesis – Life to Everything
(Edition. EDN1050. CD review by Mike Collins)
The reputation of the trio of bass virtuoso Jasper Høiby, pianist Ivo Neame and drummer Anton Eger reached new heights following their 2012 release Walking Dark and relentless touring including extensive trips to North America and Australia. Their shows at the Cockpit Theatre in the 2013 London Jazz Festival, at which they planned to record this new album, quickly sold out and a third was added. The release of Life to Everything has been keenly anticipated.
The excitement and emotional charge will be no surprise to those sell-out audiences at The Cockpit, but it’s hard not join in with the whoops and cheers as yet another furious climax is reached with Anton Eger letting rip, interacting with an off kilter stop start riff at the end of Høiby’s Wings 2 the Mind or whipping up a solo storm at the end of his own composition Dr. Black before an imperious rocky piano vamp returns to close the set, sounding for all the world like the Bad Plus on steroids. This does indeed feel close to having the live experience in your living room – pay attention now!
The thrilling set is built around ingredients that will be familiar to Phronesis aficionados: complex quick-fire looping riffs; melodic fragments, sections of abstract shifting harmony, and blistering soloing from the piano; propulsive, restless and unfailingly complementary drumming. It’s a potent brew and the band members have each taken turns in piecing together the elements.
Urban Control starts with a typically urgent, stuttering bass riff echoed by descending piano chords. The pattern and a little melodic phrase launching the solos. Ivo Neame’s Phraternal creates a slightly different atmosphere. Meditative, rich, chords introduce it and meandering lines are shadowed by resonant bowed bass adding colour before a flowing more lyrical piano solo builds. Song for Lost Nomads also starts with piano etching out the harmony before a skipping, dance like groove emerges underpinning motifs with an eastern edge to them. The ceaseless flow of ideas from Eger’s kit offer a foil for percussive chord based soloing. Jasper Høiby’s fluid, rich bass is the ever present beating heart of this group sound and launches his Nine Lives, another jigsaw like confection of rhythms and patterns, its stop-start riffs prompting a blistering workout from Neame. Anton Eger’s Herne Hill starts with the prettiest melodic theme of the set and then proceeds to stretch and maul it with a variety of time feels and thunderous latin grooves in what sounds like a mainly through composed piece.
It all makes for compelling listening and is a great advert for the live band. Buy the CD. Go and see them.