Phronesis – We Are All
(Edition. EDN1118X/Y. CD Review by Patrick Hadfield)
We Are All is Phronesis‘s eighth album in 11 years, and their sixth for Edition Records, who are making the release quite an event: the album is released in multiple formats and with different cover artwork. They promise that however we choose to listen, the music is the same across each platform. For once, record label hype doesn’t do the music a disservice: We Are All is very good indeed.
Although ostensibly a piano trio, Phronesis seems very much a band of equals. The three members – bassist Jasper Høiby, Ivo Neame on piano and Anton Eger on drums – each provide two tracks on the album, and they have a singular sound between them. Playing together for over a decade, they clearly know each other musically, and whilst the tunes may allow them to demonstrate their individual and collective virtuosity, it is not at the expense of depth or emotion.
There are passages of reflective romance, driving excitement, and intricate exploitation of themes – often within a single track. Eger managers to be both powerful and subtle, never overwhelming the softer bass passages but always pushing forward. Much of the musical muscle necessarily depends on Neame, although Høiby does his share of the heavy lifting. Indeed, much of the pleasure of We Are All stems from the intricate interplay between piano and bass.
The single-mindedness of their approach makes this a remarkable album. As a band, they may be small, but they have a large scope: they concern themselves with big ideas: Stephen Hawking, the environment and and the future of humanity. Such big thinking may not necessarily make itself clear on record, but Phronesis do create a suitably big, full sound.
(Phronesis tour England in late October and November, including a gig at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on 23 November, as part of the EFG London Jazz Festival.)