HOW’S THIS for supreme confidence? One of the world’s foremost jazz trios recording an hour of explosive, original material in a single day at London’s renowned Abbey Road Studios… and ab-so-lute-ly nailing it!
Jasper Høiby, Ivo Neame and Anton Eger’s combined musical prowess has previously been documented here with 2012’s outstanding studio release Walking Dark and 2014’s live, in-the-round thriller Life to Everything – yet, having honed and established such a distinctive identity and direction over more than a decade of democratic collaboration, it’s remarkable how they raise the bar still higher with each new release.
Sixth album Parallax continues to astonish; not as a result of this piano trio (in decidedly unconventional guise) suddenly upping sticks and changing course, but because they possess the breathtaking musicality and technical precision to consolidate this sound world of their own making, whilst also drawing us into the glorious minutiae of their progressive invention. As with their last album, double bassist, pianist and drummer enjoy compositional parity (three tracks each) – and though glints of individual personality are recognisable from other projects, the strength of this enduring partnership is confirmed by the solidity of these live studio performances and an ever-present filament of hard-wrought, communicative equilibrium.
That special Phronesis character – ‘wisdom personified’ – is evident from the outset, with the velocity of Anton Eger’s 67000 MPH (the speed of the sun) marked out by complex, unison bass-and-piano riffs, thunderous drum detail and audacious tempo shifts. The changeable, parallactic undulations and contours of this trio’s music are spine-tingling, and equally colourful in Ivo Neame’s solo opening to his OK Chorale – an acrobatic, piano-led delight which intensifies towards Eger’s trademark percussive alchemy; and Jasper Høiby’s slow-burning, arco-bass Stillness – like some orchestral Bach transcription – is outrageously carved open by the incisiveness of the drummer’s cutlery (yes, really!).
Ivo Neame’s recognisable lyricism shines through so beautifully in A Kite for Seamus, his breezy solo lines spiralling into the hazy azure, with an occasionally duskier descent; the lurching, introductory motif of Høiby’s Just 4 Now heralds typically adrenalin-fuelled activity, including the bassist’s own lithe extemporisations; and Ayu (from Eger) says so much about the trio’s empathy, sparking rhythmic and textural ideas off each other amidst jaw-dropping, individual agility.
Implied, dreamy, pianistic reflections in Høiby’s A Silver Moon might easily evoke Bill Evans or Beethoven, such is Neame’s increasingly mercurial creativity; and the pianist’s superbly delirious Manioc Maniac restlessly writhes and jostles across its three minutes. Jasper Høiby remains the sturdy backbone of this ensemble, and his sinuous bass dexterity in Eger’s bubbling rock-out, Rabat (in conjunction with similarly impassioned piano and drums), spectacularly brings the curtain down on an another artistically magnificent album.
Catch this purely acoustic trio live, and it’s difficult to know where to fix your attention, such is the relentless musical and visual dialogue, back and forth, across the stage. The same holds true for this recording, capturing an energised zeal interpreted through focus, clarity and sincerity.
Oh, and a fortnight in a top-level studio to lay down a single drum track? Anathema to these illustrious trailblazers!
Released on 8 April 2016, Parallax is available as CD, 12″ vinyl and high-quality download from Edition Records’ Bandcamp store.
Jasper Høiby double bass
Ivo Neame piano
Anton Eger drums
Edition Records – EDN1070 (2016)