‘Life to Everything’ – Phronesis

Life

HOW MIGHT ONE define ‘supergroup’? In some popular genres, it may well constitute questionable talent, shallow fame, social media infamy, gold discs, the trashing of hotel rooms or hanging around a decade too long in hideously bright designer lounge suits!

OK, so a tongue-in-cheek generalisation. But, in the case of Phronesis, that hugely popular Anglo-Scandinavian powerhouse of contemporary jazz, their success refreshingly reflects their consummate musicality, impassioned creativity, unequivocal scholarship and acceptance of the challenge to be different. Double bassist Jasper Høiby, pianist Ivo Neame and drummer Anton Eger feature prominently, and separately, in many of today’s exciting line-ups. But, make no mistake… when they slot together to record and perform as Phronesis, selling out venues from the UK to the USA and Canada, and to Australia, this trio becomes one of jazz’s supergroups.

With three studio albums to their tally (most recently, 2012’s Walking Dark) and already an acclaimed live album (Alive!, 2010), Danish-born Høiby is widely acknowledged as the band’s architect. But any thoughts of hierarchy end there, for the three have worked together in this remarkably balanced collective for almost a decade, committing themselves to the development of a wholly unified approach and honing what can only be recognised as complete mastery of their art.

In this new live release – recorded before enthusiastic in-the-round gatherings over three nights at The Cockpit during 2013’s EFG London Jazz Festival – the trio demonstrate more clearly than ever their established, democratic principle of writing and performing. And rather than interpreting previous studio album material, they bravely unleash a blistering, multi-layered assault and ‘batterie’ on the senses with nine astonishingly intricate new works, evenly sharing the compositional credits. Since its release a few weeks ago, I have been drawn deeper and still deeper into this mesmerising hour-long spectacular, increasingly rewarded by the staggering display of telepathy, invention and musicianship – and Phronesis clearly revel in and respond to the close, attentive appreciation of their audiences.

Visually and sonorously the trio’s backbone, Jasper Høiby ‘lights the touch paper’ with his pliant bass intro to Anton Eger’s Urban Control. The piece bursts into life with customary fervour, Ivo Neame’s piano glistening over Eger’s skittering percussion and Høiby’s unyielding exploration of the fingerboard. Phronesis always balance improvisation and tight mechanics so perfectly, blending expressive freedom with pin-sharp communication and structure, resulting in the most engaging of experiences. Phraternal finds a rare moment of contemplation, led by the composer’s piano; and, in contrast, the nine minutes of Høiby’s Behind Bars are simply breathtaking, building in intensity, yet so finely calculated – and Eger’s contribution (to see is to believe!) is frenetic almost beyond words.

Ever the searchingly-melodic pianist, Ivo Neame’s Song for Lost Nomads skips to his staccato left hand, Høiby and Eger tracking every phrase; and the smouldering Wings 2 the Mind from Høiby, with those now-characteristic Phronesis unison piano and bass phrases, bubbles away until anticipatory chimes coax this almost peerless drummer into another powerful display. No let-up in momentum, Nine Lives flies like the wind – and the writer’s double bass dexterity would be quite unbelievable had I not witnessed it many times before.

Neame takes a subtle step into the spotlight in his sprightly Deep Space Dance – a distinctive, creative pianistic style which is upheld beautifully by his colleagues. Two compositions from Anton Eger complete the album. Herne Hill shimmies infectiously (much to the delight of the audience), exhibiting such intelligence and shared understanding of dynamics and tempo. And, finally, Dr Black sums up the essence of this compelling trio, seemingly throwing at it every technique they possess, including a drum showcase which no doubt includes various kitchen items except the sink! – every time, a real thrill to listen to.

Life to Everything is likely to hit very high on the 2014 jazz seismograph, such is the calibre of these performances – and all from a set of live (and particularly superior) recordings. Released by Edition Records on 7 April, audio samples and purchasing options can be found here.

“Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything” (Plato)


Jasper Høiby
double bass
Ivo Neame piano
Anton Eger drums

Photography: Dave Maric
Design: Darren Rumney

phronesis.com
editionrecords.com

Edition Records – EDN1050 (2014)

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‘Everything We Hold’ – Kairos 4tet

Kairos

SURELY the greatest crime for any creative musician is to stand still – to churn out more of the same, ad infinitum (which, it has to be said, some recording artists are content in doing). But not so, in the case of venturous sax player Adam Waldmann’s ‘Kairos 4tet’. Since their highly promising 2009 debut, ‘Kairos Moment’ and sparkling 2011 follow-up, ‘Statement of Intent’, they have continued to push jazz frontiers to successfully forge a distinctive, progressive path for themselves.

Read the full review at LondonJazz News…

 

Nail Label – naimcd191 (2013)

‘Entertaining Tyrants’ – Compassionate Dictatorship

CompassionD

COMPASSIONATE DICTATORSHIP have been playing together for around six years, recording twice before (‘Coup d’Etat’ and ‘Cash Cows’). ‘Entertaining Tyrants’, however, is the quartet’s first release with progressive young British label, Jellymould Jazz, consolidating their already distinctive sound.

The personnel is outstanding – Tori Freestone (tenor sax), Jez Franks (guitar), Jasper Høiby (double bass), James Maddren (drums) – and, between them, this esteemed line-up create a powerful yet beautifully crafted set of nine Franks and/or Freestone compositions, all presented with an impressive display of mutual understanding, collaboration and musicianship. The melodic pairing is excellent: Freestone’s characteristic tenor delivery, in turns both mellifluous and gritty; Franks slickly switching from bright solo cadences to lush chord progressions.

Having listened over and over to ‘Tyrants’ (released 29 April 2013), this is a classic example of what I happily refer to as a ‘jazz treasure chest’. Opening the lid, it’s obvious straightaway that there is much inside to delight – deeper inspection, though, fascinatingly reveals greater ‘jewels’ as they very gradually come to the surface. And what a hoard!…

‘Anger Management’, with its sarcastic opening tenor call and sneering guitar replies, immediately provides a curiously-appealing, edgy tension. The energy here is wonderful, as is the terrific interplay between these close musical minds – and what sounds like a free-for-all is, in fact, a masterclass in control and shared voice. ‘In the Chophouse’ displays smart improvisation, as well as delicate guitar washes. ‘Bubble and Squeak’s momentum is skilfully carried by Jasper Høiby’s fluent bass and James Maddren’s incisive rhythm; calm is briefly restored with the lofty ‘Sit Tight’.

Changing tempi and close sax/guitar work are a feature of the attractive ‘Universal 4’, with Høiby’s recognisably colourful lines breaking through and Maddren setting an intricately shimmering pace. On ‘Ratios’, the guitar lays down a gentler pulse for Freestone to solo over, with Franks also contributing flowing improvisation. ‘Pottering Around’ is a standout, the tenor’s initial plaintive sound encouraging the group to freely exchange ideas (it’s lovely stuff) before gleefully breaking into a great guitar-driven groove with a mischievous ascending, spiralling tenor catch, Høiby and Maddren again a class act with their tight rhythmic contribution. A sense of anarchy (and fun!) pervades ‘Precious’, Freestone contrasting hard-pushing screeches with beautifully sonorous low-register passages, whilst ‘Loop’ closes the album with a mellow, perhaps slightly dark, serenity.

The quartet’s recorded sound, thanks to Nic Taylor and Dominic Sales, is crisp and clean, giving the listener a satisfyingly close experience, as well as a longing to witness, first hand, their exciting live chemistry! Good to see, then, that the Dictatorship have issued an accompanying tour schedule (with more dates to be added):

11 May 2013: Skein Jazz, Norway
23 May 2013: Hebden Bridge, UK
2 June 2013: Colchester Arts, UK
3 June 2013: Sela Bar, Leeds, UK
11 June: The Spin, Oxford, UK
1 September 2013: Milestones Jazz Club, Lowestoft, UK
17 November 2013: Teignmouth Jazz Festival, UK

A great album to get inside – highly recommended.

 

http://www.jellymouldjazz.net/releases/compassionate-dictatorship-entertaining-tyrants/
http://www.compassionatedictatorship.co.uk/

Jellymould Jazz – JM-JJ011 (2013)