Crescent Arts Centre
May 30, 2014
You had to feel sorry for the couple, rocking up at Belfast
's Crescent Arts Centre
fifteen minutes before show time only to be told that the concert was a sell-out. Slightly
sorry, that is, because in times when jazz is often a hard sell, a 'sold out' sign is music to the earscertainly for those lucky to have bagged a ticket for Phronesis' penultimate date of its UK tour promoting Life to Everything
(Edition Records, 2014). It's also tremendously encouraging to the promotors, Moving On Music
, the venue and the band itself, all of whom can be sure they're doing something right.
One of the few modern jazz piano trios of the past decade that really doesn't sound in any way like the Esbjorn Svensson
Trio, Phronesis music is built on the equality of the three voices. Even when pianist Ivo Neame
soloed with free-flowing gusto on "Urban Plan" there was never the feeling that bassist Jasper Hoiby
and drummer Anton Eger
where anything less than vital components in the mix; an essential part of Phronesis' make-up lies in its constant rhythmic vitality and flexibilityHoiby's grooving ostinatos, Neame's elastic vamps and Eger's array of colors are the bones of the closely-knit interplay.
Eger's Afro-Caribean-flavored rhythms on mallets announced the dancing "Songs for Lost Nomads," which moved from tightly coiled collective groove to a looser improvisational dynamic. "Behind Bars" shifted through the gears, from the delicate piano and arco introwith Eger's hands gently animating snare and cymbalto flowing collective freedom; Neame and Eger sent a flurry of little messages back and forth, escalating the drama, with Eger winning the prize hands down for best face contortions. Even on brushes, as on the lyrical, piano-led "Phraternal," Eger's quiet industry was impressive. The first set closed with tightly woven interplay on the punchy "Herne Hill," which Hoiby dedicated to Sue Edwards
, a tireless jazz advocate on both sides of the Atlantic for three decades.
Eger launched the second set with a nuanced solo to introduce "Deep Space Dance," a more spacious, light-textured number. With barely a pause, deep arco and rumbling mallets introduced "Wings 2 the Mind," which took shape around Hoiby's bass ostinato, and Neame's folksy melody that evoked Czech jazz pianist Emil Viklicky
's Moravian folk vocabulary. The pianist's solo in the higher registersfluid yet light of touchwas followed by features from Hoiby and Eger. The episodic "Blue Inspiration" saw an exhilarating extended solo from Neame, driven by Hoiby and Eger's tremendous rhythmic energy. The bouncing "Eight Hours" continued with the same high energy levels. The encore, "Dr. Black" evolved from the classically-inspired opening melody to thrilling collective and individual virtuosity where the line between both was satisfyingly blurred.
During the gigand reflecting a commonly made observation by many musiciansHoiby spoke of the constant demands of promoters for novelty: "You have to reinvent yourself and keep making up these excuses to play gigs," Hoiby told the audience. It's a pity such value isn't placed on evolution as opposed to revolution, as Phronesis nine years playing together has forged a supremely tight unit whose thrilling live performances are founded upon deep familiarity. Phronesis doesn't need an excuse to play, nor are excuses necessary to see Phronesis in concert. Even between studio albums there's no such thing as fallow time with an active trio this fertile, for the music is constantly in a state of growth. It is advisable, therefore, to book your tickets in advance.
For the Love of Jazz
All About Jazz has been a pillar of jazz since 1995, championing it as an art form and, more importantly, supporting the musicians who create it. Our enduring commitment has made "AAJ" one of the most culturally important websites of its kind, read by hundreds of thousands of fans, musicians and industry figures every month.
You Can Help
To expand our coverage even further and develop new means to foster jazz discovery and connectivity we need your help. You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky ads plus provide access to future articles
for a full year. This winning combination will vastly improve your AAJ experience and allow us to vigorously build on the pioneering work we first started in 1995. So enjoy an ad-free AAJ experience and help us remain a positive beacon for jazz by making a donation today