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Phronesis: We Are All

Geno Thackara By

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You never know where Phronesis will turn next, but you can count on something inventive, surprising, and still true to the identity that's made them one of the premier piano trios on the world stage. They've racked up an impressive round of extracurriculars since their previous original outing Parallax (Edition, 2016): the left-field crossover The Behemoth (Edition, 2017) saw them reinventing past material with Julian Argüelles and the Radio Frankfurt Big Band. Bassist Jasper Hoiby and pianist Ivo Neame made solo recordings (2016's Fellow Creatures and 2018's Moksha, respectively, both also on Edition) stretching their compositional muscles with electric instruments and expanded lineups, while Anton Eger continued his rhythmic explorations in improvisational electronica. Those endeavors all leave a stamp on We Are All, an ambitious work joyful in its themes of togetherness and unity.

From the tingling arco bass and ebbing piano waves that introduce "One of Us"—a deceptive pastoral tease before they tumble into a frenetic churn—the group shows their crackling three-way chemistry is as finely tuned and unpredictable as ever. All three again contribute the compositions in equal measure, and even this shows how generous and inclusive their telepathy has become: the electrifying Neame-penned "Matrix for D.A." provides layers of hopscotching rhythm for Eger to propel with gusto, while the drummer's piece "The Edge" gives Høiby's bass a lead showcase to beautifully dreamy effect. Neame's piano is the most obvious voice conveying the rolling countryside patterns of "Breathless," but further attention reveals how important all three are in creating the piece's not-so-simple beauty together.

The biggest surprise is an exciting closer that boldly points toward a new and different future. Neame turns to electric piano and voice-like backing synth, bouncing around like a psych-ward patient escaping the straitjacket, as Eger stokes the boilers to combustion. The jagged groove flirts with menacing but ultimately comes out exhilarating, Eger and Høiby sticking with each irregular twist and turn as the trio wildly rides the waves. Neame then balances synth with piano as the piece hovers between the rave basement and the jazz club—all keeping with We Are All's overall approach of branching between different worlds. The band changes their rules again and yet it all still comes out as definitive Phronesis: the grooves are deceptively complex and the compositions may confound any obvious ideas of harmony, but they stay stubbornly listenable and endlessly compelling. Another invigorating triumph.

Track Listing: One for Us; Matrix for D.A.; The Edge; Emerald Horseshoe; Breathless; The Tree Did Not Die.

Personnel: Jasper Høiby: double bass; Ivo Neame: piano; Anton Eger: drums.

Title: We Are All | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: Edition Records

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