The incendiary playing on the opener "One For Us" augurs well for the rest of this, the eighth album by Phronesis. Their previous CD, The Behemoth was released in 2017 to widespread critical acclaim. It seems incredible that Jasper Høiby's brainchild has racked up so many consistently excellent recordings to date.
Ivo Neame's "Matrix For D.A." opens with elliptical piano-phrases vying with equally curt percussion, but the duet is rapidly joined by pizzicato bass to balance the piece. Høiby's poignantly lugubrious arco bass introduces Anton Eger's elegiac "The Edge," but gives way to fleet-footed pizzicato lines as the trio gradually builds the tension. Neame initially takes a more languid chordal approach but ups the ante with more florid single note runs as the whole number builds to a crescendo.
As a centrepiece, the rapid cascade of notes in the midst of Neame's second composition, "Emerald Horseshoe," is jaw-droppingly impressive, the tension, almost imperceptibly mounting towards its climactic release. Høiby's pastoral "Breathless" is a vehicle for the bassist's bravura performance evincing a deeply resonant pizzicato tone others would kill for. "The Tree Did Not Die," Eger's second composition, involves Neame's employment of, alternately, keyboard organ-tone and piano that results in a composition noticeably contrasting with the preceding five tracks, and which utilises both pulsating rhythms and swirling harmonies in a mesmerising melange of sound.
Make no mistake, Phronesis don't play facile music, indeed their output typically demands a greater degree of concentration on the part of the listener than much contemporary jazz, but the concomitant payoff is considerable. These are compositions upon which to reflect, which is appropriate really considering one definition of the ancient Greek word phronesis is actually mindfulness.
One for Us; Matrix for D.A.; The Edge; Emerald Horseshoe; Breathless; The Tree Did Not Die.
Jasper Høiby: double bass; Ivo Neame: piano; Anton Eger: drums.