Phronesis | Crescent Arts Centre | Belfast, Ireland | May 30, 2014
Slightly sorry, that is, because in times when jazz is often a hard sell, a ‘sold out’ sign is music to the ears—certainly 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 flexibility—Hoiby’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 intro—with Eger’s hands gently animating snare and cymbal—to 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.