Life to Everything
Borrowing a quote from Plato for an album of nine original tracks, recorded over three concerts during the London Jazz Festival, is a tall order to measure up to, but not if you are as tight a unit as Phronesis, with music credits shared equally by Danish bassist Jasper Hoiby, British pianist Ivo Neame and Swedish drummer Anton Eger.
Urban Control is quintessential Phronesis: a blank canvas prepared by Hoiby’s attacking bass, mimicked by Eger’s rapid fire bursts and rounded by Neame’s circumambulations.
It was another ancient Greek, Homer, who pioneered a feature of writing that lends itself to jazz, ring-composition, which fuses disparity after a walkabout, and Phronesis excel at it. Hoiby delivers Nine Lives from the darkness and is at hand toward the end of the digression.
However, listen to Deep Space Dance repeatedly and what you assumed was primarily a mano a mano between the fluent bass and the acquisitive drumming is turned on its head by the soaring piano: Icarus destined for the sun.
There is much to savour in this recording, and it depends on the bias of your ear as to what instrumental delectation takes your fancy: Herne Hill is almost un- Phronesis like at the beginning, but stunning interplay between Neame and Eger propel the music into sensory overload.
I couldn’t quite escape the lure of Hoiby’s bass, like a lone stallion in a brood of mares, with meteoric ostinatos, when quite suddenly the interaction of the instruments is brought to a close by a shocking coda.
The recording seems a bit too polished to be entirely down and dirty live, but that doesn’t matter because there isn’t a redundant track here and the addiction is constant: there is never less than a spirited rhythm in Eger’s percussive shots, and they elicit the music’s individuality.
And because of what Eger does, and the variegated beat, you can relish the accelerating tempo of Hoiby’s extremes, from manic plucking to occasional cello-like strokes, almost in a heated debate with Neame’s finger work, intoxicated toccatas which, like the Dylan Thomas line, are the force that through the green fuse drives the flower.