Phronesis is the closest you will get to a co-operative in contemporary jazz in terms of the equal division of labour: Jasper Hoiby (bass), Ivo Neame (Piano) and Anton Eger (drums), on this their sixth album, Parallax, their fourth for Edition Redcords, and recorded in a single day at Abbey Studios (U2’s last album took four years, and was crap), each contribute three of the nine titles.
Life to Everything, their 2014 release, opened up the Phronesis experience to new audiences, and it too offered nine compositions, with not a note out of place and never a second too short or too long.
And like the best of artists, Phronesis know how to start with panache and when to close. What is distinctly evident here, and probably less so throughout the live recorded Life to Everything, is an earnest playfulness.
Some of the titles are onomatopoeic, and this sound symbolism in words among musicians who don’t use any, is a licence for light and dark tones to approximate suggestions. Manioc Maniac has a wonderful vaudevillian opening by Neame: it starts fast, is halted by Hoiby’s bass, until Neame and Eger put a force ten back into the sails.
If I was to pick a single track to send to the future inhabitants of Mars for their elucidation of where jazz is at in 2016, Dr Black ticks all boxes, a reminder that we are drawn to the form because the synchrony jazz offers is not duplicated elsewhere, and there is no trio on the planet, at present, capable of the togetherness of Phronesis.
Almost un-Phronesis like is Neame’s gorgeous Kite For Seamus, reflective and piercing, a tribute perhaps to the late Seamus Heaney and a nod to his A Kite for Aibhin; played here, music has a memory from another place, and the composition has a spiritual depth.
The Phronesis trademark of constant shifts in mood and texture, is there from the off with 67000 MPH, with an Anton Eger homage to Joe Morello’s famous intro on the Dave Brubeck Quartet’s Take Five. There is no diminution in energy listening to Phronesis, and six albums later, their joie de vivre is as infectious as ever.