Jasper Holby (Denmark) – double bass
Ivo Neame (UK) – piano
Anton Eger (Sweden/Norway) – drums
Capstone Theatre, Liverpool
31st October 2018
Reviewed by Joe Coventry
Zealous Never Jealous
Jazz group Phronesis have just released their 8th album, We Are All, and this evening’s concert was comprised of new tracks from this latest compilation. The world renowned trio brought their idiosyncratic brand of egalitarian synthesis to a two-thirds full, but definitely up for it, seasoned audience of mainly sage old stagers.
The group’s name comes from an ancient Greek word for a type of wisdom or intelligence relevant to practical action: in this case structuring rhythm and texture within the context of a grid where the totality of space can be exploited at will by soloist improvisation or collective collaboration.
On a freezing cold Halloween night the group nonchalantly walked on stage giving nothing away as to what was to come, not even the titles of the tracks they were about to play!
It started with expressive cascades of plucked solo bass and quiet staccato reverberations from the piano. Then a splash of symbols as drums and piano chased each other, complementing Hoiby’s outstretched fingers. That was until an expansive tapped drumstick outburst by Eger dislodged one of his cymbals , for the second time in a week apparently! The sound man’s emergency repairs did not affect the repetitive build up of tempo to a finger-licking bass finish.
Then straight into the next track; drums sizzling, piano fizzing, the bass producing a bow-scary claustrophobic animal noise thrash in a mesh of stalled tonality and intense pitch. The outpouring produced some strange synergies; how did a saxophone get in there? A mad laugh from Hoiby amidst some psychedelic lighting helped him relieve the ‘fuck up’ of the trio’s nightmare journey to the gig from London. ‘Don’t forget to buy the special yellow vinyl disc or CD on sale tonight’, he then opined.
Like rain dripping in a forest, the bass plopped away to sashing drums and a deliberate drifting lullaby from Neame on piano, the music questing and questioning. With his expansive big fingers, Hoiby took the floor to some hypnotic conjoining of his compatriots, before the stamina of Eger took this one to the buffers.
After the interval came an exotic tonal warm up from bass and piano and an arms folded, (never sullen), silence from Eger. This led to a discontinuous totality, a directionless menage retrieved after a second’s silence as Neame’s piano spliced it all together. But the band were sinking in quicksand before a collective improvised escape; bass scrabbling; piano solipsistic; drum set reverberating with the effort.
It was left to Hoiby, see-saw bowing with his right hand and contriving loops of chords with his other, and some double-time drumming from Eger to end the complex 18 minute thrash .
To follow that an exercise in playing the piano, inside on plucked strings then a more conventional temporal rendition on the keys, before they all took bifurcating trajectories to conjoin in a conjured mesh of time and space.
To finish the night a bit of wind down dinner jazz, that was thoughtful and melancholic, before it contrived a more upbeat dash to the end.
It was a long concert, finishing after 10 pm, which might of taken its toll on lesser souls, but here the trio received a well appreciated ovation at the end.
The music was never in doubt, but a bit more interaction and explanation to the audience during the concert would not have gone amiss.