Monday, September 23d, 8 p.m.| Morris Graves Museum of Art
Jasper H°iby, bass; Ivo Neame, piano; Anton Eger, drums
"The most electrifying experience to be had in British jazz."
–Ivan Hewitt, The [London] Telegraph
"As the pile of talented piano trios grows ever higher, it takes a very talented and exciting threesome to rise to the top and stay there. Enter Phronesis."
–Bruce Lindsay, All About Jazz.com
We don’t like to brag, but by the time NPR Music endorsed Phronesis three years ago as one of “5 Young British Jazz Artists to Watch,” we were already watching—and listening. So was the rest of the world: 2010 was also the year that the Anglo-Scandinavian trio, after elbowing their way to the forefront of the European club and festival scene, left their base in what the New York Times’s Nate Chinen has dubbed “London’s jazz cosmopolis” and crossed the pond to wow audiences at the Montreal International Jazz Festival and at New York’s legendary Jazz Standard. (Meanwhile the UK’s influential Jazzwise magazine crowned their third CD, Alive, with American guest drummer Mark Guiliana, “Album of the Year.”) This fall, they’re bringing their trademark sound—catchy hooks, complex changes, crackling rhythms, and lithe but tight-knit grooves—to the Monterey Jazz Festival...and to the RJA.
In eight years as a working band, Phronesis (in Greek philosophy, it’s a concept usually rendered as “practical wisdom”) has released four acclaimed albums, and there’s widespread agreement that the latest, Walking Dark, is their most accomplished to date. BBC Music magazine gave it a rare 5-star rave, John Fordham gushed about it in The Guardian, and in the Ottawa Citizen, jazz blogger, pianist, and critic Peter Hum found it “filled with lots of well-crafted, high-energy lyricism, the result of perfectly balanced contributions by each band member.” Phronesis, predicts the BBC, are poised to become “very big names indeed.”
The Montreal Gazette isn’t the first to detect a “rock attitude” in the group’s playing—a characteristic, perhaps, that has led some to see them as a worthy (worthier?) successor to E.S.T., the adventurous Swedish piano trio founded by the late Esbjörn Svensson in the 1990s. But Phronesis is no “fusion” band; nor are they a power trio on the order of The Bad Plus. Their singular sound, as the BBC's Daniel Spicer describes it, is marked by “complex, tumbling riffs played with irresistible, headlong momentum and leaping joie de vivre.”
They work as a collective, often playing with uncanny empathy. But as Nate Chinen rightly notes, Høiby is the group’s “fulcrum”: he has “a big, commanding tone and a skittering composure on his instrument,” while drummer Anton Eger works “fast and busy but often quiet, with a feline agility…creat[ing] slippery countercurrents within the music,” and pianist Ivo Neame “convey[s] some of the intelligent springiness of the young Chick Corea.” “When it all comes together,” concludes Daniel Spicer, “it feels like the music is straining at the reins—a powerful, barely controllable muscular heft, revelling in its own swift mobility.” That’s some heady stuff; we hope the Graves can contain it!
Phronesis will also present an open, pre-concert public workshop, tentatively scheduled for 4:15 p.m. (that's before Monday night's show), in the Studio Theater (Theatre Arts Building Room 115, just to the left of the Van Duzer lobby). People of all levels of experience are welcome to attend, and admission is FREE.
Words & Pixels: