Parallax (Edition Records)
Released April 8, 2016
Jazzwise Top 10 Releases of 2016
Extraordinary communication between the players is often the foundation of extraordinary music making – as Phronesis prove every time they play. Years of performing, touring and recording have given the three members of the trio a matchless rapport. That inspires an ever-flowing fountain of new music, captured to perfection on this, the Anglo-Scandinavian trio’s sixth CD and their fourth for Edition Records.
Recorded in a single day at London’s fabled Abbey Road studios, Parallax is a brilliantly realised piece of music-making. It has all the standout features of the trio’s work. Rhythmic drive. Constant shifts in mood and texture. Drama heightened by dazzlingly fast reactions. All leavened by a melodic sense all three draw on as much when improvising as composing.
There are new elements to enjoy, too. Pianist Ivo Neame’s Manioc Maniac displays a stronger spicing of humour. Jasper Høiby’s Stillness, featuring the composer’s bowed bass, explores a contemplative mood less prominent in their earlier work. Fans of their more up tempo excursions also have plenty to enjoy, though – witness percussionist Anton Eger’s opener, 67,000mph, named for the earth´s speed around the sun.
All are enhanced by the endless rewarding details the three together offer as each piece unfolds. It’s an indispensible feature of their live shows which is captured here to perfection in a studio recording. This is truly collective music-making, in composition – with each of the trio contributing three of the nine titles – and in supremely interactive performances that display a brand of musical wit that captivates audiences.
All three players have remarkable facility, giving the unadorned, purely acoustic trio some of the strongest bass playing, fleetest piano, and most orchestral percussion you have ever heard. The music they make is lithe and supple, with the added spark that takes such fluid mobility beyond mere gymnastics on to balletic heights.
Each player writes for the trio knowing that their work will be taken somewhere different each time it is performed. They negotiate sometimes complex arrangements while retaining a spontaneity of suggestion and response that keeps the listener on the edge of their seat every time. The nine versions of new pieces captured here achieve a rare thing that only jazz at its very best can offer – music, created in the moment, that lasts.
1. 67,000 MPH (Anton Eger) 6:04
2. Ok Chorale (Ivo Neame) 6:50
3. Stillness (Jasper Høiby) 8:14
4. Kite for Seamus (Ivo Neame) 7:42
5. Just 4 Now (Jasper Høiby) 3:36
6. Ayu (Anton Eger) 7:36
7. A Silver Moon (Jasper Høiby) 5:52
8. Manioc Maniac (Ivo Neame) 3:09
9. Rabat (Anton Eger) 7:44
Jasper Høiby: double bass
Ivo Neame: piano
Anton Eger: drums
Recorded October 18, 2015, at Abbey Road Studio 2, London, UK
Engineer: August Wanngren, Gordon Davidson
Assistant Engineer: George Oulton
Mixing: August Wanngren
Mastering: Thomas Eberger
Cover Photo: Peter Van Breukelen
Executive-Producer: Dave Stapleton
Ten years into their life as an increasingly tight-knit trio and it’s perhaps no surprise that Phronesis have named their latest album after an “apparent displacement of an observed object due to a change in the position of the observer,” or Parallax. Indeed, to an outside observer they appear to be at the top of their game, rising to the summit of the European piano trio pile thanks to consistently incendiary live shows and a string of equally compelling (sometimes live) recordings. Yet it’s tough at the top and the alternative perspective offered up on Parallax is of a band who, far from resting on their laurels, burst out of the gate with a set of nine polished yet propulsive new tunes recorded in a single day at the hallowed Abbey Road Studios. Having been at one of their adrenalin soaked gigs – one of three recorded – that resulted in their previous release, Life To Everything, this writer can attest to the near telepathic empathy that exists between bassist Høiby, pianist Neame and drummer Eger when the red recording light is on. Theirs is a hive-mind that thinks as one and navigates the trickiest of time signatures, displaced beats, lurching unison riffs or swerving solos with ease.
The good news with Parallax is that the move to a studio environment has done nothing to dampen the zeal with which they tackle the music, this in part thanks to the band playing the entire album beginning to end three times and then selecting the best takes for the final release. This has brought a strong narrative arc to the songs, with opener ‘67000 MPH’ careering along with freewheeling frenetic finesse. This is among several contrapuntal dust-ups across the set including Høiby’s atypical ‘Stillness’, Anton Eger’s karate-chopping drum capers on ‘Manioc Maniac’, and the hypnotic drive of closer ‘Rabat’. More meditative pieces include Neame’s chiming ‘Kite for Seamus’ and Høiby’s midnight mood on ‘A Silver Moon’. Through it all the band’s willingness to defer individual showboating for a combined sonic attention to detail has rarely sounded better: solos weave into a continuum of sound, never sacrificing a cheap technical thrill for a substantial musical statement. Far from bookending 10 highly successful years together, Parallax opens a new chapter full of musical riches from this most complete and compelling of bands.