Arts &
  Arts Culture Analysis  
Vol. 14, No.5, 2015

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Robert J. Lewis
  Senior Editor
Bernard Dubé
  Contributing Editors
David Solway
Louis René Beres
Nancy Snipper
Farzana Hassan
Daniel Charchuk
Samuel Burd
Andrée Lafontaine
Marissa Consiglieri de Chackal
  Music Editors
Serge Gamache Emanuel Pordes
Diane Gordon
  Arts Editor
Lydia Schrufer
Mady Bourdage
Chantal Levesque Denis Beaumont
Marcel Dubois
Emanuel Pordes
  Past Jazz Contributors

Tommy Emmanuel
John Stetch
Susie Arioli
Coral Egan
Diana Krall
Stacey Kent
Carol Welsman
Aldo Romano
Denzal Sinclaire
Madeleine Peyroux
Bireli Lagrene
Sonido Isleño
Provost & Lachapelle
Kevin Breit
Sophie Milman
Annie Poulain
Badi Assad
Donato & Bouchard
Ingrid Jensen
John Roney
Russell Malone
David Binney
Kurt Rosenwinkel
Mimi Fox
Voo Doo Scat
Coral Egan
Martin Taylor
Jordan Officer
Melody Gardot
Jean Vanasse
Yves Léveillé
Sylvain Provost
Louciana Souza
Patricia Barber
Jill Barber
Corrine Bailey Rae
Chet Doxas
François Bourassa
Sylvain Luc
Neil Cowley
Marianne Trudel
Florence K
Terez Montcalm
Cyrus Chestnut
Tord Gustavsen
Sarah MK
Julie Lamontagne
Vincent Gagnon
Arioli & Officer
Jean Félix Mailloux
Vijay Iyer
Lionel Loueke
Tia Fuller
Cécile McLorin Salvant
Emma Frank
Shai Maestro
Christine Jensen
Vincent Rehel
Kat Edmonson
2010 Montreal Guitar Show (Sylvan Luc)
2008 Jazz en Rafale Festival (Montreal) - Mar. 27th - April 5th -- Tél. 514-490-9613 ext-101 (featuring David Binney)
Montreal Jazz Festival 2010







Piano Keyboard


by Robert J. Lewis

Featured artist: PHRONESIS


From the Greek, the word phronesis translates into practical intelligence. The music of Phronesis, the critically acclaimed multi-national European jazz trio, can be profitably compared to a bridge or practical next step that takes the evolving jazz listener from the rock-fusion of let’s say England’s Neil Cowley to the more challenging (satisfying) realm of pure jazz, where composition takes a consensual back seat to improvisation.

What distinguishes this trio is its pure sound and fresh approach to acoustic space. They bring attention to themselves through their deep commitment to a stripped down, unadorned sound and exceptional complicity, refusing the easy grab of ear-stopping dissonance, affected time signatures and unwieldy sonic architecture.

Now into their tenth year, they were one of the unheadlined highlights of the 2015 Montreal International Jazz Festival, performing tracks from their most recent album Life To Everything (2014) , which followed their highly praised Walking Dark. Their refined sound was beautifully accommodated by the acoustically exquisite Salle Gesù venue, where they quickly won over listeners who were not familiar with their music.

The three musicians, consisting of Jasper Høiby (double bass), Ivo Neame (piano) and Anton Eger (percussion), have always been equal partners in their playing and recording, but with their latest CD, they now equally share in the song writing: each musician contributed three tracks to the nine.

Despite the piano supplying most of the improvisation, Denmark’s Jasper Høiby is the self-effacing driving force of the group. It is his very personal feel, the deliciously organic, measured thud of his bass that divvies up, divides up, verticalizes and contours their upfront, earthy sound. Providing the elevated train tracks to compositions that never lose sight of the end journey, he’s always quietly in the forefront, offering sympathetic support to especially the pianist. Depending on the mood of the moment, one which the players are evolving in real time, his bass lines can be laconic or packed tight like a sound barrier, usually in response to Neame testing the outer limits of the composition.

By default, especially in the piano trio context, the pianist plays a central role. Neame’s improvising was at times mechanical in that you could from time to time recognize an exciting interval unconvincingly reappear note for note in another track. Instead of keying into, responding to the nuances of the composition’s distinctness, the pianist instead imposed what he was comfortable playing, unworried that he was choosing the wrong colours, or colours that didn’t work well with the main themes. Just as no two films generate the same review, no two compositions should generate the exact same improvisational lines. “Rabat” was one of the evening’s forgettable moments.

However, when the pianist gets it right (he often does), the trio ranks among the best. As such, the group is a work in progress, just entering its maturity.

As if to distinguish itself from the Bad Plus, the group’s drummer, Anton Eger, keeps the decibels agreeably low while being very capable, for the sake of the concept, to break the rules or establish new ones: he has no qualms about playing a song or a section of a song on the rim. Whether it’s a wake up call or a warning shot from the bow or a final breath, at the dictates of the moment, it is especially the prerogative of the drummer to completely recast the song with a well conceived sound-effected sequence of percussion – and when it works, it becomes one of those moments the listener takes home with him.

Despite for the most part a very agreeable evening of music, I’m convinced that Phronesis’s best music is yet to come. The ingredients and talent are there – what remains is more self-editing and discipline.

Jazz needs more groups like Phronesis because they illuminate the essence of a genre that -- in its present obsession with being hip, or too much concerned with mixing it up with rap and hip-hop, regardless of self-evident compatibility issues -- is losing site of its vital center.



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