We Are All, the eighth album from piano-bass-drums trio Phronesis gets directly to the point. It’s a tidy album of six songs full of the rising energy, quick turns, precision stops, and intoxicating style that the band has exhibited from the very beginning. Thematically, this release is about togetherness and balance, and this music could be argued to have these traits, but to say this is more of the same from the European trio is not at all an insult considering their “sameness” has consistently been explosive brilliance.
Six songs over forty minutes moves like a breeze. Lead single “One For Us” fits its name appropriately, giving everybody their featured solo moment (particularly Anton Eger whose closing drum solo gets blood pumping). It’s nine minutes that one wishes could go on forever if it just didn’t close so neatly. “Matrix for D.A.” builds, then stalls out a quarter of the way through before building back to where it was before, finding interesting sounds in the deconstruction, which is a bit of a turn for a group who have always been the most interesting because of their dense construction. Of course a group like this would even find order in simulated chaos. Ballad “The Edge” is both sweet and powerful, swelling through its movements. “Emerald Horseshoe” sounds like some celebration of darkness and light. “Breathless” is a short, brimming waltz that’s led by Høiby’s bass and followed by the whole trio’s hearts. The real surprise is album closer “The Tree Did Not Die”, when electronic instruments appear, adding an extra slickness to this sound that is an extra touch that doesn’t feel out of place but definitely raises heads. Nevertheless, it’s a sound element that fits in their quickly woven tapestry like so many other musical threads.
It’s good to hear these three together again, not that they’re apart all that often. They’ve been about on pace for a new album of original material every two years (even last year’s The Behemoth with Julian Argüelles the Frankfurt Radio Big Band was a surprise that involved arrangements of past material). This is the album one would expect from these three, like clockwork. Jasper Høiby sings on the bass with his own statements rather than act merely as an anchor. Ivo Neame has layers upon layers of sweet, sweet notes to take the listener on a journey. Anton Eger beats up drum kits like a prizefighter, and he’s got plenty of combos to break it all down. Their composition are ornate, shifting, and always fascinating to wander through for month on end. They make great art, and they always have, this is merely this year’s entry in their body of work. Phronesis sounds like the interlocking majestic trio they’ve built their reputation on being. For them to sound this good and so signaturely like themselves isn’t surprising, even when their music very much is. If you know about this trio, We Are All is just what you were expecting from one of the finest piano-bass-drums trio today. If you don’t know them, what a fine time to learn.
We Are All, the new album from the trio Phronesis, is out now on Edition Records.
JASPER HØIBY double bass
IVO NEAME piano
ANTON EGER drums
Nextbop Editor-in-Chief Anthony Dean-Harris hosts the modern jazz radio show, The Line-Up, Fridays at 9pm CST on 91.7 FM KRTU San Antonio and is also a contributing writer to DownBeat Magazine and the San Antonio Current.