More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2018 (25 October to 1 November)
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)
on Saturday 24 November 2018 at 7.30 p.m.
In the first set, the band gave us four numbers (or 'songs'), the third of which (Jasper Høiby, leader and bass-player, suggested) was from 2014 (and which had been heard played at The Stables in 2016), but they were all in such extended forms that one was almost aware of 'Four seasons in one day' (to quote Crowded House).
By which is meant, almost necessarily, that the instrumentalists are all 'playing the long game', painting 'a bigger picture', whereas the solo is most usually a period taken out of a shorter treatment of a song, which does not necessarily have or need an overarching feel in which such individualism, rather than the compact work of the trio, is going to feel out of place*.
They will no sooner have excitingly stepped up into an energetic, faster gear** than drop down or away, and the trick in the hearing is, when it happens, to enjoy the acceleration into that movement, but accept that it is part of a whole, in that Phronesis perform songs that are fundamentally quite modular, or moody – or modular***.
However, it is something more loose than that*, as if the structure of the song is modelling-clay that can be shaped by the interaction of the members of the trio as they go, by listening to each other, and also looking out for each other’s signals. The things that communicate themselves in this music at its height - which is already of an unbelievably and highly reliable special quality - are that everyone enjoys the others' playing, and a strong sense of freedom and of play, which can easily move between the very melodic and the strongly rhythmic.
We had tight and virtuosic drumming from Anton Eger (@AntonEger), as one will remember when the band were at Cambridge Jazz Festival in 2016, and saw the erect and observant Høiby (@jasperhoiby) centre stage, at times casting looks back and forth between Ivo Neame (@Ivoneame) on piano, and Eger. Harmonically, and in terms of the figurations and inflections that he can adeptly work with, Neame seems like a mirror to and for Eger, and Eger for Neame, with Høiby (using the bow more often than two years ago) in the role of using his playing and presence to mediate and direct, at the cross-roads of patterned communications, and gauging with Eger and Neame when to extend a section, when to move – which they always do so smoothly – to another passage, another facet, another feeling.
This is not jazz that is pretending to be clever. It just is clever, in the sense of being good and of quality, but does not even require of us to congratulate ourselves for being there to listen (or for listening to it). It takes us to places, maybe not real ones, in the band's sound-world, and, as the new album is called, perhaps tells us We Are All ?
With the three of them, deeply bowing at the front of the stage in The Mumford Theatre, who could doubt that they had given their all, and that we had truly been with them, in - and because of - the music !
* Another musical example, if in the world of what has been written out, might be where a chamber work is in movements, but - without a break - they are run together, such as Ravel's Sonata in A Minor (Op. Posth.) ?
** Colour coded by the principal lighting of the back, velveteen curtain, behind the band, as blue, red, and sub-marine green (the encore was purple, then red), the three songs of the second set all had this synergistic short moment, when the trio took off together, in tempo and intensity :
Perhaps we most immediately sense how alive their creativity is in this type of sound, but it is there to act as a contrast to much else that is going on in the song, such as when they are relishing a repetition or noodling with the possibilities of tossing a fragment around, yet almost without exception conveying the feeling of being both experimental and able to cope with the play-offs that they create, the interplay on which they thrive.
*** Which is not to say that they are blocks of material in, say, a Boulezian sense, where playing one determines whether one will or will not play another (e.g. his Piano Sonata No. 3), or, within a set of reels or jigs, where a group such as Lau might take a pre-arranged, short common rest - a little like the heart 'missing a bit, or a jump-cut in the cinema - and then directly juxtapose the tempo and rhythm of what went before with those of the new.
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Unless stated otherwise, all films reviewed were screened at Festival Central (Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge)