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Showing posts with label Anton Eger. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Anton Eger. Show all posts

Saturday, 24 November 2018

Phronesis : Solos aren't really their thing

Reflections on hearing Phronesis in Cambridge (November 2018)

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2018 (25 October to 1 November)
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)

24 November

Reflections on hearing Phronesis (@phronesismusic) at Cambridge International Jazz Festival 2018 – a gig at The Mumford Theatre, Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge,
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 !

End-notes :

* 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.

Unless stated otherwise, all films reviewed were screened at Festival Central (Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge)

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Phrenology with Phronesis (work in progress) : Watch yourself when the (cross-)rhythms kick in !

This is a review of a gig given by Phronesis at The Stables, Wavendon, MK

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2016 (20 to 27 October)
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)

18 May

This is a review of a gig given by Phronesis at The Stables, Wavendon, Milton Keynes, on Wednesday 18 May 2016 at 8.00 p.m.

Personnel (in surname order) :

* Anton Eger (drums)

* Jasper Høiby (db)

* Ivo Neame (pf)

This posting has been prepared from review-notes, made consistently with having to take them within blank spaces on Saffron Screen’s (@Saffronscreen’s) beautifully printed May / June programme, since a night off / out turned into a busman’s holiday… (One’s own fault, for going to The Stables (@stablesmk) and not realizing that wanting to write a review was inevitable - and, also, that its proportions would balloon beyond 'a mere sketch' of a review, which was intended 'to give the flavour' !)

First set¹ :

1. Song For The Lost Nomads

2. 67,000 mph

3. A Silver Moon

4. OK Chorale

5. Stillness

By anyone’s standards, (1) ‘Song For The Lost Nomads’ was a pretty good opener : one might have been forgiven, at the very outset, for thinking that Jasper Høiby was just quietly touching the strings of his bass, as if to check, as string-players quietly do, that it was in tune (his is a standard double-bass with a pick-up²) :

Except that he was looking across to Anton Eger (on drums), with whom he had less need to tune than with Ivo Neame (piano)… [One is reminded of Ravi Shankar famously having said, at The Concert for Bangladesh, If you like our tuning so much, I hope you will enjoy the playing more.]

Rather than with apparent tuning of any kind, (2) ‘67,000 mph’ had, if not a militaristic drum solo to start, then, at least, one that one sounded to be militarily informed. As one was to realize, from hearing the three members of Phronesis, both of the other instruments have their percussive aspect, and they rejoice in using it (please see below). Not that, just as Høiby later tapped out some rhythms on his bass’ case, one cannot, say, use the opening and closing of the valves on a tenor sax as an effect, but bass-strings, even when bowed (one can bounce the bow), can more easily lend themselves to relatively pitch-neutral sounding (and one need only look to Igor Stravinsky, or Steve Reich, for piano-tones that are embedded within ensembles).

For, Phronesis clearly does, at times, have a principle in working out an approach to compositions that uses blocks, whether of sections within the number, or bars over which it will increase or abate intensity and or tempi, and thus using the capacity of all players for ‘patterning’ the material in this way is an important aspect of the whole.

In (3) A Silver Moon, however, they perhaps felt a little more self conscious, at first, when introducing more elements of free jazz ? Before one felt that they had ‘got into’ the item, the impression was given of being a little more at a remove, and which was heightened by the seeming classical allusions as the theme became exposed. Of course, in jazz that deserves the name, it is by being improvisatory, and needing to be open to running risks, that it is alive (one does not stoop to referring explicitly to a jazz-gig where members of an ensemble around the size of a quintet exclusively played off the page), and, appreciating as much, it was fine that this central part of the set had made a little less impact.

No matter, as pianist Ivo Neame opened (4) ‘OK Chorale’, and we were into another of Phronesis’ elongated treatments, originating with his patterned (or repetitive) figurations [if there is a magic in styling it ‘Ok’, apologies to Jasper H. for having put the title into house-style] : unlike with a jazz-standard (or if one already knew the band’s discography or its members’ pedigrees), one is not – as is sometimes the case (Brad Mehldau maybe, or, more obviously, Keith Jarrett with his long-standing Standards partners) – waiting for the melody to emerge from where it has been submerged (though there is some element of that to Phronesis, too), but, as one might with formal sonata-form writing, recognizing / knowing the material that we heard earlier when it recurs.

That is as may be, but there had been a touch of holding back, from the strength in and of the first two items, in the third, and now we knew that the trio was really into it. Not, of course, just because we had a rocking, head-banging drummer before us in Anton Eger, but rather that, as we listened, and as he interleaved mini drum-solos into the texture, seeing him, and his face and expression, confirmed to us that he was on a feed-back loop with us – however that works for performers, be it seeing nods, hearing gasps or sighs, or perhaps even a sway in the front row... (It is not, one knows, only at the end, when the length and amount of applause is longer for this item than for its predecessor, that both we, amongst our fellows, and the performers come to grasp whatever might be what Russell Hoban (@russellhobanorg) liked to call the limited-consensus reality [apologies, Russ, if you likewise did not hyphenate...].)

The set closed with (5), in which Phronesis felt most free of all, and we heard Jasper H. bow his bass, even sawing with it at times, and then some low picked notes, which sounded very deep, as well as next going extremely high.

As we proceeded, perhaps another classical allusion from Ivo N., some strummed bass, and then what looked like – from the front – Anton E., playing his drum-kit with a pair of dinner-knives : metallic, anyway, and bringing that kind of timbre to cymbals and stretched surfaces alike, but just as part of that bewildering ‘build of sound’ that is Phronesis at its best, with symphonic proportions summoned by three instrumentalists.

They were lucky that we let them off the stage to take a break, though they had clearly taken much pleasure in playing (and so any need for rest came after a refreshing kind of work-out) !

Second set¹ :

6. Urban Control

7. Phraternal

8. Behind Bars

9. Kite For Seamus

10. Rabat

11. Just 4 Now


More to come soon...

Encore :



¹ Set-lists by kind courtesy of Jasper Høiby of Phronesis (@phronesismusic). However, when the second set gets written up, there was clearly a segue that was wrongly interpreted (for reviewing purposes) as a change of mood / tempo of the sections within a number…

² But no ‘sock’, attached to the side, in which to stow the bow, which instead rested handily on the small stand by his right. One gathered that bowing the bass has come relatively recently - and also that its player does not play in a symphony orchestra (almost necessarily, the latter fact came before the former.)

(As agreed afterwards, such devices to carry the bow not only look like a holster (and how quickly does one need to whip out a bow ?), but they must also affect the sound and performance of the instrument.)

Unless stated otherwise, all films reviewed were screened at Festival Central (Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge)