Piano trios have been around for almost a century now, with a lineage stretching back to the nightclubs of 1920s New York. Phronesis, for my money, would have fared well in the pre-amplification era. Soon to enter their 15th year as a performing group, they still command the rhythmic-melodic ferocity to cut through any crowd.
Not that anyone was expecting them to mellow out any time soon. On the evidence of this Ronnie’s show, the trio’s inclinations continue to lead them the other way - even in moments of slow poise, we knew the dense, volcanic cascades were never far away. But while these sudden bursts of sound could arrive with aggression, they were also a case study in balance and group unity.
Despite their indisputable, ever-present virtuosity, there’s always been something oddly unflamboyant about Phronesis. Known for banishing any hint of fixed hierarchy from their creative interactions, both sets showcased their communitarian ethos in full flow, with the spotlight being split more than passed around.
Principally drawing from their acclaimed 2018 album We Are All, Danish bassist Jasper Høiby and British pianist Ivo Neame found consistent joy in twisted harmonies, ably trading sharp chromatic fragments over Swedish drummer Anton Eger’s indomitable stick-work. Eger was at times reminiscent of Can’s Jaki Liebzeit, propelling unbroken, micro-stuttering lines forward like some great line of falling dominos. Perhaps going leaderless entails some sacrifices when it comes to thematic unity, but this is a small price to pay for such an interconnected whole.
Photo by Steven Cropper