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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Strong contender for jazz album of 2012 (and it's only May!)..., 27 May 2012
THERE are jazz piano trios... and there are jazz piano trios. Over the years, the familiar piano/bass/drums line-up has come and gone, mostly offering standard fare with pleasant, yet unchallenging similarity.

In recent times, however, the trio format has undergone something of a renaissance, with perhaps the Esbjörn Svensson Trio (e.s.t.) leading the way in shaking up the establishment and shining a bright, new light on the 21st Century jazz scene... until so tragically extinguished.

Amongst this latest breed of innovative musicians has emerged UK-based 'Phronesis' - Jasper Hiby (double bass), Ivo Neame (piano), Anton Eger (drums). Their 2010 live album, 'Alive', quite rightly caused a stir, winning plaudits and awards for their creative, driven, new sounds. An offering difficult to better - or so it would seem...

Then comes 'Walking Dark', a brand new studio album of, again, entirely original works - and an absolute triumph! - released by Edition Records, a UK label renowned for successfully nurturing and promoting exceptional new jazz talent. From the off, this creative soundworld delivers a highly exciting and engaging experience - Hiby's agile, driving and melodious double bass sounding like no other; Neame's seemingly effortless yet energetic piano work (a chromatic ripple here, a deftly high-flying solo line there, and characteristically complex chord progressions I can only dream of emulating!); and Eger coaxing the most gigantic and thrilling percussion via his unique and ebullient approach to drumming ('amazing to witness Anton eloquently teasing extraordinary sounds out of his kit, with trademark enthusiastic vigour, using kitchen utensils!).

Phronesis create such a remarkably integrated sound (no 'your turn next' soloing here) which benefits from the sharing of the compositional role. The twelve numbers on this album, totalling well over an hour, are clearly all from the same stable, yet the variety in writing provides a captivating journey of differing timbres, techniques and moods - and a breathtaking array of talent and craftsmanship from just three instrumentalists, recorded over a mere three days!

Highlighting tracks is difficult, and perhaps futile, with an album of this warmth and stature. However, Eger's 'Zieding' and 'The Economist' provide the only evidence you need to grab a copy of this album for yourself. Neame's brilliantly edgy and excitable 'American Jesus' contrasts with his floaty, spacial 'Passing Clouds', whilst Hiby (taking the majority of writing credits) gives us the wonderfully pulsating opening title track and the charming 'Suede Trees'.

If you're excited by groundbreaking contemporary jazz, I challenge you not to be impressed by the ride!
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Jazz "Bridge" between Denmark, Sweden and Britain!, 26 April 2012
By 
Bruce "from Brighton" (UK - England) - See all my reviews
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Phronesis are regular visitors to the Jazz scene in the UK, so many people will have already heard some of the material here, from seeing them live, where they really stand out. Their last album Alive was of course recorded live and had a guest drummer, but this album sees them return to their current touring line-up with Swedish drummer Anton Eger.

This is a studio album and so doesn't have the same exciting "edge" of their live performances, but makes up for this in clarity and a considered approach. It still sounds very much like the band has before, but the compositions have been spread out amongst the band. So, rather than being the band of Jasper Hoiby, the Danish Double Bass player who used to provide all the written material - it is now more of a co-operative venture and it is maybe no coincidence that one of Eger's tunes is called "Democracy".

We also seem to get more of Ivo Neame, the British pianist than before. Usually trios with this line-up are lead by the pianist - but maybe he was holding back before in deference to Hoiby as leader and driving force. Now it is a democracy, each player contributes and gets to say what they want, perhaps?

The music is characterised by strong melodies, often stated jointly by piano and bass, with a great feel for groove. They are incredibly strong rhythmically and each tune has interest in this area. Eger in particular is restless and endlessly inventive - the recording has captured the shifting textures and timbres of the percussion very well, making for fascinating listening in this respect.

Stand out tune for me is the opening title track "Walking Dark" - which sparked the concept of playing in pitch black, highlighting the improvisational interplay and forcing the audience to concentrate on the music - but this is also a tribute to Hoiby's sister, who lost her sight. Great groove throughout and many other tracks have unique rhythms which may owe more to Hip Hop than Jazz.

Bass sounds wonderful throughout - in supportive riffs or deft solos. Piano also sounds more classical than Jazzy at times - well recorded and expansive sound. But there is a group sound that is becoming unique to this band and marks them out from other piano/bass/drums trios. Always best heard live - but this is a very worthy addition to their catalogue and some great new material from all the band. Highly recommended.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What the Critics Said, 23 May 2012
"the secret of Phronesis is it stands for more than the sum of its parts and this outstanding album has got to be the best example of that to date." JAZZWISE

"Hiby is one of the most arresting bassists on the contemporary scene, his sound at once lithe and sonorous, his solos compulsively listenable, and with the unshowy but fluent piano of Neame and the cracklingly energetic drumming of Eger driving the band, Walking Dark is Phronesis's most accomplished album to date." LONDON JAZZ BLOG

"Perhaps it's the emotional volatility that ultimately makes Phronesis so different and appealing. Whatever, the music comes up as fresh as paint." MANCHESTER EVENING NEWS

"As the pile of talented and exciting piano trios continues to grow ever higher, it takes a very talented and exciting threesome to rise to the top and stay there. Enter Phronesis." allaboutjazz

"a group at the peak of its creative powers...with total confidence in their own abilities" jazzman

"With Walking Dark, Hoiby, Neame and Eger might soon be very big names indeed." BBC Music

"Walking Dark confirms their position as one of the great piano trios of our time. " the arts desk
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