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Coming up – Phronesis/Nick Malcolm Quartet, Colston Hall, May 23

May 19, 2014

This blog’s new effort to publish a longer weekly list has almost brought “gig of the week” to a stop, but here’s one you really shouldn’t miss…

Phronesis have been one of the most gripping, accomplished and musically satisfying trios around for some years now, and their close mutual understanding and regular touring means they are still developing. Led from the bass by the wonderful Jasper Hoiby, the composition duties are now shared pretty equally between him, young British piano star Ivo Neame and the busily creative can’t-take-your-eyes-off-him drummer Anton Eger.

The bass doesn’t dominate – the band is not like that – but has a strong role throughout, often stating or doubling the melody, or driving the music with complex, dancing rhythmic figures that are as hard to imagine playing so accurately as they are uplifting to hear. Neame’s piano often seems less extrovert at first, but brings as much energy and melodic brio to his playing as Hoiby, and the rhythmic heat is constantly stoked from the drums. All this is balanced by neat hooks, reflective – almost but not quite pastoral – pieces and high-energy excursions with rousing climaxes.

The new CD release, Life to Everything, recorded live in London last November, has had consistently ecstatic reviews. Sample quotes – “compelling listening” for Mike Collins at LondonJazzNews; “great interplay” said AllAbout Jazz; “rousing and refreshing” said Stephen Graham “one of the most exciting jazz bands currently working anywhere in the world”, according to Peter Bacon; “a remarkable equipoise of complexity and simplicity” said TheArtsDesk.

I could easily stack up more quotes like this – it’s hard to remember when so many critics were so unanimously enthusiastic. As ever, though, when the music has some special quality, the limitations of trying to capture it in words are felt more keenly. How else to convey that they do? Well, a video doesn’t have the presence of seeing them create in real time, but this one comes close. Here’s half an hour of Phronesis at full stretch in Bremen last month.

Good innit? I can assure you they are even more electrifying in the flesh.

As a bonus, the free foyer slot on Friday offers Nick Malcolm‘s quartet. Malcolm has long been known around the South West as a fine improvising trumpeter, and has emerged in the last two or three years as fast developing player with a national profile. His quartet’s new CD, their second, is getting an airing on a short tour which has a couple of Bristol dates. You can see them at the Be-bop club at the end of the month with the fantastic pianist Alexander Hawkins. But this first outing features the other remarkable fourth member, vibes player Corey Mwamba, who duetted memorably with Nick at St George’s earlier in the year. Add Ric Yarborough on drums and Olie Brice on bass and you have an adventurous, fully interactive foursome who invest Malcolm’s compositions with enormous flair. Add them to Phronesis, and you have a superb extended evening of genuinely 21st century jazz.

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