Jazz which covers food to fish, astronomy to harmonization.

Phronesis – Parallax [TrackList follows] Edition EDN 1070 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] 56:47 [4/8/16] ****:

(Jasper Høiby – doublebass; Ivo Neame – piano; Anton Eger – drums)

Pan-European trio Phronesis escalates an atmosphere of adventure, veered jazz and interplayed imagination on sixth album overall—and fourth for the Edition label. Danish bassist Jasper Høiby, British pianist Ivo Neame and Swedish drummer Anton Eger create undulating, modern jazz which is independent from traditional norms but remains approachable. The nine original tracks (three apiece penned by each member) were taped during a single day at London’s Abbey Road studio. The result is music of the moment. There is absorbing spontaneity, regardless if time might have gone into rehearsal or pre-planning.

The hour-long presentation commences with two memorable cuts. Eger’s aptly driving “67000 MPH” has unpredictable thematic variations and expressive tempo changes. The fast-paced rhythmic alterations mirror the title, which refers to the speed the earth orbits the sun. The metrical back-and-forth between piano and drums offers a lesson in cadenced communication. Neame’s punningly-titled “OK Chorale” has a name inspired by the famous American Western shoot-out, but the music is far from cattle country. Chorales are typically used for voice harmonization. But here, Phronesis turns that idea into a complex, three-way harmonization between acoustic piano, doublebass and drums. There is a convincing vigor and a rippling, almost frantic pulse amid the multiple musical modifications.

Food appears to be a staple of some tunes. Eger’s “Ayu” no doubt denotes a fish native to the northern Pacific region off the shores of Korea and China. The ayu is also called sweetfish, and not to push the metaphor too much…but the 7:36 “Ayu” is delectable as described. Not overly saccharine, fortunately, but instead a swiftly swimming morsel which presents unforeseen progressions for selective musical palettes. The CD’s shortest piece, Neame’s “Manioc Maniac,” is also the quickest number. A manioc is a type of cassava eaten extensively in tropical Africa and Asia. The sweeter variety is employed to make tapioca. Neame contributes a rowdy keyboard tone, at times disorderly but not quite entering free jazz terrain. Eger’s percussive delivery is equally animated. And it’s a wonder Høiby keeps up with this intensified energy. The Middle East/North Africa area is an influence on Eger’s “Rabat,” which gets its title from the Moroccan capital city. There is no overt Mideast musical inspiration, although the trio’s take-and-release application of recurrent chord arrays helps produce a sense of tension which symbolically echoes the strain and distress of that volatile vicinity.

There are also moments of brilliantly mannered music, where the tautness and stride declines. Neame’s nearly eight-minute excursion, the seamlessly soaring “Kite for Seamus,” begins with bass lines which manufacture a mildly melancholy mood. When Neame solos, the intonation increases, and the composition generates a bit more bumpiness. “Kite for Seamus” has enough length and breadth so that the material ebbs, builds and ebbs again. Høiby scores on two slower pieces. His late-night ballad, “A Silver Moon,” has a rousing romanticism akin to Bill Evans, particularly in the way Høiby and Neame relate to each other, like Evans did with bassist Eddie Gómez. There’s more underlying anxiety inherent during Høiby’s “Stillness,” which gains apprehension via Høiby’s arco bass, Eger’s illustrative percussion solo, and a skitterish rhythmic pattern which heightens during the eight minute duration, until the piece is speeding past.

TrackList: 67000 MPH; OK Chorale; Stillness; Kite for Seamus; Just 4 Now; Ayu; A Silver Moon; Manioc Maniac; Rabat.

—Doug Simpson