WBGO Radar

Phronesis: Life To Everything

Phronesis album Life To Everything

Live recordings are the flash mobs of music presentation.  

The act of putting a band on stage suggests some basic preconditions, but any real group performance - when it is good - occurs spontaneously.

It disperses almost immediately after it begins; when it really works, it surprises and entertains an audience in unexpected ways.  

The European trio Phronesis understands this power of disruption, and they have utilized it to great effect on their new album Life to Everything.  

“The more we play the songs, the more anyone can determine where we to go,” says Jasper Hoiby, the tall, affable Dane on the double bass.

“Ideally we get to a point where we can choose freely between all the material," he says. "We don’t have to start a tune and play it from beginning to end.  Maybe it can just be half of it and it can take us somewhere else.”

Hoiby’s colleagues are drummer Anton Eger, a sartorial Swede who is a dervish of impulsive, swirling yet precise momentum, and Ivo Neame, a wry observer from the UK whose pianism is lyrical and introspective when it isn’t dotted and dashed with computational proportion.  

Life to Everything was recorded live at the Cockpit Theater in London, a smallish concert space constructed with an “in-the-round” audience perspective. 

“That’s kind of an ideal situation to play as a musician,” says Hoiby.  “Normally on a stage, you’re meant to project outward." 

"When you set up in the round, you ARE playing to the audience. It can help to get the energy focused if you face each other. From the band’s perspective, you’re not aware of playing to an audience in the same way.“

When they aren’t laying out contrasts with a spacious ballad like “Phraternal,” Phronesis plays with a knack for strong grooves. Repeating patterns and simple melody fragments are levers for interlocking rhythmic riddles and time signature gamesmanship. 

Hooks lead to cat-and-mouse section play, and the band always keeps a window open so the audience can come inside.  You can hear when live music connects those invisible dots and makes challenging stuff fun and emotive.  This does that.
   
“I don’t know if it’s always the music,” says Hoiby.  “I feel like we could play anything sometimes.  I think we somehow communicate that we enjoy each other’s company.  We really enjoy playing together. And we have fun WHILE we play.”

Maybe you weren’t lucky enough to get that in person over the two nights in London when it was recorded, but you can still hear Phronesis giving it their everything on this singular document.

  - Josh Jackson, WBGO VP of content

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