Phronesis - The Behemoth (Edition Records)

Scandinavian/UK jazz troupe deliver solid new entry to their decade-deep catalogue

Released Mar 31st, 2017 via Edition / By Norman Miller
Phronesis - The Behemoth (Edition Records) Why create with just three musicians when you can create with thirty? So Scandi-Brit trio Phronesis – Danish double bassist Jasper Høiby, ivory tinkling Brit Ivo Neame and Swedish/Norwegian drummer Anton Eger – team up here with Austrian saxman and big band leader Julian Argüelles to re-imagine ten compositions from their back catalogue with the Frankfurt Radio Big Band.

And it generally works very well, with big band permutations adding rich layers of musical colour and complexity. Rather than exhaustively checking the originals to compare them with the big band versions, just dig the joys of an expanded range of moods, tones and effects.

The trio divvy up tracks so each gets a fair crack at the big band treatment, though it's two of Ivo Neame's three compositions that top the bill. Charm Defensive majors on sophisticated big band syncopation and intertwining swoops of sound, while leaving space for excellent vibe and brass motifs. And there's a lovely swing to the opening section of Phraternal that develops into a fantastic long middle section of muscular piano and skittering drums, before a gorgeously cool piano coda.

Anton Eger's Urban Control – with Arguelles' newly-minted Intro to Urban Control - is a breakneck weave of engaging contrapuntal piano and bebop sax, while his Herne Hill (hey, I used to live there!) moves cleverly between piano-led looseness and Latin-influenced strut.

Other tracks linger in the memory for moments rather than as wholes. There's some fabulously fierce drumming on Jasper Høiby's Stillness, for example, while sweetly shifting big band patterns emerge in the later stages of Untitled #1, also by Høiby.

And though the opening track is probably the worst – Ivo Neame's Ok Chorale – its blaring brass highlights also offer a hint of the pleasures to come on this fine and interesting addition to the Phronesis catalogue.