Phronesis, Life To Everything, Edition

From 2014. Recorded live in the Cockpit theatre at Jez Nelson’s Jazz in the Round over the course of two nights of the 2013 London Jazz Festival, the artwork to this release has a quotation from Plato on the back worth mentioning as it explains the …

Published: 13 Nov 2019. Updated: 3 years.

From 2014. Recorded live in the Cockpit theatre at Jez Nelson’s Jazz in the Round over the course of two nights of the 2013 London Jazz Festival, the artwork to this release has a quotation from Plato on the back worth mentioning as it explains the title: “Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and life to everything.”

The trio are depicted in a graphics sleight of hand behind the quotation hidden partially in shadow and presumably nice and dry as water streams down the window-like screen in front of them. On the front inside a kind of a globe they’re standing via the magic of a fisheye-type lens in front of what looks like modern apartment blocks; inside bassist Jasper Høiby in performance is looking towards an ecstatic-looking Anton Eger on drums while pianist Ivo Neame looks to Anton mid-note. Each of the three contribute three compositions and this material is uniformly attractive and absorbing without making compromises or indulging in gimmickry.

Phronesis first made their mark properly with Alive, another live album recorded not far away from Marylebone in Camden, but that was a little different as its drummer was future Mehliana rhythm matador Mark Guiliana although the character and shape of the music was clear. In those days the band had a stronger Avishai Cohen influence than now, although you can still hear it a bit (for instance ‘Herne Hill’) but Phronesis have their own sound which is very distinctive, exciting, New Melodic, full of individuality, sheer verve and improvisational resource that goes way beyond mere technical command although all three players have this in abundance. Rousing and refreshing anyone who likes good jazz will need to hear Life to Everything.

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Charles Lloyd/Jason Moran, Hagar’s Song, ECM

From 2013. Sometimes with instrumental jazz it’s like non-fiction: the facts, the history, the issues all there contained in the music in the notes on the page. The vocals variety can be the fiction, the metaphors, the fantasies, the reimaginings. …

Published: 13 Nov 2019. Updated: 2 years.

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From 2013. Sometimes with instrumental jazz it’s like non-fiction: the facts, the history, the issues all there contained in the music in the notes on the page. The vocals variety can be the fiction, the metaphors, the fantasies, the reimaginings. The characters portrayed. Only rarely, and usually it’s only in the work of a truly great instrumentalist, the kind who can move you, make you even not think about music but of life itself, that can produce in their art a synthesis of the two so that as tactile notes with their musicological resources it exists, but equally beyond there is a life force that summons some sort of imagined life, a world away from reality.

Well, Charles Lloyd is one of those artists, he combines in his non-fictive way as an instrumentalist the fictive properties inherent in Ellingtonia (Strayhorn’s ‘Pretty Girl’ and Duke’s ‘Mood Indigo’), with the narrative shockingly real family history in the five-part ‘Hagar Suite’ about Lloyd’s great-great-grandmother taken from her parents at just 10 and sold to a slaveowner who made her pregnant when she was only 14.

Lloyd, a deeply serious spiritual artist with a great communicator’s ability, is able to paint pictures like few others in jazz. Via flute on ‘Journey Up River’, the first part of the ‘Hagar Suite’, he provides with pianist Moran’s tumbling accompaniment (and later tambourine) an episodic element not often found in his general approach, a feature throughout the suite that provides a distinctive thread to this album.

Turning 75 this year it’s interesting that Lloyd has chosen with this new studio album, recorded last April, to reduce his quartet to a duo, its simplicity via the time machine of piano styles that Moran provides, in the fictive sense invoking a line in jazz piano almost taking the listener, say on Moran’s introduction to ‘Mood Indigo’, to Harlem in the 1930s. Lloyd is very bluesy on some tracks, but he’s capable of altering the mood throughout and the blues become a miniature requiem on one notable standout ‘I Shall Be Released’, a tribute to Levon Helm of The Band.

A great deal of the strengths on Hagar’s Song reside in the force of sheer feeling involved that act as much as a warning from the past as a hymn to the dead. Just as ‘I Shall Be Released’ is about protest it’s also about friendship. So all in all a very personal, wonderful sounding album, full of lovely moments, an oasis of contemplation in a world full of tumult, and every bit as good as the marvellous Mirror. Photo of Charles Lloyd: ECM