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Matthew Ruddick

Author of Funny Valentine, an acclaimed new biography of the jazz trumpet player and singer, Chet Baker.
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Sunday, 18 June 2017 08:57

Phronesis - The Behemoth

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Monstrous collaboration.

Collaboration at its best is unleashed in this monster of an album from Phronesis, arranger and conductor Julian Argüelles and the Frankfurt Radio Big Band.

The energy and spirit of Phronesis – Jasper Høiby, Ivo Neame and Anton Eger – sits well alongside the might of the big band, under the pen and baton of Argüelles. The conductor’s own tenor sax virtuousity is shown on the ridiculously fast Urban Control, which also serves to demonstrate all that is fine about a jazz trio sitting alongside a big band. Clearly, Argüelles’ arrangement allows the collaboration to ferment and this track is not just a vehicle for his own talents.

Virtuousity is blisteringly obvious on all ten tracks – with Phronesis living up to their energetic reputation and the Frankfurt Radio Big Band confirming their own European jazz pedigree. The tracks are Argüelles’ arrangements of some of the pre-eminent Phronesis back catalogue, commissioned for their tenth anniversary and here forming their seventh – highly acclaimed – album.

The Behemoth manages to combine the trio feel, while the big band brings a depth of sound. It starts with Neame’s Ok Chorale and Argüelles’ fine arrangements are obvious immediately.  Waves of ensemble playing and counterpoints melt mersmerisingly into solos. The two Hoiby tracks – Untitled#1 and  Stillness – that follow are equally beautiful and the album trips nicely via Eger’s Herne Hill and Neame’s Charm Defensive.

All the tracks on this album show jazz composition, arrangement and playing at its finest and most precise, with  controlled but liberating improvisational thread running through. Høiby’s Happy Notes takes The Behemoth to its upbeat conclusion. As a tenth anniversary celebration, this does Phronesis proud.


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