Review: Phronesis at the Mac, Birmingham on 15 May 2012

I invited two friends to the Phronesis gig on 15 May 2012 at the MAC in Birmingham.  Both enjoyed the gig immensely (I noted they were mesmerised by Anton’s drumming) and their comments are perhaps indicative of Phronesis’ growing appeal. One friend said ” I could have listened to them all night”.    The other said, “I could hear Debussy in Ivo’s piano”.  Both are now hooked, I hope.

In view of the recent announcement that the album launch of Walking Dark at Kings Place on 26 May has been moved to Hall One from the sold-out Hall Two, I started to think about how Phronesis might sound in a larger auditorium.   And even more pertinent is the fact that they have been chosen for the International Jazz Festivals Organisation emerging talent support program, where some of the festivals are huge, with big venues.

So just what is it about a performance that gives it an intimate, personal feel and can that be transferred to bigger venues?   And is that desirable?   I have heard Phronesis in a tent (Cheltenham), a sports hall (Brecon, in the dark),  the Purcell Room (also in the dark), The Vortex and now the Mac.  All are cosy venues, lending themselves to a very intimate experience.    Just why did those gigs in the dark feel so very intimate?  It wasn’t just down to the lack of visual distractions, it was the shared experience that made it so memorable.  Would it work with 2000 people in the dark?  Maybe scale doesn’t matter after all?   Jasper likes talking to the audience, it’s a bonus for us, we feel connected with him in a very human way. Will that work with 3000 listeners?  I only have questions.

The other thing I’ve been thinking about is how different the gig sounded from the album Walking Dark.   I thought I knew the album quite well – it turns out I didn’t recognise my favourite track Zieding because it opened the gig instead of occurring midway.   It was in the wrong place (in my ears)  and so it sounded different.  So my ears need training to listen and not compare what I’m hearing with what I thought I knew.   Actually it wasn’t just the order that was different, it was the improvisation from Ivo on the Bosendorfer, particularly his delicate Democracy.   They must have played all these tracks many times now, but they came out fresh.   Genius.

It was a great evening only very slightly marred by humming from a monitor, I’m sure they’ll sort that out, they’ve got everything else perfect!

There is another enthusiastic review here

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