PHRONESIS | London, Barbican / Milton Court

10th birthday parties don’t hold a strong reputation for their musical endeavours; typically the domain of a half hearted and out of tune chorus, the majority of whom are pre-occupied by their stomach’s lusting for the cake whilst the remainder harbour silent concerns as to the spittle it is being generously coated with by the celebrant’s blowing out of / all over the candles.

A Phronesis anniversary is a cause for celebration for all as they chose to mark their 10th birthday at the EFG London Jazz Festival by sending out invitations to the Frankfurt Radio Big Band and appointing saxophonist and arranger Julian Argüelles as the party co-ordinator. It was the latter who was tasked with making selections from the Phronesis catalogue and developing the compositions from trio studies into a 17-piece ensemble. The miraculous was achieved and his arrangements magnified the familiar joy of Hølby, Eger and Neame’s trio into a naturally orchestral texture.

The Frankfurt Radio Big Band brought much to the party, their massed power varying from sonorous chordal accompaniment to sharp punctuations of the texture. Drummer Anton Eger appeared to nearly leap out of his seat on several occasions as their combined forces added voltage to Phronesis’ familiar spark. A highlight was a re-working of ‘Urban Control’ with a trio of horn soloists working as a chamber group with interlaced solos. Phronesis clearly revelled in the company; their individual contributions on dynamic and enthralling form.

As one of the EFG London Jazz Festival’s closing concerts, it was the icing on the cake of some delicious programming. A further collaboration between Argüelles and the Frankfurt Radio Big Band will feature at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival 2016 – be sure to grab a slice.

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