Phronesis, Julian Arguelles, & the Frankfurt Radio Big Band – ‘The Behemoth’ (Album Review)

The secret of any great piano-bass-drums trio is creating a massive sound from the three elements. These three instruments hold great potential, for soft elegies or bonkers jaunts. Get the right three players together on a piano, bass, and drum set and magic can happen, and more often than most, Ivo Neame, Jasper Høiby, and Anton Eger make magic and have been doing so for years. Yet, in all their bold compositions over the years, some have found room for more. Thus, Julian Argüelles arranged various Phronesis songs for accompaniment by the Frankfurt Radio Big Band. What resulted was The Behemoth, out now on Edition Records.

What began as already giant songs reaching back in the band’s catalog to 2012 have found a way to become even larger with this ensemble backing the trio. Argüelles’ arrangements here note these songs for what they are and for the most part embraces the tight structures as much as he keeps the big band out of their way. These tunes aren’t fattened up, this is muscle mass. The solos from the likes of tenor saxophonists Tony Lakatos, Steffen Weber, and Argüelles himself are peppered throughout the album as appropriate touches that fit alongside the core trio’s consistently tight playing. Martin Auer and Axel Schlosser are great trumpet players whose solos soar in just the right ways. The connection Høiby, Eger, and Neame have together, that energy they manifest in playing, is still as strong as ever, able to still find new corners in these songs they’ve played for the last five years, but playing with this band also tempers them for this adaptation. It’s not holding, Eger back much, though. He’s still a case of dynamite in an old cart barrelling down rickety railroad tracks, ever jostling and a complete experience to hear in every beat. There’s moment when the trio dazzle, but Eger just doesn’t quit in any capacity. That’s what makes him so fantastic.

This is a cool album. For as brilliant as this trio is with their now twelve years together, the question of what big thing they can make together, with whom they can collaborate and artistically achieve something even grander than the gigantic sound their piano, bass, and drums already project, had to be in the air. The behemoth is a beast God described to Job to explain His power, that He created such a thing of such power and immensity and He is such a God to harness that ability to do so. For Argüelles, Høiby, Neame, Eger, et al., to create music so massive from something that was already pretty damned impressive seems to fit the same bill.

The Behemoth, the new album from the trio Phronesis in collaboration with Julian Argüelles and the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, is out now on Edition Records.

Jasper Høiby – double bass
Ivo Neame – piano
Anton Eger – drums

Julian Argüelles, arranger, conductor (tenor saxophone solo on #9)

Frankfurt Radio Big Band (hr-Bigband):
Heinz-Dieter Sauerborn ss/as/fl/picc
Oliver Leicht as/cl (clarinet solo on #3)
Tony Lakatos ts/a-fl (tenor solo on #1)
Steffen Weber ts (tenor solo on #3)
Rainer Heute bs/b-cl
Frank Wellert tp/flh
Thomas Vogel tp/flh
Martin Auer tp/flh (trumpet solo on #8)
Axel Schlosser tp/flh (trumpet solo on #6)
Günter Bollmann tb
Peter Feil tb (trombone solo on #4)
Christian Jaksjø tb/b-tp (bass trumpet solo on #5)
Manfred Honetschläger b-tb
Martin Scales g (guitar solos on #2 and #10)

Recorded at Hörfunkstudio II by Axel Gutzler, Hessischer Rundfunk, Frankfurt am Main in September 2016
Recording engineer: Michael Wayszack
Edited and mixed at Virkeligheden in Copenhagen by August Wanngren in November 2016
Mastered by Peter Beckmann in London in December 2016
Producer: Phronesis & Hessischer Rundfunk
Producer Frankfurt Radio Big Band: Olaf Stötzler
Executive Producer: Dave Stapleton