Throughout its history, the evolution of jazz was lead by strong groups of individuals. Bands like the Miles Davis Quintet, The Bad Plus or The Sex Pistols. All of them combined strong visionaries, ideas and skills for a focused amount of time and channelled them through a collective spirit. Due to the financial situation in Jazz, bands nowadays form for one album production and maybe a tour. The usual group of mercenaries split up shortly after the project finished, and everyone was paid.
Nina Reiter’s band Phraim has been working together for the recent past years. As most of the young bands do, they also met during their university studies. In Nina Reiter’s case, meeting her band lead not only to a future long musical collaboration. She also married her drummer Peter Primus Frosch.
Phraim takes a rather usual approach of putting their album together. Throw in a couple of standards, a few originals and cover of a pop hit. No thrilling narrative, the selection of songs seem rather constructed and uninspired.
“Nur ein Wort” is a song from Germany’s 90s Pop sensation “Wir sind Helden”. A band who, if you have not lived in Berlin in 1998, won’t have any recollection of. Also, if you don’t speak German, you have never heard of them in the first place. Phraim’s cover version fails to deliver a great new look or depth on the original composition and does not add interest.
Nina Reiter’s leadership and defining vocal chops are very much displayed throughout the entire album. Her vocal range and technical finesse ceases to amaze. But Phraim’s entire songwriting concept follows a very schooled formula. Something of the kind you expect a jazz vocal album to do. “Winds of May” marks the low point of the album. Struggling to make a point in the thus very entertaining album.
Phraim’s creative approach misses artistic vision and a strong edge. The four talents know what they are doing, no doubt, but they are not risking to provoke. There is no real perspective on how to push their genre. They deliver what is the least expected. A pity! The band name already suggests breaking frames and their restrictive conventions. Instead, the band breaks the middle ground instead of making an artistic statement.
Phraim stays an easy listening album, pleasing and entertaining, played by an ambitious band. A clearer direction from their label and an experienced producer would help to put this band on the right track. Sometimes the simplest and most honest form of approach is what really adds something new to a format. Or as Iggy Pop puts it: “I like music that’s more offensive. I like it to sound like nails on a blackboard, get me wild.”