A change of label, a change of line-up for Phronesis pianist Ivo Neame in his bandleader incarnation, a little under two years on from Yatra.

Slimmed down from an octet, gone are parts for clarinet, bass clarinet and alto sax. In comes a new bassist in Tom Farmer (performing just last week as part of pianist Rob Barron’s trio at Ronnie Scott’s) while the rest of the band is completed by Yatra tenorist/flautist and label mate Tori Freestone, a gutsy presence on opener ‘Personality Clash’ and throughout; vibist Jim Hart from another Whirlwind label band Cloudmakers trio; another bassist Andrea di Biase of the Oltremare quartet on some tracks, it's not stated which; and from the Yatra Band drummer Dave Hamblett, Neame himself adding accordion and synths to bolster his usual piano (he used to play saxophone as well but that’s now in the past at least on records).

All the eight tracks are by Neame, the title track coming in as the second number, the album recorded at the Red Gables studios in west London over a couple of days of late-July 2014. Neame says in a brief word in the liner note a little mysteriously: “There have been quite a few ups and down experienced while trying to make this album; carefully laid plans have gone awry but finally we managed to capture the sound of an ensemble playing really well together.”

What’s here, the state of flux set to one side, is thrusting, exuberant, virtuosic playing, coming out of post-bop acoustic traditions. Neame has the wit and vitality to respond to the wave of energy coming from his band that he himself has set in motion embedded in the hints and clues of his writing. For instance hear it in the uptempo hurtling momentum of ‘Personality Clash.’ Whether the source of this input comes from sax or vibes simply urging him on it doesn’t seem to matter.

More orthodox than his role in Phronesis, which is more about adding colours and melodicism Strata isn’t without its melodicism either. But the writing is radically different. The title track though is a little Nordic: Freestone not unlike Marius Neset in some of the more high octane episodes, the Norwegian sax monster who Neame plays with a lot, as she piles up a wedge of sound, Neame highly responsive altering the atmosphere and mood.

The album goes deep into a heavier feel on ‘OCD Blues’ Hart’s little morse-code scattergun interjections softening the sound a little. And Neame is adept at retreating from a tendency for the music to become overly busy; the ballad ‘Miss Piggy’ finding Freestone more in Andy Sheppard territory than I’ve heard her before and there is a tenderness here that is flavoured once again by vibes.

‘Crise de Nerfs’ with its frantic flute run at the beginning is a chase tune and here more than anywhere the writing seems to gain traction in the intersections of improvising lines, flute leading with some force to flow into vibes, Hart at his most inspired. ‘Eastern Chant’ has a great Farmer bass line to begin with, the chopped drum pattern from Hamblett providing a firm foundation for a beautiful Neame solo that displays spontaneity, ideas and invention, bass and piano fusing as the improvisation unfolds. Hamblett on brushes clears a path for the others through the maze of chord progressions and shifts.

Neame has a restless imagination as an improviser and as a writer accommodating accordion on ‘Folk Song’, a rural dance of a thing, shows his determination to expand his scope although I’m not sure if this song (which also incorporates a significant role in the build for flute) quite knits in with all the other tunes so well. ‘Snowfall’ at the end is emotional. Fragmented and imagistic it leaves as much unsaid as stated and that’s half the charm. SG

Released on 15 June. Neame plays the Vortex, London on 9 June and the Red Lion, Birmingham on 12 June