Tri-Fi Postcards – (2007) | By Brian S. Lunde
Featured Artist: TRI-FI
Musicians: Matthew Fries (piano), Keith Hall (drums), Phil Palombi (bass), guest artist Steve Wilson (soprano and alto sax) on three tracks
Review: The jazz trio is of course one of the pillars of instrumentation for the expression of jazz music. It contains only the essential ingredients: rhythm, a bass line foundation, and harmonic and melodic voice. In Postcards, Tri-Fi deftly illustrates why the jazz trio is so enduring. This is a wonderful record full of the sunlight and beauty that jazz can be.
Tri-Fi is three young but virtuosic jazz musicians who formed originally as the core band for jazz vocalist and Concord recording artist Curtis Stigers. Backing Stigers on tours since 2003 has given Tri-Fi a wind tunnel in which to test and refine their “aural dynamics” as a trio. The result is tight musicianship that anyone who loves trio jazz can appreciate. Another delightful facet of Postcards is it is comprised entirely of original compositions by the members of Tri-Fi. Pianist Fries (pronounced “Freece”) contributed five tunes, drummer Hall added three more, and bassist Palombi topped it off with two of his own. It is unusual to see all three members of a jazz trio contribute to the writing; yet all of the music has consistent quality despite the diversity of the composers. Fries’ compositions trend toward easy swing and moody ballads.
The opening track, “The Pumpkin,” is a nice swing piece in the tradition of a jazz standard. “Postcards from Abroad,” the second track and Fries’ second contribution, is a fine emulation of the Pat Metheny “prairie jazz” style. “Hatteras Refection” and “Orchid” are fine ballads. “Orchid” opens with pretty solo piano and is one of the three pieces on the record featuring soprano/alto sax star Steve Wilson (Wilson rose to fame as a sideman for Chick Corea’s “Origin” ensemble).
Hall’s three pieces are also fine contributions. The highlight is “Creative Force,” which uses the entire trio as a percussion instrument (and especially takes advantage of the oft-forgotten fact that the piano is just that). The tune’s first three minutes evoke the imagined chaos of the biblical account of creation as God speaks everything into existence; it then breaks abruptly into joyous bop, as if to echo God’s declaration that “it is good.”
Not to be outdone, bassist Palombi offers two tunes that suggest the life of a touring jazz musician. “Copenhagen” is an up-tempo bebop homage to Palombi’s favorite city, and “The Heathrow Shuffle” is a bluesy, mixed-meter tongue-in-cheek play on being caught inside the London airport because of canceled flights (the overdubbed canceled flights announcement at the beginning of the tune is apparently a cameo by Curtis Stigers offering what the liner notes refer to as a “bad English accent”). The tune also features a perfectly suited alto solo by Wilson.
Postcards is fresh, inventive trio jazz that adds another stair step in the musical ascent of these fine young jazz musicians.
Tracks: The Pumpkin, Postcards from Abroad, Wisdom…1st Things 1st, Creative Force, Hatteras Refection, Copenhagen, Orchid, Grace, Penns Creek, The Heathrow Shuffle