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Portage, Michigan, United States | SELF

Portage, Michigan, United States | SELF
Band Jazz


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Fans of vocalist Curtis Stigers have known for years that
he is supported by one of the finest and most cohesive
rhythm sections in the business. Finally in 2005 pianist
Matthew Fries, bassist Phil Palombi, and drummer Keith
Hall went off to the studio on their own to document their
collaboration as Tri-Fi. Now following their auspicious
eponymous debut, the threesome have released
Postcards with ten original tracks—five from Fries, three
from Hall and two from Palombi. Saxophonist Steve
Wilson is featured on several tracks, and even Stigers
himself has a few spoken words on the final cut. Noting
that most of the compositions were specifically written for
this recording, Hall points out that “we also took some chances exploring some different directions, which I think proved to be a lot of fun and very musical.” The different directions reflect the stylistic differences among the three composers, creating a divergent set ranging from ballad to straight ahead up tempo to more playful and angular works. Matthew Fries’ originals cover nearly half the disc, his compositions tending to the more cerebral, contemplative,
slower paced tracks. Opening with “The Pumpkin,” Fries introduces us to his dexterity in creating intricate but accessible lines over a solid vamp foundation. Hall’s playful percussion inserts new energy from assorted tactics,building in intensity over the repetitive main lines and ending in a thundering clap. Fries’ “Postcards From Abroad” provides the recording’s title, a rather subtle tune where repetitive, yet lyrical, exploration rules. “Hatteras Reflections” is a slow, meandering ballad initiated by Palombi’s solo of slightly whiney double tones. Fries steps in over the bass chords with a single line lope, and the ensuing interplay between bass and piano is exquisite in timing and harmony. Fries gives his “Orchid” a solitary dark and lush beginning, romantic in the historic sense.
Steve Wilson guests on soprano sax, sailing gently over piano and bass, the nucleus of his orbit tight, the contours of his terrain gentle—it all stays close to home but the emotion travels far. On Fries’ final contribution, “Penns Creek,” Palombi’s solo doubletimes the pace, a nice contrast to the balladic pianist, as is the ensembles’ mid-track shift in energy and more forward motion.
As one might anticipate from a drummer, Keith Hall’s compositions lean more toward deeper swing, more percussive piano lines, and generally more playful rhythms. On “Wisdom…1st Things 1st”, Steve Wilson makes his first of three guest appearances, his soprano sax a good fit to Fries’ tight meanders and Hall’s furious and relentless attack. The drummer’s “Creative Force” opens with his stop-and-start antics, joined shortly by Fries with an equally halting presentation of a Monkish blues, using a deep ostinato in his left hand and quirky, sharp-angled
figures in the right. There’s even a little whiff of Cecil Taylor hanging out among the flow of ideas as Fries and Hall interlock musical minds, the blues groove becoming more prominent, less edgy melodically and more so rhythmically before they return to the opening exchange. Hall’s third composition, “Grace,” is upbeat, showing off Fries’ diverse talents and moods. Of course Hall is prominent as well, working into a frenzy as he rumbles though Fries’ shimmering final bar.
Phil Palombi contributes a pair of tracks filled with swinging and even humorous motifs. On “Copenhagen,” sequences of repetitive phrases evolve into a swinging, upbeat tune with the bassist doubletiming his pulse while Fries keep up and then some. Palombi’s solo pushes a landslide of ideas over a slowed-down piano line before the trio returns to its earlier pace. The closing track, also the longest at over 9 minutes, finds the trio doing the “Heathrow Shuffle,” the bassist laying down a bluesy, backwater groove. He’s soon joined by Wilson on alto sax,
adding a funk touch that evokes Lee Morgan’s “Sidewinder.” Wilson’s lines spiral in and out like a slinky while Fries is at his most charmingly swinging—this could be a soundtrack accompaniment to a zany classic film. The surprise guest here is Tri-Fi’s frequent employer, Curtis Stigers, in the spoken role of a Heathrow official, heard warning Hall that he can’t go through the security line, Hall begging his bandmates not to leave him behind. Many journeys fill these Postcards, and each sends an engaging message, giving us good reason to travel with Tri-Fi again and again. -

Featured Artist: TRI-FI
CD Title: Postcards
Year: 2007
Record Label: Tri-Fi Music
Style: Straight-Ahead / Classic
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 -

By E.J. Iannelli
Tri-Fi comprises pianist Matthew Fries, drummer Keith Hall, and bassist Phil
Palombi. The trio itself is relatively new, this eponymous disc marking its first
recording as such; yet Fries, Hall, and Palombi have been playing together for
years and working up a considerable rapport as the backing band for Curtis
Stigers, who, incidentally, contributes guest vocals to the only non-original
track here, the closing “You Go to My Head.”
A quick look at the songwriting credits should give some idea what Tri-Fi is
about: balance, unity. Fries has penned four tracks, and Hall and Palombi wrote
three each. These are spaced accordingly throughout the disc, not divvied up
into uniform sections to suggest that one musician/composer should take
precedence over another, or that any member of this trio prefers to think of
himself in any context other than this one. And it follows, then, that the
performances are equally balanced and unified. There is an almost tangible
sense of solidarity among these three, and the perpetual forward thrust of the
music--ever swinging, ever groovy--conveys this shared purpose and their
flawless intercommunication.
”Cross Country” is a relaxed groover, appealingly pop-ish in its way, with some
colorful rises and falls in both tension and melody. Palombi takes a great solo,
deftly supported by Fries, who sprinkles the perfect supplementing notes when
the bassist takes a somewhat unexpected direction. Hall uses his turn to develop
a kind of crescendo and release--it isn't meant to dazzle, rather to introduce a
new and necessary propulsive quality into the song. Palombi's “My Family” is
sweet, wistful, again made great by the trio's smooth interplay. The bassist takes
another fine solo here, and the similarities--the lyricism, the flow so natural it
seems universally preordained--between his playing and that of Scott LaFaro
couldn't be clearer. Therefore it's no great surprise to know that Palombi has
transcribed LaFaro's solos from his most famous recordings with the Bill Evans
Trio, or that “LaFaro” would be the title of the sixth track, an intricate
four-minute homage.
”James,” penned by Fries, is bluesy and sparkling, though not quite as bluesy as
Hall's ”Gotta Give It Up,” on which Palombi bows a fiery solo and Hall taps
out a head-wagging beat. Palombi bows again throughout the drummer's
exquisite waltz-time ballad “Kiri Kiri.” On the final (or penultimate, given the
optional bonus track) number Curtis Stigers makes good his brief appearance
with a classy and heartfelt rendition of “You Go to My Head.”
In a twist on the hidden tracks that were all the rage a few years ago, Tri-Fi
offers instead an online bonus track that can be downloaded in MP3 or AAC
using the code inside the CD jacket. It's a sassy, swinging version of Bernice
Petkere's “Lullaby of the Leaves,” and a tempting incentive to browse the trio's
website after buying Tri-Fi--an outstanding album, and hopefully the first of
many from this outfit. -


3 (2010)
Postcards (2007)
TRI-FI (2004)



TRI-FI is Matthew Fries (piano), Keith Hall (drums), and Phil Palombi (bass).

Tri-Fi were praised for "the perpetual forward thrust of the music... and their flawless intercommunication" by All About Jazz, and described as infusing "creative writing, fresh arranging and complimentary playing to offer us music that has to be reckoned with" by All Music Guide says, "Tri-Fi is well on their way to incorporating new style and strength to their already potent brand of piano trio music."

Pianist, Matthew Fries, was the winner of the Great American Piano Competition. Pianist and former Jazz Messenger, James Williams, called Fries “a bright young star in the galaxy of pianists who will lead us into the 21st century.” As a sideman, Matthew has been described as “the best jazz accompaniment I've seen in a cabaret in years” (The New York Times) and “a distinct asset” (Variety Magazine). He tours internationally with singer, Curtis Stigers, as a regular member of his band and performs with a diverse lineup of artists that has included Stacey Kent, DeeDee Bridgewater, Vincent Herring, Steve Wilson, Dave Samuels, Claudio Roditi, Terell Stafford, and many others.

Drummer, Keith Hall, has performed with Betty Carter, Sir Roland Hanna, Wynton Marsalis, Steve Wilson, Michael Philip Mossman, Joe Wilder, Claudio Roditi, Mark Turner and tours regularly with Curtis Stigers. Modern Drummer Magazine says “Hall has a nimble, grooving, 'melodic' touch, and knows how to tell a story.” Trumpeter and bandleader Michael Mossman calls Keith “a member of the new generation of hard swinging, versatile and musically aware musicians that will shape jazz for the next 20 - 30 years.” Hall is also the author of the drum instructional book Jazz Drums Now!

Grammy Award winning bassist, Phil Palombi, "is one of the most sought after young bass players in the New York City” according to Steely Dan tenor saxophonist Walt Weiskopf. Palombi is quickly moving through the ranks of the New York Jazz elite with a musical resume that includes performances with Michael Brecker, Billy Hart, Dave Liebman, Etta Jones, Chris Potter, Rich Perry, John Riley, Toshiko Akiyoshi, Lew Tabackin, Chucho Valdes, Mark Turner, Eliot Zigmund, The Village Vanguard Orchestra and a two-year stint with the Maynard Feruson Big Bop Nouveau band. Phil Palombi recently published his first book entitled Scott LaFaro –15 Solo Transcriptions; a book of all of Scott LaFaro's bass solos from the Bill Evans recordings Sunday at the Village Vanguard and Waltz for Debby.

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