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Tri-Fi: A Tri-Fi Christmas (2011)

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Tri-Fi: A Tri-Fi Christmas How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

Every Christmas there are volunteers sent to save us from the wrath of Burl Ives. They are called jazz musicians. Everyone loves a bit of schmaltzy music a few days before the holidays, but the only problem these days is that the holiday begins right after Halloween. Sixty days of grandma getting run over by a reindeer can make you suicidal.

This year's finest jazz Christmas offering might just be by pianist Matthew Fries
Matthew Fries
Matthew Fries
b.1968
piano
, bassist Phil Palombi
Phil Palombi
Phil Palombi
b.1970
bass
and drummer Keith Hall. Known as Tri-Fi, this piano trio has released three previous titles, the last being aptly named 3 (Tri-Fi, 2010). It's a sort of modern-day blue-collar band that has absorbed the history of the piano trio from Horace Silver
Horace Silver
Horace Silver
1928 - 2014
piano
and Ahmad Jamal
Ahmad Jamal
Ahmad Jamal
b.1930
piano
to Jacky Terrasson
Jacky Terrasson
Jacky Terrasson
b.1966
piano
and Aaron Goldberg.

When not performing acoustically, Tri-Fi backs vocalist Curtis Stigers
Curtis Stigers
Curtis Stigers

saxophone
. That certainly explains the ease in which the group interprets sing-a-long tunes like the fast-paced and swinging "Frosty The Snowman" and "Let It Snow," where the trio reinvents Sammy Cahn's lyric, playing it against the melody of Quincy Jones
Quincy Jones
Quincy Jones
b.1933
producer
' "Killer Joe." It is enough to make mommy giddy after kissin' Santa Claus.

The band turns toward New Orleans on "Joy To The World," with Hall delivering a natty drum shuffle. Fries is free to preach the piano gospel here, and also on "Go Tell It On The Mountain," which ends with some hand claps and tambourine inspiration. The trio evokes memories of pianist Vince Guaraldi
Vince Guaraldi
Vince Guaraldi
1928 - 1976
piano
with "In The Bleak Of Winter." Like Guaraldi's Christmas music, the trio delivers a sparse, and tender offering. The highlight of the disc might be "We Three Kings," performed as if imagined by pianist McCoy Tyner
McCoy Tyner
McCoy Tyner
b.1938
piano
. The band draws from the sound of saxophonist John Coltrane
John Coltrane
John Coltrane
1926 - 1967
saxophone
's A Love Supreme (Impulse!, 1965), lifting the bandstand with the ferocity of Fries' playing and Hall's energetic return.

Reinterpretation is certainly one reason to turn to jazz musicians for their vision. But when a bassist like Palombi picks up his bow to deliver a straightforward and sincere version of "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas," there is little to do but get into the true spirit of the holidays.

Track Listing: Frosty The Snowman; O Holy Night; Carol Of The Bells; Joy To The World; Let It Snow; We Three Kings; In The Bleak Midwinter; God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen; what Child Is This?; I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day; Go Tell It On The Mountain; Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.

Personnel: Matthew Fries: piano; Phil Palombi: bass; Keith Hall: drums.

Record Label: Self Produced


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