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Dan Phillips BKK Trio: Bangkok Edge

Ian Patterson By

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It's been two years since guitarist Dan Phillips released Jazz Guitar—Basics and Beyond, (Self Produced, 2010), his impressively practical and digestible instructional DVD. Jazz guitar Professor at Bangkok's Silpakorn University, Phillips stressed the necessity of composing as the surest route to finding one's own voice, and leading by example—as any University Professor worth his salt should—Phillips illustrated his points on eight originals, several of which were previously unreleased. It seemed like a CD of new material was on the horizon, but Phillips has, instead, returned to his early roots with a selection of mostly jazz standards, though the leader stamps his personality on the music, as does his band.

Saxophonist Jakob Dinesen guests on four numbers, and he and Phillips complement each other well; both are highly rhythmic players and melody is central to their craft, even in the most flowing improvisations on the out and out blowing session of Rodgers and Hart's "Have You Met Miss Jones?" and saxophonist John Coltrane's "26-2." Dinesen recorded Coltrane's tune on Everything will be Alright (Stunt Records, 2002) with guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel, with whom Phillips bears favorable comparison both stylistically—and for his endless invention. There is, however, tremendous finesse in the collective voice of both the trio and quartet settings, and sufficient variation in tempo and intensity to command the attention for the 70-plus minute duration of this recording.

Bassist Pornchart Viriyapark and drummer Chanutr Techatana-nan—fellow Silpakorn Professors—are equal partners in the mix. Viriyapark carves out a couple of fine solos, particularly on an elegant interpretation of saxophonist Sam Rivers's "Beatrice" and Phillips' "Blues For?," and his pronounced rhythmic sense anchors the quartet, freeing Techatana-nan to draw all manner of accents from his kit. "Blues For?'' and Phillip's "The Observer" stem from the same melodic well as the standards, and the guitarist excels at imbuing the old with a contemporary sheen. Composer Billy Strayhorn's "A Flower is a Lovesome Thing" follows—featuring a wonderful solo from Dineson—continuing on from "The Observer" like the most natural coda.

When Phillips cuts loose he's as exciting a guitarist as there is, though he never abandons melody. His solo on Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer's "Day of Wine and Roses" is spectacular, as he pursues meandering blues paths between sudden cascades of spiraling notes. However, at the slower pace of pianist Thelonious Monk's "Ask Me Now"—taken at a stroll—and a gorgeous version of Coltrane's "Naima," Phillips is just as captivating, constantly unfolding ideas with the patience and subtle guile associated with guitarist Jim Hall. Another Monk tune, "Evidence," provides the fuel for an up-tempo quartet set closer, with Phillips again inspired.

Surrounded by such intuitive musicians, Phillips could, like Rosenwinkel, mine the standards indefinitely, without ever repeating himself. He gets under the skin of the composer and inhabits a tune, reworking it in his own idiom. And as his originals here and on his previous albums as leader demonstrate, he creates pretty high standards of his own design.

Track Listing: Beatrice; The Observer; Day of Wine and Roses; A Flower is a Lovesome Thing; Have you met Mrs. Jones?; Ask me Now; 26-2; Blues For?; Naima; Evidence.

Personnel: Dan Phillips: guitar; Jakob Dinesen: tenor saxophone, (1, 3, 5, 10); Chanutr Techatana-Nan, drums; Pornchart Viriyapark, bass.

Title: Bangkok Edge | Year Released: 2012 | Record Label: Self Produced

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