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Dan Phillips BKK Quartet: Bangkok Edge Live

Ian Patterson By

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Guitarist Dan Phillips has long been a leading figure in nurturing jazz in his adopted home of Bangkok. Whether teaching in the city's universities or through his club gigs, Phillips has mentored and inspired many of Thailand's upcoming jazz musicians. With the excellent pairing of drummer Chanutr Techatana-nan (aka Hong) and bassist Pornchart Viriyapark, the trio's impressive debut Bangkok Edge (Self produced, 2012) featured Danish saxophonist Jakob Dinesen on half the tracks. That collaboration is reprised here in a vibrant live recording where the quartet blows hard on a set of standards.

Recorded in 2013 at Niu's Jazz Club, Bangkok Edge Live is also a fitting document of the now sadly defunct venue. For four years, under the guidance of Joachim Schulz, Niu's hosted local and international jazz on a nightly basis. The venue's high point was undoubtedly Niu's 1st International Bangkok Jazz Festival in 2009, which hosted Gwilym Simcock's trio, Chris Potter's Underground, James Carter's Organ Trio, Richard Bona,Bangkok legend Koh Mr. Saxman, and Phillips.

In Thailand, where jazz venues and festivals—like governments— come and go with the seasons, Phillips remains a beacon; an intuitive interpreter of standards, an original composer and an outstanding instrumentalist. These attributes define—in greater or lesser measure—the music on Bangkok Edge Live. It's slightly disappointing; however, that there's only one of the leader's original tunes, the striking "Frazzled"; wonderfully distinctive guitar and saxophone motifs and a stalking rhythm frame the most outré improvisations from Phillips and Dinesen. It's a typically edgy, sinewy Phillips composition and more similarly robust original fare—of which he has plenty in his locker—wouldn't have gone amiss.

The six jazz standards follow fairly codified blueprints; grooving bass ostinatos and melody-defining heads pave the way for a series of solos. On "Invitation," Dinesen's old school tenor warmth and rhythmic impetus evokes Joe Henderson's version of the Bronislau Kaper/Paul Francis Webster tune. Dinesen's mellifluous yet muscular playing on Sam Rivers' "Beatrice" recalls another tenor great, Ernie Watts. This latter number, played at a relaxed tempo, features a beguiling solo from Phillips who has one foot in the tradition and one planted without. Viriyapark takes a brief, lyrical solo while Techatana-nan keeps ghostly time on brushes.

The quartet pays homage to Thelonious Monk on "Round Midnight," where Phillips switches between deft comping and the gritty melodicism of an extended improvisation. Three tunes from the 1930s complete the set: Richard Rodgers/Lorenzo Hart's "Have You Met Mrs Jones?" highlights Techatana-nan's versatility, from subtle polyrhythmic time-keeper as Dinesen and Phillips stretch out, to dynamic yet unflashy soloist; Howard Schwartz and Arthur Dietz' "Alone Together" burns with collective brio and will appeal to fans of John Scofield and Joe Lovano's collaborations; John Klenner/Sam M. Lewis' ballad "Just Friends" is given a lively reworking, with Phillips and Dinesen's impassioned solos carried by Techatana-na and Viriyapark light yet buoyant rhythms.

Though the arrangements hold few surprises, Phillip's reworking of old standards fairly crackle with energy, particularly in the solos that pepper the set. Phillip could continue mining The Great American Songbook ad infinitum, but one suspects that his real treasures lie buried closer to home.

Track Listing: Invitation; Beatrice; Round Midnight; Frazzled; Have You Met Miss Jones?; Alone Together; Just Friends.

Personnel: Dan Phillips: guitar; Jakob Dinesen: tenor saxophone; Chanutr Techatanan-nan: drums; Pornchart Viriypark: bass.

Title: Bangkok Edge Live | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Self Produced


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