“Tri-Fi is a standard, no gimmicks, no electricity, no extraneous throw-ins piano trio with a whole lot to say... Others try. These guys communicate.”
- George Fendel, Jazz Society of Oregon
Downbeat Magazine: “Staring into the Sun” Gets 4 Stars
"★★★★ Tri-Fi's newest collection of originals is the best example yet of their intimate group interplay... Call it a relaxed yet fervent approach to express joy, wonder, surprise. The kind of qualities jazz lovers look for anytime they're hungry for connection"
Downbeat Magazine rating:
Reviewed with The North – “Slow Down (This Isn’t the Mainland)”
Listening to these trio CDs, the first things that jump out are the introspective elements—the ways in which each trio develops songs, motifs, ideas, grooves shadows and light. On Tri-Fi’s fifth release, Staring into the Sun, as well as with The North’s debut, Slow Down (This Isn’t the Mainland), there’s an unfolding quality, which makes you wonder if this kind of music could ever be performed except in that most rarefied of settings—the controlled dynamics of a recording studio.
For the members of The North—pianist Romain Collin, bassist Shawn Conley and drummer Abe Lagrimas Jr.—the quest is about mixing the past with the present. Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind” works in a serviceable way, as deos their lively, interactive take on Chick Corea’s “Humpty Dumpty.” It takes a tune like Thelonious Monk’s “Light Blue” to highlight Collin’s gentle touch and the delicate swinging balance between Conley and Lagrimas, bringing new light to this off-kilter classic.
The band also shines on its own material. On Conley’s delicate “Stay with Me,” the fire burns low, needing no overt sizzle to become enjoyable. Collin’s slightly whimsical, slightly funky “Downsett Avenue” seems to be content just to stroll.
The clairvoyance of these three members can be mesmerizing. The 10-year-old group has had plenty of experience dealing in deft musical configurations as the backup band for singer Curtis Stigers. As with The North, there is a robust, expressionist vibe that surfaces when Tri-Fi decides they want to kick ass. What makes the all-originals Staring into the Sun such a satisfying listen has to do with the obvious grace and ease that pianist Matthew Fries, bassist Phil Palombi and drummer Keith Hall have making their music (all three are composers as well). The music flows as much as it swings and soars. On Fries’ lilting swinger “Open Water,” Palombi’s conversational bass solo seems inevitable, welcomed, Hall’s tasteful, bite-sized rhythm breaks a natural complement, and Fries’ melody seems like a modest understatement. This pattern continues throughout, with Palombi’s waltz ballad “Cielo” at once both quiet and intense, and Hall’s busy drum work is paradoxically fitting. Call it a relaxed yet fervent approach to express joy, wonder, surprise. The kind of qualities jazz lovers look for anytime they’re hungry for connection.