“The trio are as smooth and sleek as you could ask, but when grit and grease and a little R&B are required, the musicians are never at a loss.”
- Clive Davis, The London Times
Back-up combos associated with vocalists have a long tradition of “moonlighting” with a few albums of their own, and that’s the case with a trio that dubs itself Tri-Fi. By day, these guys — Matthew Fries, piano; Phil Palombi, bass; and Keith Hall, drums — are the rhythm section behind rock/pop singer-turned-jazz vocalist Curtis Stigers. By night, they fund genuinely terrific instrumental albums via Kickstarter campaigns; during a quick 20 days in the summer of 2011, they raised the scratch needed to produce A Tri-Fi Christmas (Tri-Fi TR309).
And, in the process, they delivered what is guaranteed to be one of my all-time favorite piano trio holiday albums.
Here’s what Neil Tesser had to say about A TRI-FI Christmas. Thanks Neil!
“…One other piano trio, which you’ve almost certainly never heard of, shines even a little brighter. Tri-Fi is the quirkily named combo better known as the rhythm section behind the popular vocalist Curtis Stigers: drummer Keith Hall, bassist Phil Palombi, and pianist Matthew Fries. On A Tri-Fi Christmas, they cover plenty of the expected material (including five of the tunes on Marcus Roberts’ album, among them “Carol of the Bells” and “We Three Kings”). But Tri-Fi also include a couple genuine surprises – “In The Bleak Midwinter,” a balladic carol by the 20th-century classical composer Gustav Holst; and the obscure “I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day” (based on a poem by Longfellow). More important, this trio snaps and crackles like a fireplace full of well-seasoned Yule logs; their nicely honed interplay makes even these chestnuts sound fresh. Tri-Fi rides along on great arrangements, and pianist Fries’ uncluttered solo lines, to offer a new Christmas classic.”
“Tri-Fi is a terrific piano trio based out of New York City featuring Matthew Fries on piano, Phil Palombi on bass and Keith Hall on drums. And A Tri-Fi Christmas is one of the more surprising holiday records jazz fans will hear this season. The cover promises total schlock, but don’t be fooled. In the finest jazz tradition, this tight-knit trio turns tired chestnuts into launchpads of improvisation. On the menu are songs you’ve heard a million times, like “Frosty The Snowman,” “Joy To The World” and “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” done in amazingly tasteful, interesting ways.”