CD Review for “A TRI-FI Christmas”

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.

Review by Neil Tesser for the Chicago Examiner