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Phillips, Grier, And Flinner
Looking Back

Review By Steven Stone
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Phillips, Grier, And Flinner Looking Back 

CD Number: Compass Records 7 4342 2


  Power trios have long been the staple of rock and jazz (think Cream or the late Ray Brown trios.) They are less common in traditional acoustic genres. Phillips, Grier, and Flinner's second CD, Looking Back, makes a strong argument for trios in bluegrass-newgrass music. Devoted primarily to the deconstruction and reinterpretation of traditional and influential tunes by Bill Monroe, Jimi Hendrix, Lennon and McCartney, Mongo Santamaria, McCoy Tyner, and Anonymous, Looking Back's trio cooks as thoroughly as any jazz fusion super-group.

Made up of two-time Grammy winning Todd Phillips on bass, three-time IBMA guitar player of the year David Grier, and mandolin super-hero Matt Flinner, Looking Back’s personnel revel in the space for exploration and improvisation afforded by the trio format. From the first few opening measures of the first cut, Bill Monroe’s "Tennessee Blues" kicked off by Flinner's mandolin, you know this isn’t just another traditionally flavored "Oh Brother" knockoff. Instead Looking Back takes you into uncharted ground where traditional melodies are shaken, stirred, and frapped into new musical delicacies. My favorite new recipe is the trio’s rendition of the Monroe masterpiece “Old Dangerfield” which features David Grier's slow bluesy introduction before he kicks into a jazz-inflected warp-speed main melody. Hendrix’s "Little Wing" is morphed into such a completely different piece that even Hendrix aficionados may have a difficult time recognizing it till halfway through the tune.

Producer and engineer Todd Phillips used two different studios, The Dining Room in Willow Glen, CA, and The Vineyard in Redwood Valley, CA. Randy Leroy's mastering, done at Final Stage in Nashville, TN, makes the sound from both venues sound warm, clean, and very real. If you like acoustic jazz, and I don't mean that stuff used at brunches to make sure the quiche doesn't collapse, Looking Back should be your next entrée du jour.




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