Dan Phillips BKK Trio – Bangkok Edge (2013)

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Guitarist, composer and educator Dan Phillips has taken his game to a lot of different places, honing his skills in New York, Chicago, Tokyo, and Bangkok. His experience has served him well and he’s played the Montreal Jazz Festival, the Pattaya Music Festival, the Bangkok Jazz Festival, and the Hua Hin Jazz Festival.

Phillips currently serves as an educator of guitar and jazz studies at Silpakorn University in Thailand, so it’s safe to say that he’s covering his global bases. That international flavor gets an American kiss with Bangkok Edge, a recording that features the guitarist, tenor saxophonist Jakob Dinesen, bassist Pornchart Viriyapark, and drummer Chanutr Techatana-nan.

For this record, Phillips and his BKK Trio pushes into standard material and tackles works by Sam Rivers, Billy Strayhorn, John Coltrane, and Thelonious Monk. There are two originals, but the main focus appears to be on nailing down the basics. There’s not a lot of fiddling around. Phillips is, without question, a skilled guitarist. His playing is fluid and understated, but he’s not above progressing through lengthy jams and pushing things to their limits. He solos deeply rather than broadly, tunnelling in to find the consistency of the notes and probing their meaning with sleek flourishes and impactful holds.

Dinesen, the Danish saxophonist, is the other main component that drives Bangkok Edge. While the rhythm section is built like a tank and soundly pushes through the various arrangements, it’s the interaction between guitar and reed that grounds the record.

Starting with Rivers’ “Beatrice” is a nice choice. The group walks through the arrangement and Dinesen’s sax sings out. Techatana-nan builds well with the snare and pleasantly outlines the curves of the song, while Viriyapark makes the most of his solo.

“Naima,” one of my favourite tunes, reflectively gathers its thoughts with a patient and convincing arrangement. Techatana-nan once more adds lovely accents, while Phillips’ guitar astutely paces itself. Phillips’ original compositions, like “Blues For?,” show a less engrossed but no less eager side to the outfit. The playing is always up to par and the arrangements illustrate the composer’s distinctive fusion of old and new.

Bangkok Edge is a noble recording of standards by an elegant and accomplished group of musicians. Phillips’ guitar-playing is prepared and fluid, while the rest of his organization falls into place nicely to formulate a quality musical experience.

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