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Phoenix: Live In Salzburg & Zurich

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Album Review

For the most part recorded live in Salzburg (there is only one piece from the Zurich concert), Phoenix captures the quartet in excellent shape and presents an enjoyable blend of old favorites and new compositions. Pago Libre's sound has become slightly predictable — on first listen you might get the impression of being familiar with most pieces, but when you begin to track down titles you'll realize that the new ones overpower the old. But this comfort level surely isn't a bad thing. Key pieces from the previous three albums (including the first live CD, Wake Up Call) receive spirited renditions, starting with Arkady Shilkloper's festive "Folk Song," here extended to a delicious eight minutes. It includes some of the meanest bass work Daniele Patumi has committed to disc. John Wolf Brennan's "Synopsis" and Tscho Theissing's "Falsche Faehrten" provide other highlights. A collective improvisation, "Phoenix: Rising" illustrates the dangers of being such a classy quartet. The music is engaging, but remains a bit too polite to inspire awe, especially considering how devilish Theissing's violin can sound in pieces derived from folk songs. Shilkloper's "Alpine Trail" suite presents seldom-heard extended techniques on the French horn embedded into pleasant melodies. After such a virtuosic display, Brennan's "Suonatina" sounds disappointing, its overtly romantic theme coaxing a lifeless solo out of Theissing's violin. Luckily, the latter's "Tikkettitakkitakk," a witty number that uses the "word" in the title to compensate for the group's lack of percussion, ends the set on a better note. ~ François Couture, Rovi


Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '90s, '00s

A drumless avant-garde jazz quartet, Pago Libre ally the wild side of the Ganelin Trio with a European touch of contemporary composition and a Mediterranean jazz feel. That is to say the group presents adventurous jazz using an unusual instrumentation: violin, piano, double bass, and French horn -- certainly a rarity. Composition and improvisation play equal roles; so do humor and emotion. The group has albums out on Splasc(h), Leo, and TCB. Contrary to popular belief, "Pago Libre" is not an Italian...
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Phoenix: Live In Salzburg & Zurich, Pago Libre
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