From the Redwoods to the Rockies to the Blue Ridge Mountains, the members of Phillips Grier & Flinner are considered to be among today’s finest acoustic instrumentalists. On the eagerly anticipated follow up to their 1999 debut, two-time Grammy-award winning bassist Todd Phillips, 3-time International Bluegrass Music Association Guitar Player of the Year David Grier and 2-time Winfield National Champion Matt Flinner, combine forces on Looking Back, a beautifully performed collection of instrumental classics. The album showcases bluegrass standards such as “Dixie Hoedown” and “Monroe’s Hornpipe” as well as a cover of McCoy Tyner’s “Search for Peace”, The Beatles’ “I Want You” and Jimi Hendrix’s “Little Wing” – all of which receive a fresh treatment here with plenty of virtuoso soloing from each member of the trio.
Uniquely refreshing in acoustic music today is the sparseness and texture of Phillips, Grier & Flinner’s work. With just bass, guitar and mandolin, the trio engages the listener in a 3 way musical conversation, full of melody but leaving plenty of room for some of the most inspired, and occasionally quirky, improvisation to be found in acoustic music. Listening to Looking Back, one is easily reminded of sitting in on an incredibly memorable jam session; all of the spontaneity and interaction that makes a jam session great is present here – a remarkable feat for a studio album. This undoubtedly has much to do with each player’s ability to provide inspired solos as well as supportive backup playing. Phillips explains, “Everyone had to carry their weight on these tunes. There was no room for any of us to sit back. If someone had, it would have taken away from the texture of the music.”
Two-time Grammy winner Phillips produced Grier’s 1997 highly acclaimed solo album, Panorama, for Rounder Records and produced Flinner’s 1998 Compass debut release, The View From Here as well as his 2001 sophomore effort Latitude. Phillips’ own solo Compass release, Timeframe was praised as an “acoustic gem.” For the three artists, who had enjoyed collaborating on each other’s albums, the next logical step seemed to be to record a trio album. Phillips explains, “It was never a conscious decision to do an album together. Everything we were doing at the time just seemed to lead us in that direction. The only concept for the project was that each of us would bring 3 original tunes and the rest of the trio would help shape the tunes into a spontaneous musical conversation.”
The end result of this musical conversation was the trio’s critically lauded 1999 Compass debut. Bluegrass Unlimited wrote, “It’s amazing how full an acoustic trio can sound. Fans of exquisitely played acoustic music will want to check out the newest ‘power trio’ in string music.” JazzTimes recognized their virtuosity as well writing, “Their playing is exquisite without exception!” The excitement generated over the release led to live performance opportunities for the threesome, who have since appeared at listening rooms and festivals around the country including Rocky Grass and The Four Corners Folk Festival. When it came time to record a second album, they decided to pay tribute to the music and musicians who have inspired them. On Looking Back, influences ranging from Bill Monroe to the Beatles to Jimi Hendrix are all present but each interpretation is uniquely that of Phillips, Grier & Flinner. It is rare privilege indeed to be able to listen in on 3 instrumental masters as they create such a pristine, acoustic tapestry and Looking Back is sure to be embraced by fans of great bluegrass and acoustic music.
Todd Phillips (bass) is one of the founders of the new acoustic movement. An original member of the David Grisman Quintet, he has recorded two solo albums (including the Compass release Timeframe) and has been featured with countless bands and projects including NewGrange, The Bluegrass Album Band and the Grammy winning True Life Blues which he also produced.
David Grier (guitar) is one of today’s top bluegrass lead guitarists. He has four solo albums to his credit and has appeared on over 90 albums including recordings by Mark O’Connor, Jerry Douglas, Alison Brown and Psychograss. He is a three time winner of the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Guitar Player of the Year award.
Matt Flinner (mandolin) is one of the most recognized mandolinists in bluegrass music today. He has recorded three solo albums for Compass Records (Walking on the Moon, The View From Here and Latitude), both of which are stand out releases in the acoustic music genre. In addition to his work with Phillips, Grier and Flinner, this versatile instrumentalist has toured with Leftover Salmon (on banjo) and leads the Matt Flinner Quartet.