Reviews that mention Michel Jefry Stevens

March 21, 2017

Generations Quartet

Flow
NotTwo MW942-2

Dependent on talent not fashion, the generation gap has never been as pronounced in Jazz and improvised music as it is in other fields. Like herds of animals whose direction is determined by skill, sociability and strength of some members, democracy prevails in most musical situations. That’s the basis for the flow of Flow on this CD, which also highlights cross-generational cooperation.

Centre of the band are Americans, pianist Michael Jefry Stevens, 66, and bassist Joe Fonda, 61, who have been partners for three decades in their own bands and others such as Conference Call. Generations’ veteran is alto saxophonist Oliver Lake, 74, a leader or member of innumerable groups, including the World Saxophone Quartet, since his work in the early 1970s as part of St. Louis’ Black Artists Group. Many years later, versatile Vienna-based drummer Emil Gross, who is still in his twenties, was born. His presence not only adds credence to the generations tag, but showcases an adapt tyro, who also gigs as a guitarist and has worked with other American such as singer/pianist Mike Kindred and trumpeter Herb Robertson, MORE

August 1, 2016

Michael Jefry Stevens

Brass Tactics
Konnex KCD 5315

Steve Swell

Reflections & Renewals

NotTwo MW 929-2

Building on your experiences and concentrating on your best attributes are two elements of many people’s persona once they reach their sixth decade. It’s the same with musicians – especially if they’re involved with Jazz and/or improvised music. Attaining or coming close to seven decades of life either side of 60 gives provides many enhanced creativity. Gifted with new maturity, unlike most Pop performers, who fasten on their teens and twenties, creative improvisers continue producing major works, some of which because of honed skills are even better than those produced before. MORE

April 7, 2015

Wojtczak Nyconnection

Folk Five
ForTune 0050 006

By Ken Waxman

Despite appearances, this isn’t a CD by a Polish folk-fusion band, but a summit attended by the All-American Fonda-Stevens group plus Polish reedist Irek Wojtczak. Wojtczak, who plays soprano and tenor saxophones plus bass clarinet, aptly fills the chair which previously hosted the likes of saxophonists Gebhard Ullmamn or Daunik Lazro. From the Łęczyca region, Wojtczak favors Polish folk sounds. Using that thematic material Folk Five shows that kujawiak, mazurek and other Polish dances can be the basis for improvisation. Also implied are the links between eastern European sounds plus early and modern jazz. MORE

September 26, 2012

Szilárd Mezei/Michael Jefrey Stevens

Anzix
Artists Recording Collective No #

Set up at first glance like one of the most conventional chamber music recitals, featuring a duo of viola and piano, Anzix instead turns out to be almost an hour of uncompromising improvisation. More specifically the eight spontaneous creations pulse with unpredictable yet profound sounds due to the skills of the players involved.

Asheville, N.C.-based pianist Michael Jefrey Stevens is quite at home in free improv and other circumstances, having spent years in different band configurations from mainstream to experimental, with such confreres as American bassist Joe Fonda and German reedist Gebhard Ullman. On the other hand, Anzix is somewhat of a departure for Hungarian-Serbian violist Szilárd Mezei. Although he has been represented on a steadily lengthening group of CDs over the past decade, usually in mid-sized configurations, most are formal performances of his own compositions. This CD however gives him a chance to sharpen his improvising talents, generating his own timbres while reacting to Stevens’ playing. MORE

January 10, 2012

Eastern Boundary Quartet

Icicles
Konnex KCD 5258

Carlo De Rosa’s Cross-Fade

Brain Dance

Cuneiform Rune 317

Ivo Perelman Quartet

The Hour of the Star

Leo Records CD LR 605

Of all the formations that have characterized improvisation at least since the Bop era, the most common has been that of one reed player along with piano, bass and drums. Just because it’s unexceptional doesn’t mean every session has to be identical however, especially if the meeting ground is original compositions. As these quartet discs demonstrate, plenty of variations are available, even if the form prods participants towards a mainstream orientation. MORE

September 30, 2011

Stevens, Siegel & Ferguson

Six
Konnex KCD 5243

Frank Carlberg

Tivoli Trio

Red Piano Records rpr 14599-4403-2

Fully-functioning Jazz piano trios involve a meeting of equals, so that all nuances of the performance are communicated. Nonetheless its very name attests that, intentionally or not, the keyboardist usually becomes first among equals, a situation that sometimes unbalances the performance.

Helsinki native Frank Carlberg dominates Tivoli Trio in that manner. Now domiciled in New York, the keyboardist composed all 13 of the tracks here and even co-owns the record company. But Carlberg, who is also on the faculty of the New England Conservatory and Berklee College and has played with among others saxophonist Steve Lacy and trumpeter Kenny Wheeler, has enough experience with different bands to ensure his so-called sidemen can not only deal with the demanding themes, but challenge him when necessary. Gerald Cleaver is one of the most versatile drummers in New York, working with, among others, saxophonists Tim Berne and Roscoe Mitchell. Bassist John Hébert follows a similar path, playing with trombonist Joe Fielder and trumpeter Taylor Ho Bynum to name two. MORE

November 20, 2008

Schaffhauser Jazzfestival

Schaffhausen, Switzerland
May 21 to 24 2008

Forty-seven years after she left her home town of Shauffchausen, Switzerland for nearby Zürich, pianist Irène Schweizer was back headlining the Schaffhauser Jazz Festival’s most ambitious program ever: performing “Radio Rondo”, a composition by bassist Barry Guy, which featured her and the London Jazz Composers Orchestra (LJCO).

In its 19th year of showcasing Swiss jazz and improvised music, Schaffhauser expanded its horizons in 2008 with the Schweizer/LJCO summit, which took place in front of a sell-out crowd in the city’s modernist Stadtheater. The evening, which included a solo piano showcase for Schweizer, also emphasized two of the fest’s overall themes: the majority of the most interesting sets included piano; and non-Swiss musicians and motifs adding needed variety to the performances MORE

September 23, 2008

Michael Jefrey Stevens

For The Children
Cadence Jazz Records CJR 1202

Hubert Dupont

Spider’s Dance

Ultrabolic UBR 0502

Loïc Dequidt Quartet

Nomade

Kopasetic Productions KOPACD 022

Trying to wrest contemporary jazz from the control of the neo-conservatives is as honorable a struggle as any avant-garde exploration. Extending the tradition shouldn’t preclude innovation within set boundaries, and that’s what these three groups attempt with varying success, on their CDs.

Configured as the classic jazz quartet of saxophone-piano-bass-and-drums, each combo performs original compositions, written by the session leader as a challenge to the burgeoning jazz copycat… oops … repertory movement. It’s interesting to note however that only one quartet is all-American. MORE

September 23, 2008

Hubert Dupont

Spider’s Dance
Ultrabolic UBR 0502

Loïc Dequidt Quartet

Nomade

Kopasetic Productions KOPACD 022

Michael Jefrey Stevens

For The Children

Cadence Jazz Records CJR 1202

Trying to wrest contemporary jazz from the control of the neo-conservatives is as honorable a struggle as any avant-garde exploration. Extending the tradition shouldn’t preclude innovation within set boundaries, and that’s what these three groups attempt with varying success, on their CDs. MORE

September 23, 2008

Loïc Dequidt Quartet

Nomade
Kopasetic Productions KOPACD 022

Michael Jefrey Stevens

For The Children

Cadence Jazz Records CJR 1202

Hubert Dupont

Spider’s Dance

Ultrabolic UBR 0502

Trying to wrest contemporary jazz from the control of the neo-conservatives is as honorable a struggle as any avant-garde exploration. Extending the tradition shouldn’t preclude innovation within set boundaries, and that’s what these three groups attempt with varying success, on their CDs.

Configured as the classic jazz quartet of saxophone-piano-bass-and-drums, each combo performs original compositions, written by the session leader as a challenge to the burgeoning jazz copycat… oops … repertory movement. It’s interesting to note however that only one quartet is all-American. MORE

October 3, 2007

Have Single Reed Will Travel

The Trans-Atlantic Career of German Reedman Gebhard Ullmann
CODA Issue 335

By Ken Waxman

Tall, broad-shouldered and with a bullet-shaped shaven head, if German multi-reedist Gebhard Ullmann was an actor, he could be typecast in the role of a militaristic army officer or super-efficient business manager. His lack of on-stage patter reinforces the image as well.

But while super-efficient in his music, the Berlin-based arranger, composer and band leader is no soul-less organization man. Instead Ullmann, whose favored axes are tenor saxophone, bass flute and bass clarinet, could be termed a polymorphic creator. His output ranges from languid chamber-style improv with his long-standing Clarinet Trio or with different piano-bass-woodwind configurations, to righteously swinging romps with his Basement Research group or as part of the co-op Conference Call combo. That’s not counting his few sideman jobs, his folkloric reeds-and-accordion Tá Lam band, gigs with local pick-up bands or his acclaimed CD project with the NDR big band. MORE

August 30, 2004

MYRA MELFORD’S THE TENT

Where the Two Worlds Touch
Arabesque AJ0159

THE FONDA/STEVENS GROUP
Twelve improvisations
Leo CD LR 394

Building on jazz’s standard two-horns-and-rhythm combo format, these CDs impress by showing how the players manage to make things new by tweaking sounds to match their own aspirations.

A team for over 20 years, pianist Michael Jefry Stevens and bassist Joe Fonda do this by not only insisting that all the sounds on their CD be completely improvised, but by adding another voice to the line-up. French alto and baritone saxophonist Daunik Lazro is one of that country’s foremost experimenters, working in contexts as varied as solo recitals and bands with saxophonist Michel Doneda and Joe McPhee. Here his unique articulation and sound sources add another dimension to that supplied by the pianist, bassist, long-time drummer Harvey Sorgen, and endlessly inventive trumpeter Herb Robertson, who has worked with Fonda and Stevens in various bands, on-and-off for more than a decade. MORE

October 13, 2003

CONFERENCE CALL

Variation on a Master Plan
Leo CD LR 371

Unlike Osama bin Laden or George Bush, it’s very feasible that the members of the Euro-American co-op Conference Call don’t have a real master plan -- and definitely not one for world domination.

However the band’s newest CD does pinpoint a plan variation, as veteran drummer Han Bennink has now taken over the drum chair. It seems to be not a minute too soon, either. For while the flailing Dutchman’s penchant for schtick and bombast can often pulverize more delicate sounds, Conference Call’s other three members are tough enough to face a Lowlands invasion. Plus the nearly perpetual percussion sounds he adds to the disc push the others out of a studied delicacy to which they sometimes seem to be heading. MORE

July 28, 2003

MICHAEL JEFRY STEVENS

Aercine
Drimala DR 02-347-06

MICHAEL JEFRY STEVENS
The Survivor’s Suite
Jazz’halo 015

Part of the underappreciated generation of expressive improvisers, pianist Michael Jefry Stevens, 52, is one of those musicians who plied his craft in the fallow years between the 1960s heyday of experimental jazz and before the current free music uptick.

Now co-leader of the peripatetic Fonda-Stevens bands with bassist Joe Fonda, Stevens is a committed, no-holds-barred improviser. His technically imposing stylings draw as much -- if not more -- from the severe formalism of early modern classical composers as the jazz tradition. MORE