Playscape Recordings will officially welcome The Fonda/Stevens Group to its roster with the September 29th release of Memphis (PSR#033108), the eminent ensemble’s 11th recording. Only the fourth studio release in the band’s two-decade existence, Memphis was recorded at the end of a week-long March 2008 U.S. tour. The Fonda/Stevens Group is co-led by bassist/composer Joe Fonda and pianist/composer Michael Jefry Stevens and features trumpeter Herb Robertson and drummer Harvey Sorgen.
Memphis takes its name from Stevens’ composition, “Memphis Ramble,” one of ten tracks documented here for the first time. The subject matter of the piece, which features a spoken word section developed spontaneously during its first performance, deals with his move from Brooklyn to Memphis to be with his wife, who teaches poetry at Rhodes College. Coincidentally, it was the poetry of the city’s name that appealed to Fonda. “When Mike suggested we call the record Memphis,” he recalls, “I just liked the sound of the word —the poetry of it. And, Memphis is a musical melting pot, just like The Fonda/Stevens Group.”
Known as “one of the great and often under-appreciated jazz groups of the modern era” (Steven Loewy, All Music Guide), critics have credited the band with playing “with equal precision and passion” (Peter Margasak, JazzTimes) and “a combination of recognizable creativity and courageous new experimentation” (Christian Carey, Signal to Noise). “The quartet of Fonda, Stevens, Sorgen and Robertson continues to mine territory that defies categorization,” adds AllAboutJazz.com Managing Editor John Kelman. “Everyone demonstrates a fine ability to skirt the edges of convention, while at the same time stretching its boundaries.”
Active collaborators since 1984, when they first worked together as sidemen with saxophonist Mark Whitecage, Fonda and Stevens founded their own band after the 1990 demise of another all-star ensemble, The Mosaic Sextet. The Fonda/Stevens Group began as a quintet, and toured with some transitional personnel following Whitecage’s departure in 1999, but has operated primarily as a quartet with its four remaining original members for the past decade. Although based in America, the band found early success touring abroad and recording for European labels, and has built its longstanding reputation on the world stage. Learn more at http://www.joefonda.digitalspace.net and http://www.michaeljefrystevens.com