AAJ: Fay Victor Ensemble’s The FreeSong Suite (Greene Avenue Music)

November 23, 2009

AllAboutJazz.com’s Managing Editor John Kelman posted his review of vocalist/composer Fay Victor‘s latest release, The FreeSong Suite (Greene Avenue Music), over the weekend.

“Once again,” he writes, “Victor’s soulful, emotive delivery combines with avant-tinged invention, placing her alongside great vocal innovators like Betty Carter, Jeanne Lee, Sheila Jordan…a truly creative singer with the chops to accomplish whatever she wants, but the good taste to ensure that substance always trumps style.”

He adds, “With an ensemble that twists and turns the music in response to, and as a catalyst for, Victor’s own unbound improvisational acumen, The Freesong Suite is a vocal album that stands well above the pack; a welcome respite from the unwieldy preponderance of unimaginative vocal jazz albums hitting the market.”


Playscape Recordings To Release The Fonda/Stevens Group’s Memphis September 29th

June 30, 2009
Photo by Lindsay Beyerstein

Photo by Lindsay Beyerstein

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


Fay Victor’s The FreeSongSuite Coming September 22nd

June 24, 2009


On September 22nd, New York-based vocalist/composer Fay Victor will release her sixth recording as a leader, The FreeSong Suite (GAM 0091), on her own Greene Avenue Music label. The follow-up to 2007’s Cartwheels Through The Cosmos (ArtistShare AS 0061), this is her second recording of all-original music written for her longstanding working quartet, The Fay Victor Ensemble, featuring guitarist Anders Nilsson, bassist Ken Filiano and drummer Michael “TA” Thompson.

The FreeSong Suite documents Ms. Victor’s new stream of consciousness approach to creative vocal music, which accentuates spontaneity and improvisation by removing traditional boundaries between individual songs and genres. The recording features three long-form pieces made up of smaller compositions that flow in and out of each other as a running dialog. As in all of her ensembles, the vocalist and instrumentalists operate on equal terms, constantly shaping and directing the music through their balanced explorations.

“The beauty of Victor, who’s the absolute antithesis of polite vocal jazz, is her blending of soulful delivery with avant-garde tactics,” explains AllAboutJazz.com’s Managing Editor, John Kelman. “Cartwheels Through the Cosmos is that rarity amongst contemporary vocal jazz releases: an album that doesn’t rely on a tired repertoire and looks, instead, for innovation in every corner. Her fearless exploration of a myriad of musical nexus points makes [it] an album for those who normally stay away from vocal jazz.”

“Taking jazz singing forward with a unique form of expression,” declares Cadence reviewer Jim Santella, “Fay Victor delivers with authority. She reaches out with open arms to celebrate the freedom that comes with singing what you feel.” Jazzwise reviewer Selwyn Harris agrees, writing, “This New York-based vocalist actually stretches the definition of jazz vocals with Betty Carter, Hendrix and Sun Ra’s song-based cosmic poetry all in the mix.” “It’s rather like performing acrobatics atop a moving roller coaster,” adds JazzTimes‘ Christopher Loudon. “It’s tough. It’s gutsy. It’s brilliant.”

A New York native who spent her childhood summers in Trinidad, and seven years of her adult life as a member of the renowned Dutch jazz scene, Ms. Victor has been one of the city’s most active vocalists since her return in late 2003. Since then, she has collaborated with a wide variety of bandleaders, instrumentalists and fellow vocalists, including current projects with Ernst Glerum, Misha Mengelberg, Dom Minasi, Roswell Rudd, Tyshawn Sorey, Tomas Ulrich and Wolter Wierbos. In addition to The Fay Victor Ensemble, she also leads Fay Victor’s Jazz Vault and co-leads The ExPosed Blues Duo with Anders Nilsson. Learn more at http://fayvictor.wordpress.com


AAJ Interview: Craig Taborn

June 15, 2009
Photo by John Kelman

Photo by John Kelman

Ian Patterson’s new interview with pianist Craig Taborn is now available at AllAboutJazz.com.

The Q & A features discussion of Taborn’s many recent collaborations, including the collective trio with bassist William Parker and drummer Gerald Cleaver that released its debut, Farmers By Nature, earlier this year on AUM Fidelity.

Patterson’s new review of the disc was also posted today.


Reminder: Mario Pavone Double Tenor Quintet At Iridium January 7th

December 23, 2008

 On Wednesday, January 7th, acclaimed bassist/composer Mario Pavone and his newest working ensemble, the Mario Pavone Double Tenor Quintet, will celebrate the release of their November debut, Ancestors (Playscape Recordings), with a two-set performance at New York’s Iridium Jazz Club. Pavone will also perform in New York a few days earlier on Friday, January 2nd at Cornelia Street Cafe with the sextet featured on his 2006 release, Deez To Blues (Playscape Recordings).

“The towering twin tenor approach is the focal point for Ancestors,” explains the All Music Guide‘s Michael G. Nastos, “utilizing two of the finest young, experienced, and individualistic saxophone players in modern jazz music—Tony Malaby and Jimmy Greene. Add the under-appreciated but awesome pianist Peter Madsen and the reliable juggernaut of a drummer, Gerald Cleaver, and you have the makings for a truly superior combo, one of the best Pavone has ever fronted. While Pavone’s recordings are generally reliable and pointedly original, this effort is close to his very best, and deserves consideration for best jazz CD of 2008.” 

“On his day,” declared veteran jazz reviewer Brian Morton in Point of Departure, “Mario Pavone is one of the very best – and when on his game, by far the best – small-group composer/leaders working on the East Coast.” 

Critics have called him “a smart composer” (Nate Chinen, New York Times) and “a protean bassist” (Paul Blair, Hot House) who “never fails to implant an effective hook” (Bill Shoemaker, DownBeat) and “continues to move the tradition forward with every record” (John Kelman, AllAboutJazz.com). 

His music has been described as “exciting and stimulating” (Jay Collins, Cadence), “sensitive and probing” (Owen McNally, Hartford Courant) and “full of smart angular swagger” (Michael Rosenstein, Signal to Noise).

The Mario Pavone Double Tenor Quintet will perform at Iridium Jazz Club on Wednesday January 7th at 8:30 and 10:30 p.m. Tickets, $25, are available for sale at (212) 582-2121. Tickets, directions and further venue details are also available at http://iridiumjazzclub.com/info.php

The Mario Pavone Deez to Blues Sextet will perform at Cornelia Street Cafe on Friday, January 2nd at 9:00 and 10:30 p.m. Admission is $10 per set with a one-drink minimum. Reservations can be made at (212) 989-9319 and further venue info is available at http://corneliastreetcafe.com. The band will feature Mario Pavone (bass), Charles Burnham (violin), Steven Bernstein (trumpet and slide trumpet), Lauren Sevian (baritone saxophone), Peter Madsen (piano) and Michael Sarin (drums).