These days, there are few modern jazz groups which can seamlessly merge elements of free improvisation with mainstream and post-bop stylizations, while still maintaining a signature group sound. The Fonda/Stevens Group is partly about the sum of its parts, where the respective musicians emerge as stylists by honing a group-based methodology that stands on its own. A portion of this outing features trumpeter Herb Robertson's warm lower-register voicings via sub-theme dialogues with pianist Michael Jefry Stevens. They methodically intermingle quaint melodies with lightly swirling choruses amid shrewdly concocted alterations in pitch and meter. Occasionally, Stevens establishes simple ostinatos to be expounded upon by his bandmates. Yet the band is apt to turn up the heat via ballsy exchanges and glistening crescendos.
The quartet playfully dissects a blues groove with freeform movements and odd time signatures during "The Call. They convey additional diversity on a Ramsey Lewis-style funk motif on the final cut, "Cotton, where guest artist Napoleon Maddox adds some sociopolitical rap atop the ensemble's loose gait. Overall, the unit's latest effort should be well-received by its legion of followers. Sure enough, it's a tastefully executed and indubitably entertaining studio date.
Personnel: Michael Jefry Stevens: piano; Joe Fonda: acoustic bass; Herb Robertson: trumpet; Harvey
Sorgen: drums. Special guest Napoleon Maddox: human beat box, poetry.