166

The Fonda/Stevens Group: Forever Real

John Kelman By

Sign in to view read count
The Fonda/Stevens Group: Forever Real Since emerging on the scene in the late '80s with trumpeter Dave Douglas and the Mosaic Sextet, pianist Michael Jefry Stevens, bassist Joe Fonda, and drummer Harvey Sorgen have all worked in a variety of contexts. Fonda was Anthony Braxton's bassist of choice in the mid-'90s; Stevens has worked in trios with Mark Whitecage and Dominic Duval; Sorgen has been involved with everything from free jazz to the blues/roots group Hot Tuna. But it's within the context of the longstanding Fonda/Stevens Group that their musical personalities have been at their most compelling.

With five previous releases as either a quartet and quintet, it's trumpeter Herb Robertson who has been the closest thing to a constant fourth member, having been on most of the group's recordings, including '02's outstanding The Healing. With Forever Real, the quartet of Fonda, Stevens, Sorgen, and Robertson continue to mine territory that defies categorization. While the seven compositions by Fonda and Stevens live, without a doubt, in more liberated improvisational territory, what gives them a stronger sense of purpose is their compositional scope. Stevens' "The Stalker, for example, revolves around a pseudo-Latin groove that is thematically reminiscent of Don Byron's "Next Love from Tuskegee Experiments, but with a lighter yet no less substantive complexion.

Fonda's "Relentlessness, on the other hand, with its initially-persistent bass ostinato, is more idiosyncratic, with an odd theme that transcends restrictive bar lines. The tune eventually dissolves into a free improvisation by Fonda that resolves into an even quirkier and less rhythmically-straightforward construct over which a collective improvisation concludes. Stevens is, as a rule, the more structured and accessible composer, with Fonda's writing more about not-so-simple ideas as a basis for exploratory work by all involved. Stevens' "A Question of Love begins with a free piano solo but ultimately finds its way into a gentler space. Fonda's "Cotton, on the other hand, centres on a more obfuscated theme that merely serves as a basis for the group's more abstruse leanings; although the piece actually finds its way into an almost funky groove that serves as a feature for guest Napoleon Maddox's "Human Beat Box sounds and stream-of-consciousness poetry.

Everyone demonstrates a fine ability to skirt the edges of convention, while at the same time stretching its boundaries. Most notable is Robertson, who manages to imbue the compositions with an askew sense of humour, preventing things from becoming too serious. Coaxing a surprising variety of textures from his horn, Robertson is a fiercely original player whose refusal to compromise has made him trumpeter of choice on a surprisingly large number of recordings—over seventy to date.

Curiously and consistently overlooked in North America, the Fonda/Stevens Group, thankfully, enjoys a solid reputation in Europe that permits the group to continue. And with Forever Real, it manages to combine heady composition with more visceral improvisation, making this a potent and highly recommended release for those who enjoy their free music with a little more form.

Visit Michael Jefry Stevens and Joe Fonda on the web.


Track Listing: Forever Real; From the Source; The Stalker; A Question of Love; Relentlessness; The Call; Cotton.

Personnel: Michael Jefry Stevens: piano; Joe Fonda: acoustic bass; Herb Robertson: trumpet; Harvey Sorgen: drums. Special guest Napoleon Maddox: human beat box, poetry.

Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: 482 Music | Style: Modern Jazz


Shop

  • Polymorphous
    Polymorphous
    The Fonda/Stevens Group
    20th Anniversary Tour
CD/LP/Track Review
Read more articles
Pat Metheny Pat Metheny
guitar
Cedar Walton Cedar Walton
piano
Kenny Garrett Kenny Garrett
sax, alto
Eric Dolphy Eric Dolphy
reeds
Lee Konitz Lee Konitz
sax, alto
Chris Potter Chris Potter
reeds
Geri Allen Geri Allen
piano
Gary Burton Gary Burton
vibraphone
Fred Anderson Fred Anderson
saxophone
Roy Haynes Roy Haynes
drums
Satoko Fujii Satoko Fujii
piano

More Articles

Read Road to Forever CD/LP/Track Review Road to Forever
by Jack Bowers
Published: February 27, 2017
Read Avenida Graham CD/LP/Track Review Avenida Graham
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 27, 2017
Read TAI Fest #1 (Vol.1&2) CD/LP/Track Review TAI Fest #1 (Vol.1&2)
by Nicola Negri
Published: February 27, 2017
Read Goat Man & The House of the Dead CD/LP/Track Review Goat Man & The House of the Dead
by Dave Wayne
Published: February 27, 2017
Read Backlog CD/LP/Track Review Backlog
by James Nadal
Published: February 27, 2017
Read Acceptance CD/LP/Track Review Acceptance
by Tyran Grillo
Published: February 26, 2017
Read "Eleven Promises" CD/LP/Track Review Eleven Promises
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: July 30, 2016
Read "Live At The Open Gate" CD/LP/Track Review Live At The Open Gate
by John Sharpe
Published: August 29, 2016
Read "Néo" CD/LP/Track Review Néo
by James Nadal
Published: April 13, 2016
Read "Before The Silence" CD/LP/Track Review Before The Silence
by John Sharpe
Published: February 24, 2017
Read "Born In An Urban Ruin" CD/LP/Track Review Born In An Urban Ruin
by John Sharpe
Published: January 24, 2017
Read "Life and Other Transient Storms" CD/LP/Track Review Life and Other Transient Storms
by Troy Dostert
Published: August 26, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: Jazz Near You | GET IT  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!