Master pianist Michael Jefry Stevens is accompanied this time out by cellist Karen Valeur and acoustic guitarist Jon Sebastian Hemmersam. Valeur, a classically trained musician, had never improvised before, but she sounds utterly at home on this set of eleven previously-composed and improvised pieces. In her company Stevens tends to favor modern classical gestures, giving this music an angularity that is at the same time mitigated by its powerful forward motion.
There are moments of supreme loveliness, high tension, romantic grandeur, and spiky intensity. Indeed, this trio sounds like a larger ensemble, and is stylistically all over the map without being diffuse. Stevens holds it all together with his extraordinary range and sensitivity, as well as a fine rhythmic flair and variance that maintains the sound of surprise. "Reborn," to take just one example, starts out almost in lounge piano territory, but ventures subtly into unexpected areas - especially in the broad sweep of Stevens' playing - that only augment its emotional power.
This is just one of eight Stevens compositions on this disc, and each one adds to his case to be considered a composer of the first rank. "Tango" captures a mood magnificently. "Sebastian's Dance" is a fine feature for a romantic and almost mournful Valeur.
A consistently fascinating trio disc, powered by a great pianist. Recommended.
Michael Jefry Stevens, p; Karen Valeur, cello; Jon Sebastian Hemmersam, ac g.
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