Michael Jefry Stevens: For The Children & Moving Stills


Sign in to view read count

Michael Jefry Stevens
For the Childen
Cadence Jazz

In Transit
Moving Stills
Unit Records

The two newest releases by pianist Michael Jefry Stevens reveal two complementary facets of the pianist's musicianship. Though the instrumentation is similar in both, the records were made almost a decade apart, with the older album featuring a lengthy set of Stevens compositions and the more recent album comprised entirely of spontaneous compositions. Taken in tandem, they provide a very telling cross-section of the pianist's skills and versatility.

For The Children was recorded almost a decade ago (now reaching listeners thanks to the Cadence Jazz Historical Series) and features Dominic Duval (bass), David Schnitter (saxophone) and Jay Rosen (drums). The group plays a diverse sampling of Stevens' tunes. This would be the ideal record for a listener looking to hear this collection of players operating in a more overtly jazz-oriented setting. All the compositions are more directly reminiscent of standard jazz vocabulary than listeners are likely to expect given Stevens' groups like Conference Call, Fonda/Stevens Group and the wonderful Mosaic Sextet, where traditional jazz vocabulary is just one of many influences that contribute to a pan-stylistic ensemble dynamic. The rhythm section of Rosen and Duval is a powerhouse with a reputation for providing plenty of diving energy for Joe McPhee in his Trio X, so it is quite a treat to hear them operate so exquisitely in a setting that puts very different skills on display.

"Sadness of the Madness," "The Hunt," "Sunny's Song" and the title track are all very lyrical, subdued works that display Stevens' affinity for composers like Duke Ellington while upbeat cuts like "Specific Gravity," "Henderson" and "Patato's Song" propel forward unrelentingly, but without giving over to complete abandon. The intensity level gets quite high but the vibe stays focused on its goals. The record's title track is dedicated to Dominic Duval's triplet sons, who were born just before the recording was made.

Switzerland's In Transit uses as much energy, intensity and sensitivity on Moving Stills
In the liner notes, Solothurnmann likens the ensemble's methodology to that of a child creating elaborately imaginative constructs with building blocks, pointing out that the group's "instant composition" approach taps into the superego, placing the emphasis on the "doing, the becoming, the way," creating the type of "moving still" that is referred to by the title of the record. The contrast between the clearly-specified portraiture of the Stevens-penned compositions on the first disc and the paradoxical concept of the "moving stills" on the second contrast nicely and the two facets of his work are both compelling listening experiences.

Tracks and Personnel

For the Childen

Tracks: Specific Gravity; Henderson; Sadness of the Madness; The Hunt; Graduation; Sunny's Song; Patato's Song; For the Children; Lazy Waltz.

Personnel: Michael Jefry Stevens: piano; David Schnitter: tenor sax; Dominic Duval: bass; Jay Rosen: drums, percussion.

Moving Stills

Tracks: Still; Canto Lunatico; Trio; Up-Current; Afar; Upsurge; Adagio; Twitters; Very Spring; Who's Knocking; Underneath; Coming and Going.

Personnel: Jurg Solothurnmann: Soprano and Alto sax; Michael Jefry Stevens: piano; Daniel Studer: contra bass; Dieter Ulrich: drums.


More Articles

Read Dan Phillips Returns To Chicago Multiple Reviews Dan Phillips Returns To Chicago
by Mark Corroto
Published: February 21, 2017
Read New, Notable and Nearly Missed Multiple Reviews New, Notable and Nearly Missed
by Phil Barnes
Published: January 25, 2017
Read Blues Deluxe: Colin James, Matthew Curry and Johnny Nicholas Multiple Reviews Blues Deluxe: Colin James, Matthew Curry and Johnny Nicholas
by Doug Collette
Published: January 14, 2017
Read Weekertoft Hits Its Stride… Multiple Reviews Weekertoft Hits Its Stride…
by John Eyles
Published: January 7, 2017
Read Ivo Perelman: The Art of the Improv Trio Multiple Reviews Ivo Perelman: The Art of the Improv Trio
by Jim Trageser
Published: January 4, 2017
Read 2016: An Ivo Perelman Marathon Multiple Reviews 2016: An Ivo Perelman Marathon
by Mark Corroto
Published: January 3, 2017
Read "Emanem Tidies Up" Multiple Reviews Emanem Tidies Up
by John Eyles
Published: December 19, 2016
Read "Dan Phillips Returns To Chicago" Multiple Reviews Dan Phillips Returns To Chicago
by Mark Corroto
Published: February 21, 2017
Read "Blue Side of Lonesome: Country Crooners on BGO" Multiple Reviews Blue Side of Lonesome: Country Crooners on BGO
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: October 23, 2016
Read "Nate Wooley Makes America Great Again" Multiple Reviews Nate Wooley Makes America Great Again
by Mark Corroto
Published: June 1, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

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!