New York City's Village Vanguard has a history. Founded by Max Gordon in 1935 and, after his passing in 1989, operated by his wife Lorraine until her death in 2018, the venue became famous for launching jazz careers and hosting the recordings of more than a hundred jazz albums, including saxophonist Sonny Rollins' A Night At The Village Vanguard (Blue Note, 1957), pianist Bill Evans' Sunday At The Village Vanguard (Riverside, 1961) and saxophonist John Coltrane's Live At The Village Vanguard (Impulse, 1962).
Reedman Dayna Stephens, Downbeat Magazine's 2019 "Rising Star Tenor Saxophonist," adds his voice to the Vanguard sound with the two-CD set Right Now! Live At The Village Vanguard, with his all-star quartet, featuring pianist Aaron Parks, bassist Ben Street and drummer Gregory Hutchinson.
There is something about the sound of the place which is hard to pin downwarm and intimate and right-there-in-your-face immediate; Stephens and his group immerse themselves in the Vanguard vibe, laying down eleven of the leader's compositionsalong with pianist Park's "Planting Flowers"with a relaxed and timeless group dynamic, neither dated nor modernistic (for the most part), but music for right now, from guys who sound like they have been working together for fifteen years.
Stephens has developed his own sound, drawing seeming influence from saxophonists Lester Young and Stan Getza cool, smooth, confident articulation wrapped in the sometimes edgy, always intricate rhythms of his on-stage cohorts. A surprise which pulls the sound in a modern direction is his use of the EWI (electronic wind instrument) on two tunes, "Radio-Active Earworm," which sounds like a twenty-second century piece of religious music, commissioned for performance in a cathedral on Ganymede (recorded, for the time being, in New York City) and the show-closer, "Blakonian Groove," a cyborg dance-floor piece, wrapping up yet another fine Village Vanguard recording.
CD 1: Smoking Gun; Tarifa; Ran; Contagious; Radio-Active Earworm; Faith Leap; Lesson One. CD 2: Loosy
Goosy; Planting Flowers; JFK International; You Are Me Blues; The Beginning Of An Endless Happy Monday;