122

Michael Jefry Stevens & Mark Whitecage: Short Stories

Robert Spencer By

Sign in to view read count
Many of the tracks on Short Stories start in a tone of regretful tenderness befitting the title of the first track, "Bittersweet." But there is a piquancy to the playing of both members of this duo, pianist Michael Jefry Stevens and multi-talented reedman (alto & soprano sax, plus alto clarinet) Mark Whitecage, that makes this more than your average jazz ballad. Stevens' playing is invested with the harmonic richness of classical music, combined with the inexorable forward motion of jazz and a rhythmic elasticity that allows for a maximum of improvisational power. Whitecage seems conversant with both pre-Ayler and post-Ayler reed playing, and he's able to make use of a large number of effects to increase or decrease tension. As the moods are created and shifted and transmuted, Stevens and Whitecage carry the attentive listener along on an ever-fascinating journey.

Most remarkably of all, Stevens and Whitecage play absolutely together at all times. This series of compositions by Stevens is by no means simple, but Whitecage is up to the task. Wherever he goes, Stevens is there; wherever Stevens goes, he's there. In adventurous music like this that's no mean feat: Monk's "empty elevator shaft" might seem downright cozy compared to the rhythmic and melodic treacherousness of these tracks. But these two having been playing together a long time, and a recording like this is the ample fruit of their labors.

All the tracks touch on a number of moods and approaches, but "Short Story #1" heats up outstandingly, while tracks like "Bittersweet" and "Short Story #2" are simply gorgeous at times without lapsing for a moment into tired forms. The closing track, "The Miracle," sums up the miraculous interplay works: Whitecage states a simple, romantic figure with Stevens comping in a melancholy mode. When the pianist solos he weaves heart-breaking miniatures that, again, sound simple but are at the same time invested with a richness of emotion that never sounds formulaic or cloying. A fittingly muted end to a modest recording by two much-overlooked master musicians. Highly recommended.


Shop

More Articles

Read The Picasso Zone CD/LP/Track Review The Picasso Zone
by Franz A. Matzner
Published: February 23, 2017
Read The MUH Trio – Prague After Dark CD/LP/Track Review The MUH Trio – Prague After Dark
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: February 23, 2017
Read Les Deux Versants Se Regardent CD/LP/Track Review Les Deux Versants Se Regardent
by John Sharpe
Published: February 23, 2017
Read Molto Bene CD/LP/Track Review Molto Bene
by Mark Corroto
Published: February 23, 2017
Read Fellowship CD/LP/Track Review Fellowship
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: February 22, 2017
Read E.S.T. Symphony CD/LP/Track Review E.S.T. Symphony
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 22, 2017
Read "Something About Jobim" CD/LP/Track Review Something About Jobim
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: March 16, 2016
Read "I Walk Amongst Humans" CD/LP/Track Review I Walk Amongst Humans
by Nicholas F. Mondello
Published: August 3, 2016
Read "Kjølvatn" CD/LP/Track Review Kjølvatn
by Karl Ackermann
Published: March 29, 2016
Read "North Star" CD/LP/Track Review North Star
by Edward Blanco
Published: April 2, 2016
Read "Jim Crow's Tears" CD/LP/Track Review Jim Crow's Tears
by James Nadal
Published: November 10, 2016
Read "For King & Country" CD/LP/Track Review For King & Country
by Glenn Astarita
Published: October 6, 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!