Michael Jefry Stevens

Quotes

 "Great concert even on the morning of Saturday at Kulturni Dom of Nova Gorica, across the border, with the Trio Generations which housed Oliver Lake........the trio played with a perfection and an unrivaled creativity revolves on bass Joe Fonda, very solid and unpredictable nell'apporto rhythmic and magic solos, with the support of Emil Gross sharp drums and, above all, with the delicious and ever-changing work of the grand piano Michael Jefry Stevens, perhaps the musician who most impressed us among the many who have gone on the stage of the festival." (Blacks Pollastri), www.allaboutjazz.com/jazz-and-wine-of-peace-2015

"Stevens is a sensitive pianist who ekes out droplets of sparkling gems or volumes of rushing waves having a lyrical foundation and a complex consistency; he constructs vivid imagery by getting into the core of each piece and expounding intuitively with his reconstructions."
~ Cadence Jazz Magazine, September, 2005. By Frank Rubolino

"In over 30 minutes, Michael Jefry Stevens sends us through five stages of complexity. Minds of such intelligence gravitate to expanse, and this qualifies. The suite is three-dimensional. One crawls inside it. This music is as uncommon as what lies beneath the naked image."
~ Jazz Improv Magazine (2005). By Gregory J. Robb

"Pianist Michael Jefry Stevens blends a pliable rhythmic and melodic sense with a mercurial technique that serves him well."
~ Jazz Times Magazine, August 2005. By Chris Kelsey

"The Title track is an atmospheric ballad, buoyed by Stevens’ lush harmonic choices and sonorous exploitation of the entire keyboard’s compass."
~ Signal to Noise Magazine, Summer 2005. By Christian Carey

"Stevens is in top form, particularly on the aforementioned "As I was Saying", where his crystalline chord structures shimmer in conjunction with a ruminating pulse."
~ Signal to Noise Magazine. By Jay Collins

"Stevens’s playing remains ever-versatile, alternating between comp-ing changes and fistfuls of chromatic clusters."
~ Christian Carey, Splendid Reviews

"Michael Jefry Stevens let’s his piano stamp the harmonic line that gradually powers in intensity, an urgent essaying of the melodic landscape..."
~ Jerry D’Souza, All About Jazz

"Stevens’ major virtue is his ability to write fresh, attractive melodies, but he’s also a provocative composer."
~ Harvey Pekar, Jazz Times Magazine

"Throughout the record, the pianist demonstrates a command of his instrument, not only in a technical sense, but also for the warmth and feeling he coaxes from this stringed, wooden box. His classical notions are explored in particular depth on the floating waves of "Cloud Drift" and the captivating "Whispering Wind", the latter of which bursts with a rich splendor that drives right to the core of Stevens’ sense of emotion."
~ Jay Collins, One Final Note

"Michael Jefry Stevens is influenced on one side by Coltrane, Bill Evans, Cecil Taylor and Thelonious Monk but, on the other, by Mahler, Bartok, Debussy and Ravel. The free jazz environment allows Stevens the luxury of painting his music with a palette containing blues, rock, classical, jazz and funk. The resulting improvisations cannot be pigeonholed."
~ Richard Bourcier, Jazz Review

"Michael Jefry Stevens is a fluid player who finds his comfort level not only on the cool side but also through free jazz and instant improvisation. His touch is both delicate and hard hitting, stopping short of bombast when he ventures into the latter. His phrasing has an elegance, and while he does take a line at a tangent he does not let this alter his focus. Stevens suspends time and harmony; his lines arch and curve and fall in a splash of color. He unleashes bolts of thunder with his left hand and clasps melody in scintillating runs."
~ Jerry D’Souza, All About Jazz

Conference Call Quotes

It’s a measure of true artistic accomplishment when music so demanding can touch an emotional thread, proving that even a street full of concrete and glass can turn green and lush. Poetry in motion, indeed. ~ All About Jazz by Troy Collins (August 2008)

Poetry In Motion, by the collective group Conference Call, deserves to be considered as one of the year's best for the simple reason that its balance of thought and emotion, structure and freedom, clarity and abandon, is exquisitely and transparently laid out. Regardless of who composed any particular tune, providing a distinctive voice, the group acts as an organic unit, with the total sound becoming more than the sum of its parts. By Budd Kopman

When four musician-composers with this level of technique and creativity get together, it's sure to bring quality playing, but the most interesting moments on Poetry In Motion occur when the quartet forgets what they know and just do.
~ Clifford Allen for Bagatellen, published September 7, 2008

Over a full decade, Conference Call has become one of the premier progressive and modern creative jazz outfits in the world, with only a few in their path.
Michael G. Nastos for All Music Guide

One of the finest improvising units working today, Conference Call is a complete band, capable of touching all the jazz bases, be they individual or group improvisation, or the performance of composed music. The quintet's sixth release, What About...? is a two-disc session from the band's 10th anniversary tour, and was recorded live at Alchemia in Krakow, Poland. by Mark Corroto - All About Jazz

Live free jazz recordings are often exclusively for hardened free jazz fans, but even a timid free jazz listener will find plenty to like on “What About….?.” If not, reaching a little deeper and taking another listen should do it. It’s difficult to envision a better exhibition of ability, creativity and group cohesiveness in the free jazz idiom.
Mike Reynolds-MuzikReviews.com Sr. Staff October 18, 2010 ©MuzikReviews.com

What About The ...? contains all the elements that made the previous great Poetry in Motion: Material composition dense, cohesive and highly elastic, strong running, great care despite frequent explosions of sound or timbre exasperation, the harmonious development of executions in spite of the great freedom of interpretation, magically conveyed to millimeter perfect joints and fittings. Rating: 4 stars ~ All About Jazz Italia translation

"Stevens' playing on "Liquid Cage" simultaneously evokes post-bop and Debussy's Preludes. Stevens' stylish voicings and Ullmann's emotive tenor are nicely offset by a gently swinging rhythm section..."   Christian Carey Singal to Noise (2006)

Brass Tactics

Brass Tacticss - Konnex Records - "What’s surprising is the quietude that lingers over the album. The band almost feels a sextet, because in addition to the brass and the piano, your attention gets drawn to the air. The absence of bass, drums, or chord instruments forces you to reckon with the blank spaces between those brass notes, whether they’re puffed bursts or the longer, elegant tones of a track like “For Alban Berg.”

"As a composer, Stevens teases by opening up the sequences by throwing in quotes that refer to Dixieland and Baroque-styled laxity as well as others that could be military band showpieces, c symphonic-like crescendos and even “God Save the Queen”. Outstanding writing though comes in the compositions with the least references. The original “Temperature Rising” for instance, is rooted in the Blues, but with penetrating notes from one trumpet plus tightened rasps from the trombones that segments the piece as it advances. Still, the ending is cannily linked to the introduction." jazzword Publications

IN TRANSIT

"And Stevens is always a pleasure to hear, synthesizing styles rapidly and working a furrow that is somehow both mischievous and emotionally expressive. It’s not all stolid reserve, of course. The group brings the freak on “Canto lunatico,” with Stevens jabbing away as Solothurnmann churns like Urs Leimgruber channeling Ivo Perelman. Studer gets some lovely bird calls going on “Up-Current,” as Stevens constructs chord mobiles that pinwheel in space. The pianist constructs a powerfully moody atmosphere on “Adagio”—Solothurnmann is equally compelling here, with long, patient phrases filled with space and purpose. It’s not so much that the music is always abstract, or is too tentative. But even with heat and flash, there’s an economy to the playing, a generosity with which the musicians relate to each other, and a commitment to gesture that wins over. A strong release."

"The American pianist Michael Jefry Stevens is one of those jazz musicians of the middle generation, who has not yet succeeded with a major breakthrough. In the past two decades, the man from Brooklyn has worked with an impressive list of first-class jazz people, including Dave Douglas, Mark Whitecage and Mark Feldman, and he has an understanding of free improvisation, which doesn’t exclude a priori any form of harmony, melody or rhythm. His European quartet “In Transit”, which he co-leads together with Juerg Solothurnmann, weaves in an intuitive way a subtle network of impulsive emotional lines. Juerg Solothurnmann’s subtly dosed saxophone playing always seems to find the right tone in an almost somnambulistic manner. He leaves open much empty space for Stevens who knows how to fill it with curling and bold piano inventions. "Christoph Wagner Jazz Podium, 2008-02

SURVIVOR's Suite

“Michael Jefry Stevens is a fluid player who finds his comfort level not only on the cool side but also through free jazz and instant improvisation. His touch is both delicate and hard hitting, stopping short of bombast when he ventures into the latter. The balance is visible on this solo record not only in his choice of material, but also in his treatment of the songs, particularly in his interpretation of “Ask Me Now.” His phrasing has an elegance, and while he does take a line at a tangent he does not let this alter his focus. Another tune that pulses is the becoming folkish “Musica Callada #1,” where his pace is measured, his air relaxed and balmy. As a composer, Stevens utilizes a wide palette. He essays ballads with considerable feeling, “Quiet” making the case convincingly. The unfolding is deliberate, shading the tune gently, his left hand emphasising darker daubs. And if one looks for the influences, one can witness the ghost of Bill Evans and the visitation of Ahmad Jamal. Comparisons apart the title track covers the vast spectrum that is the wont of Stevens. This is a completely improvised suite, and within its ambit stirs structure and freedom. Stevens suspends time and harmony; his lines arch and curve and fall in a splash of color. He unleashes bolts of thunder with his left hand and clasps melody in scintillating runs. On The Survivor's Suite he keeps blandness away, never letting pretty pictures efface his ardour.” Jerry D'Souza in allaboutjazz.com

"Part of the under-appreciated generation of expressive improvisers, pianist Michael Jefry Stevens, 52, is one of those musicians who plied his craft in the fallow years between the 1960s heyday of experimental jazz and before the current free music up-tick. Now co-leader of the peripatetic Fonda-Stevens bands with bassist Joe Fonda, Stevens is a committed, no-holds-barred improviser. His technically imposing stylings draw as much -- if not more -- from the severe formalism of early modern classical composers as the jazz tradition."

“Michael Jefry Stevens, born 1951 in New York, mixes the black and white keys at will, disharmoniously, or then not, rhythmically boastful or artistically stumbling. Idolizing the manner and style of Cecil Taylor? Not entirely, as he is clearly also influenced by Bill Evans, McCoy Tyner, Andrew Hill, Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock. Melancholy and serenely grey harmonies… from where? Who knows? Stevens’ background reveals that he has seen, experienced and tried a good many things. This is his first pure solo single CD, and he plays as a slender legged curlew sandpiper on the misty quagmire of a black muddy marsh. Searching for his soul, longing for a mate. Stevens’ low-spirited basic note music displays, however, a splendid demonstration of skill: a skill that actually is not completely revealed when one listens to him for the first time. Not because of it being difficult, but because one must understand the profoundness of its substance. One must listen to this recording in solitude, with a noble drink in one’s hand. In the twilight. In serenity. It is exemplary stuff.” Oskari Rajala in Jazzrytmit 13.02.2003 (Finland)

MISCELLANEOUS

"Stevens' phrases ripple, up and down the keyboard, or drift arounl Bleyishly like snowdrifts or windblown leaves".

"Many musicians work in a variety of groupings, but there aren't many who do it as effectively as pianist Michael Jefry Stevens. His sklll-set covers a broad swath of contemporary performance and his imagination is at home in many different contexts."

"Andrea" has tremendous depth, perhaps Stevens' ballad art at its most fully developed".

"I usually think of Stevens as a harmonic abstractionist, but he shows great flexibility in his work with singers. His band with vocalist Miles Griffith is a funky celebration, full of vital immediacy and expansive Iyrics. Stevens is responsible for Iyrics and melodies, revealing a fresh facet of his talents, and Griffith contributes tremendous spirit, whethertender or manie". Stuart Broomer

"What is also fascinating about this trio is its imagery: Fluid lyricism coexists with sudden angles and jagged edges. Stevens writes a lingering melody like “Lazy Waltz” and unravels it in long strands of single treble notes. But he also sets up “Parallel Lines” only to break them free as piano and bass both swing wildly off course." Thomas Conrad - Jazz Times

"Stevens is fluent in many jazz sub-genres, and his playing and writing regularly twists and combines them into new shapes. Stevens is impressive, whether he is delineating a bold thematic contour or digging into in a hard-driving groove."

"... and hearing original Stevens compositions such as "The Lockout", "The River Po", "Specific Gravity", and "Spirit Song" will make the hairs on the back of your neck spine as you are blown away by his capabilities. Stevens is brilliant on the piano."  The Run-Off Groove John Book 1/1/09

Eastern Boundary Quartet

"Pianist Michael Jefry Stevens has enjoyed a prolific musical journey but collaboration could be seen as the inspiration behind his music. Each project Stevens participates in offers a different framework to explore his compositional and improvisational ideas. On the eponymous debut of the Eastern Boundary Quartet, the music literally crosses international boundaries as Stevens, along with bassist Joe Fonda, collaborates with Hungarian musicians Balazs Bagyi (drums) and Mihaly Borbely (sax). This live recording is a musical quilt combining the spirit of jazz with the distinctive nature of Hungarian music."  Karen Hogg (All About Jazz)