The Lillard/Stevens Group is the most recent collaboration between pianist Michael Jefry Stevens and drummer Art Lillard. Lillard and Stevens first began performing music together as students at Miami/Dade Community College back in 1972. They later moved to Boston, MA where they co-led several ensembles including the “Psalms” Quartet and “Z Real Band”. The Lillard/Stevens ensembles performed throughout New England between 1976 and 1980. Both Stevens and Lillard re-located to New York City in the early 1980’s and continued their musical relationship for the next decade.
Beginning in the early 1990’s their paths diverged. Michael Jefry Stevens co-founded several international touring jazz ensembles including the Fonda/Stevens Group (Joe Fonda, Herb Robertson, Harvey Sorgen, Mark Whitecage), Conference Call Quartet (Joe Fonda, Gebhard Ullmann, George Schuller), the Generations Quartet (Joe Fonda, Oliver Lake, Emil Gross), In Transit Quartet (Dieter Ulrich, Daniel Studer, Juerg Solothurnmann, Stevens-Siegel-Ferguson Trio (Jeff Siegel, Tim Ferguson) and the Eastern Boundary Quartet (Joe Fonda, Balazs Bagyi, Mihaly Borbely). Michael Jefry Stevens toured Europe with all of these group consistently between the early 1990s up until 2021 (Covid). His discography containing over 100 CD releases includes many CD’s from the aforementioned musical groups.
Art Lillard’s touring background includes his experience as house drummer for various musical productions by the Amas Repertory Theater under the leadership of Rosetta Lenoire and several decades with the Theater for the New City. In 1992 and ’94 Art toured Europe with the Broadway show “Ain’t Misbehavin’”, including performances at the Umbria Jazz Festival in Italy and the Pori Festival in Finland, and in 1995, ’96, ’98, 2008, and 2010 he toured Europe and South America with an original production of “Phantom of the Opera.”
Lillard and Stevens re-connected at the beginning of the “Covid” epidemic. In the past two years, they have released the following CDs of their original music on the “Artists Recording Collective” Label. The cd’s include “Forgotten Wish”, “Original Music for Sextet” and “Living Green World Blues”. These studio recordings were made in the 1980’s and early 1990’s. The release of these three cd’s provided the impetus to start this new “Lillard/Stevens Group” project. This new sextet recorded nine original compositions and arrangements by both Lillard and Stevens in 2022, with a scheduled release date of August, 2023.
Saxophonist Don Aliquo is an active performing and recording artist based in the Nashville area.
Since his appointment in 1999 as Professor of Saxophone and Jazz Studies at Middle Tennessee State University, he has traveled and performed extensively. Recent highlights include two trips to China with MTSU Jazz faculty performing in Beijing, Nanjing, Wuxi and Wuhan. The latter included Aliquo being appointed Guest Professor of Musical Performance at Wuhan Conservatory of Music. Don was also invited a to perform and teach in Medellin and Pereira, Columbia, in 2018 as part of the "Promising Artists of the 21st Century" Jazz Camp, organized by the Centro Columbo Americana.
Arranger, composer, trumpeter, and educator Jamey Simmons earned his Bachelor of Music at the University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire and his Master of Music in Jazz and Contemporary Media at the Eastman School of Music. Simmons is currently Director of Jazz Studies at Middle Tennessee State University. As a trumpet player, Simmons toured internationally with the Glenn Miller Orchestra and is currently active on the Nashville professional music scene.
Jonathan A. Wires is jazz performer, composer, and educator. Wires has been recorded on around 30 records ranging from rock, jazz, folk, to classically influenced music. He has also performed at festivals, including the Beale Street Music Festival in Memphis, the Zeitgeist Festival in New Orleans, and the Lincoln Center Summer Festival in New York. In addition, he has served on staff at the Vermont Jazz Institute and the Nashville Jazz Workshop's summer jazz camp. Wires toured Europe in 2010 and China in 2012.
Michael Jefry Stevens - Pianist, Composer and “Steinway Artist,” Michael Jefry Stevens has been active on the international jazz scene for the past four decades. He has composed over 400 works for both large and small ensembles.
Michael has released over 100 CDs featuring his own music and has performed and recorded extensively with many of the top names in Jazz, including Dave Liebman, Oliver Lake, Dave Douglas, Leo Smith, Matt Wilson, Han Bennink, Mark Feldman, Steve Wilson, Walt Weiskopf, Valerie Ponomarev, Cecil Bridgewater, Jeanne Lee, Dakota Staton, Pheeroan AkLaff, Charles Moffett Sr., George Schuller, Dame Evelyn Glennie, and many others. In 2021 he received a $10,000 Doris Duke Foundation Performing Artist Recovery Fund Grant administered by the New York Community Trust Fund and grants from the North Carolina Arts Council and Buncombe County’s Mountain Bizworks. He received his Master of Arts degree in Jazz Performance from Queens College (CCNY).
Rick Simerly is a jazz trombonist and a retired Associate Professor of Music at Milligan College in Tennessee. He has been described by David Baker as “…one of the most exciting and consistently creative trombonists in jazz today.” Jamey Aebersold depicts him as “…an astounding player with fantastic range and a keen sense of developing a solo. His playing takes you on musical journeys and each one is different and exciting.” The Online Trombone Journal states “Rick Simerly is in the upper ranks of contemporary trombonists”, while the Jazz Review declares “…when jazz fans think about great trombone players, only a few names come to mind, J.J. Johnson, Steve Turre, or maybe Bill Watrous.
A professional drummer since 1970, Art Lillard has had a rich performing career, leading and co-leading various jazz ensembles, and as a sideman in groups of various musical genres, including jazz, country & western, cabaret, rock, and show music. Art’s own ensembles include the Heavenly Big Band, the Blue Heaven swing sextet, the On Time trio/quartet, and the Art Lillard Duo. He has produced eight professional recordings with these bands.