Michael Jefry Stevens

Michael's Solo Piano

I started playing piano between the ages of five and six after hearing a piano on the radio. I heard jazz music for the first time at age seventeen, although I had already been playing in rock bands since the age of thirteen.  By the time I was twenty, I had decided to dedicate my life to the pursuit of jazz.

I have been fortunate enough to collaborate with musicians from many walks of life, many nationalities and a variety of religions, including master saxophonist Oliver Lake (World Saxophone Quartet), vocalist Miles Griffith who was in Wynton Marsalis’ first opera, Charles Moffett Sr. (Ornette Coleman Trio), Dave Liebman who played with Miles Davis and Elvin Jones, Han Bennink, who played with Charlie Parker, Gerry Hemingway (Anthony Braxton Group), Leo Smith, Steve Wilson (Chick Corea Band), Valerie Ponomarev (Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers), Cecil Bridgewater who played with the Max Roach Group, trumpet player Dave Douglas and many others.

My music is characterized by a strong and haunting melodic sensibility coupled with an intricate harmonic sense, which includes various unorthodox rhythmic ideas.  My roots span a wide variety of styles, including classical, jazz, funk, rock, R&B, blues, folk songs and vocal, avant-garde.  My recent studies include Bartok folk songs, Bach Preludes and Fugues and Charlie Parker transcriptions.

I began performing as a solo pianist shortly after 9/11 when I was invited to perform several European solo piano concerts in France and Belgium.  The “Survivor’s Suite” solo piano CD is a recording of the concert I performed in Belgium.  The second solo piano recording was done at Tedesco Studios in New Jersey and is a mixture of completely free improvised music as well as several original piano compositions that I composed earlier in my career.  The third solo piano CD was recorded at Archer Studios in Memphis, TN and is a collection of jazz standards.

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

CD Releases...

Click or tap the album cover to read the review.

“Michael Jefry Stevens’ first recording of solo piano was done in 1991 but (incomprehensibly) wasn’t released until last year. It was a fine effort, showing none of the tentativeness associated with a musician early in the recording career.

So, Survivor’s Suite while ten years later, is musically only a little more “refined” than this previous effort. Stevens is an adventurous player but with a strong melodic streak. Classical influences are there from the piano music of Debussy and Bartok. On this disc, Stevens performs a sensitive rendition of one of Spanish composer Federico Mompou’s “Musica Calladas”. “Quiet” has the meditative calm of some of Erik Satie’s music. But (obviously) there are Jazz influences as well. A well-turned version of Monk’s “Ask Me Now” is a case in point. But, Stevens seems to have learned one of Monk’s most important lessons: be yourself.

Consequently the listener is treated to much more linear runs (not the brittle whole tone sweeps favored by Monk). Dissonances are sprinkled throughout, but the chords are much fuller than Monk’s. It’s a very effective version of this Monk chestnut. “The Search” has the flavor of a McCoy Tyner modal excursion, with an ostinato of full-bodied left-hand chords. As the piece progresses, the left hand becomes more and more insistent until the end. It’s a powerful, driving force. Stevens’ development of the melody of this piece gets very intricate as the piece drives towards its well-modulated conclusion. The title track is a 30-minute plus meditation on the 9/11 incident. Not particularly programmatic nor full of maudlin cadences, it is a powerful piece of music without ever being obviously so. Stevens’ music is full of both emotional and intellectual resonance. And The Survivor’s Suite is a good indication of where this fine pianist, his music, and piano playing, is today.”

Robert Iannapollo in Cadence (USA) October 2003

“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)

Mountain Song

Style: jazz waltz

Grade: 3

I wrote this song while I was living in Brooklyn, NY and spending quite a bit of time in Woodstock, NY.  This is the closest thing to a “country music” song I have ever written.  This composition was recorded by myself and bassist Eliot Wadopian on our "Mountain Song" duo CD.  This piece is extremely playable at most levels!!!

Mountain Song

$2.49

Alisiah

Style: Swing

Grade: 1

Alisiah is one of my earliest compositions. The tonality revolves around C major, F major and Eminor. It is a very simple medium tempo swing tune. Nothing fancy.  This piece was recorded on my "Duets" CD with vibraphonist Jason DeCristofaro.

Alisiah

$2.49

For My Brother

Style: Ballad

Grade: 2

The harmonies move quite slowly in this ballad.  The most challenging aspect of the piece are the 2/4 bars.  This ballad was recorded on Jon Hemmersam's "Remembering" CD release which also featured Dave Liebman and Rakalam Bob Moses.

For My Brother

$2.49

Lei’s Song

Style: Waltz

Grade: 2

This is one of my favorite compositions.  Written in 3/4 time, but with phrases grouped in three’s, four’s and other odd groupings this is a very unique piece.  Also, it is made up entirely of minor 7 chords.  The Fonda/Stevens Group recorded this tune on our CD "The Healing".

Lei’s Song

$2.49

The Beauty That We Are

Style: Ballad

Grade: 1

This ballad is quite easy to play.  The changes move very slowly giving the student plenty of time to navigate the harmonic landscape.

The Beauty That We Are

$2.49

The Moffett Family

Style: Blues

Grade: 2

This piece was composed in the early 1980's and dedicated to Charnett Moffett and his family band. I played with the band for one year. The tune is a simple form containing only dominant chords. The feel is very bluesy.

The Moffett Family

$2.49

Red’s Blues

Style: Blues, swing

Grade: 2

This is a very simple “swing” composition with a bluesy feel but not in a Blues form. The changes are very simple. The head is a question-and-answer with the melody and the rhythm section.  A good piece to introduce the blues scale to students. Released on my "Red's Blues" CD.

Red’s Blues

$2.49

Song for Rio

Style: Latin

Grade: 3

I wrote this bossa nova after visiting Rio in 1999.  The form is quite long and the bridge is very chromatic.  The piece is highly melodic and quite fun to play.  The "Stevens, Siegel & Ferguson Trio" recorded this tune on our "Six" CD release.

Song for Rio

$2.49

Memorial

Style: Latin

Grade: 4

This piece features a Latin feel written out in the piano part.  The changes are pretty standard and move slowly enough for the student to navigate quite easily. The bridge of the tune is a fun release from all the harmonic movement in the beginning section of the composition.  The "Stevens, Siegel & Ferguson Trio" recorded this composition on our "Panorama" CD which featured Valery Ponomarev on trumpet.

Memorial

$2.49

The Innocence of Spring

Style: Swing

Grade: 4

This medium swing tune consists of an extended melody and long form.  The harmonies are very chromatic and include some hybrid chordal structures as well.  The piece is challenging but worth the effort.  I recorded this on my "The Innocence of Spring" CD with saxophonist Don Aliquo.

The Innocence of Spring

$2.49

Kulturshock

Style: Swing

Grade: 5

This is a very adventurous composition. The harmonies are very difficult and the rhythms are quite unusual. A great challenge for the advanced player.  I wrote this piece shortly after moving from Brooklyn, NY to Memphis, TN.  That was quite a culture shock!!!

Kulturshock

$2.49

Four Wheeler

Style: Swing

Grade: 2

This composition is an open swing feel featuring a chromatic chord sequence and several polychords.  The changes move quickly making the piece difficult for the soloist to navigate. The melody is not difficult but overall the piece is challenging.  This is dedicated to the great trumpeter Kenny Wheeler.

Four Wheeler

$2.49

The Beauty That We Are

Style: ballad
Grade: 2

This ballad is quite easy to play.  The changes move very slowly giving the student plenty of time to navigate the harmonic landscape.

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