The Fonda – Stevens Group | Trio | Not Two Records

Not Two, 2007 | MW 781-2 | CD

Joe Fonda – double bass | Harvey Sorgen – drums | Michael Jefry Stevens – piano

Recorded live at the Alchemia in Krakow, Poland – April 4, 2006. Produced by Marek Winiarski. Recording Engineer: Michal Rosicki. Mixed and mastered by Michal Rosicki at MAQ Studio. Cover photo by Bartosz Winiarski. Inside photos by Krzysztof Penarski. Cover design by Andrzej Wojnowski.

All music by Michael Jefry Stevens and Joe Fonda (GEMA)

Tracklist: 1. Soon to Know (Fonda) [14:24] 2. The Search (Stevens) [07:43] 3. Andrea (Stevens) [07:48] 4. From the Source (Fonda) [10:01] 5. The Path (Fonda) [05:52] 6. Break Song (Stevens) [07:03]

Fonda / Stevens Group | Photo by Krzysztof Penarski

This is the tenth disc from the great Fonda/Stevens Group

but it is the first one to feature them as a trio. This disc was recorded live at The Alchemia in Krakow, Poland in April of 2006. I was intrigued to see that this is a rare trio date for these three musicians who have been playing together for some 20+ years, but rarely as a trio. There is no leader in the trio, as each member is integral to their sound and explorations. “Soon to Know” (by Mr. Fonda) seems to feature the amazing Joe Fonda, whose bass is central to the way this trio expands and contracts and moves. There is a constant throb going on, with the piano and drums slowly swirling around him majestically. Mr. Stevens’ “The Search” has a delightful theme that is difficult to forget, with Michaels’ piano playing dreamy, elegant waves that fade into the distance. Joe begins “Andrea” by plucking his strings in a unique way, making way for Michael’s exquisite piano – the piece is quite lovely and sublime. “From The Source” features Michael’s piano playing flurries of notes as Joe holds down the center until the trio starts swirling quickly together, the tempo speeding up and slowing down together. Throughout this disc, one gets the feeling that this trio has been together for a long time since they consistently flow together as one formidable force. Joe Fonda’s bass continues to blow me away as he reaches for the impossible and achieves what he strives to do. — Bruce Lee Gallanter, Downtown Music Gallery.

Michael Jefry Stevens | Photo by Krzysztof Penarski

A nice live set, recorded in 2006 at the Alchemia in Krakow (Poland)

showcases the translucent jazz perspective of pianist Michael Jefry Stevens and bassist Joe Fonda, who penned three tunes apiece in this CD; for this particular event they were helped by Harvey Sorgen on drums. Stevens declares himself as more and more worried about the state of our planet’s health, at the same time being convinced that music on the level of excellence might actively contribute to a betterment of the perceptiveness of the ones who can be reached by it. In that sense, he strives to compose scores as much evolved as he can. His interaction with Fonda is articulated, elaborately branched, the tracks mostly born from ideas that wander around a bass vamp or a brain-retainable chord sequence over which the group develops fine textures of thematic sapience spiced by Tyneresque progressions and concretely palpable lines able to transcend the canons of swinging expectancy. Fonda’s interrelation with Sorgen is also noteworthy, the couple establishing a very lively duo conversation in “From the Source”, while the most intense Stevens moods have to be individuated in the reminiscent melancholy of “The Search”. The unit looks just handsome, complete self-command and reversing currents of conscious communication at the basis of a record that’s as easily drinkable as fresh water despite its insightful correspondences.– Massimo Ricci – Touching Extremes (January 2008)

Joe Fonda | Photo by Krzysztof Penarski

Recorded live in Poland and for a Polish jazz record label

this is a passionate set by one of the great (and slightly under-recognized) modern jazz outfits in the business. And while the group moniker remains the same, this is the piano trio variety sans the services of trumpet great Herb Robertson. Nonetheless, it’s a democratic engagement where memorable melodies and choruses attain equal ground with dense frameworks and endearing improvisational forays.

Pianist Michael Jefry Stevens steers the rhythm section thru bumpy roads and disparate angles via hammering block chords and asymmetrical rhythmic flows. Tonal contrasts abound, where bassist Joe Fonda occasionally uses his bow to augment an abundance of motifs that stop, restart and spawn anew. Expansive and emotive, the trio seamlessly morphs staggered free-form dialogues into spiraling motifs and buoyant swing vamps. And on the piece titled “The Search,” the they integrate a bouncy groove into a boisterous bop vibe.

Stevens executes a series of dreamy chords atop the rhythm section’s peppery undercurrents during “The Path,” which is comp that segues into a powerful jazz-waltz movement. Nonetheless, surprises abound here as this recently issued album looms as one of the top jazz-trio performances of 2007. In addition, and unlike many other units, it’s quite discernible that the artists combined efforts yield an elevated sense of unity and insight. — Glenn Astarita for Jazz Review

Harvey Sorgen | Photo by Krzysztof Penarski

It’s difficult to either match or deny

the hyperbole with which Leo Feigin presented the 2000 release of the Fonda/Stevens Group’s Live at the Bunker. Calling it the recording he’d been waiting for for 20 years, Feigin called it “a truly jazz CD … They wrap up all the influences, all the sounds that came before, then they roll the universe into a ball and make it new!” It’s bold talk, even if it was a bit of PR hype, but the description still holds true seven years later. The trio on their new disc of the same name (recorded live in Poland in 2006) is rounded out by drummer Harvey Sorgen and without a horn they boldly move into the well-trod world of the piano trio, only to find a new path to cut. It’s essentially mainstream music, confounded only by being so fresh. Michael Jefry Stevens’ piano playing is not far removed from McCoy Tyner, or Dave Brubeck for that matter, with blocky chords underlying repeated melodies. Joe Fonda pushes harder, slapping his bass and mimicking vocals with his bow. Though he’s more known as a prog drummer, Harvey Sorgen keeps pace here, backing the never-jarring, never-predictable compositions of the leaders. — Kurt Gottschalk – All About Jazz



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