The versatile and imaginative drummer/composer Michael Stephans brings together three generations of Miles Davis alumni (Dave Liebman, Bennie Maupin, and Munyungo Jackson), and one of the jazz world's most distinctive bassists (Scott Colley) to create a series of evocative interpretations of Jewish liturgical and popular music, in addition to Stephans' own compositions, written especially for this recording.
Every track stands alone and is distinctive from the others. These great musicians were given the freedom to personalize each track in their own inimitable and profound way. The pieces are performed in solo, duo, trio, quartet, and quintet formats. Jazz greats Liebman and Maupin record here together for the first time and play a wide range of instruments, including tenor and soprano saxophones, alto and wooden flutes, and of course, Maupin's brilliantly atmospheric bass clarinet. Munyungo Jackson offers a wide variety of colors and grooves, and Colley and Stephans lend their original voices and unique contributions to each track.
Stephans emphasizes that OM/shalOM is not a collection of jazz interpretations of Jewish hymns and songs; nor is it related in any way to Klezmer music. It contains elements of jazz, folk music, free improvisation, and contemporary classical music. Here you will find some great post-bop playing, a tango, a Viennese-like waltz, a New Orleans strut, a burning Calypso trio (featuring Liebman, Jackson, and Stephans), a startling and poignant wooden flute solo by Liebman, a beautiful bass clarinet and piano duo by Maupin and Liebman, and many other sonic delicacies throughout.
Michael Stephans' OM/shalOM is an exciting and unique recording and was heard and experienced live on February 25th, 2007 at the Deerhead Inn in the heart of the Poconos, and on February 26th, 2007 at the famed Blue Note in New York City.
ABOUT MICHAEL STEPHANS
"Michael is one of the most involved, sensitive, and musical drummers I have known, plus -- he swings!! Calling him a drummer isn't really good enough -- he inhales the music and gives you a lovely breeze in return."
-- Bob Brookmeyer
"Michael Stephans is the thunder, the storm, and the calm before it. He beats your heart as your heart beats."
-- Leroy Downs, The Jazz Cat
"...a melodic, unique, and outstanding drummer." -- L.A. Jazz Scene
"Stephans throws the book away on drumming -- he plays completely by gut feeling."
-- All About Jazz
"In the world of modern drumming...Michael Stephans is one of the true keepers of the flame."
-- Bennie Maupin
Michael leads three distinct but interrelated lives. As a college professor, he holds a Ph.D. in education, and two Master´s degrees, in English and education respectively. He has taught at three prominent universities and is currently in residence at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania, where he teaches writing.
Michael has also been active as an award-winning poet, writer, and jazz journalist, often writing liner notes and promotional material for such luminaries as Bennie Maupin, Bob Brookmeyer, Darek Oles, and Bob Florence. His work has been published in many literary journals, and he has authored three books of poetry and fiction, with a fourth on the way.
A prominent jazz musician, Michael has performed and recorded with a wide array of jazz artists, including Bob Brookmeyer, Bennie Maupin, Dave Liebman, Pharoah Sanders, the late Charlie Byrd, Don Menza, Bobby Bradford, Phil Ranelin, Buddy Colette, Alan Broadbent, Bob Florence, Mike Melvoin, Lynn Arriale, Bud Shank, John Patitucci, Karl Berger, Vinne Golia, and many others. He has also played with personalities as wildly diverse as The Rolling Stones, Cher, David Bowie, Shirley MacLaine, and Natalie Cole, to name a few.
In addition to his performance activities, Michael was awarded composition grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Percussive Arts Society. The former afforded him the opportunity to write a large ensemble piece called "Shapes and Visions" for the vibraphonist Karl Berger, which was performed at the Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.; and the latter gave him the opportunity to compose a solo work for drum set called "Downside-Up," which has been performed frequently at regional and national competitions, recitals, and festivals.
Michael is currently a member of the Bennie Maupin Ensemble and the Dave Liebman "Hometown Trio."