Survivor\'s Suite - Solo Piano
(Jazz Halo Records) Jerry D\'Souza in \"allaboutjazz.com\"!
\"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.\"
Robert Iannapollo in Cadence (USA) October 2003
\"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 by 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.\"
Survivor\'s Suite - PIANISTI IN SOLITUDINE - Point Jazz (Belgium)
JAZZ’HALO, TS015, 2002
Co-fondatore nei primi anni Novanta assieme a Dave Douglas dello storico Mosaic Sextet ed attuale componente dei Conference Call, il pianista newyorchese Michael Jefry Steven approda al suo secondo lavoro discografico pubblicato nell’arco del 2002 e per di più ad una non più giovane età. Registrato dal vivo a Brugge, in Belgio nel novembre 2001, l’incisione corona infatti la fine di un tour europeo allestito per festeggiare il suo cinquantesimo compleanno. Tenutosi sempre distante da facili clamori, pur mantenendo in vita un trio dal sapore jarrettiano (Stevens, Siegel & Ferguson) ed incidendo per l’altrettanto poco conosciuto Fonda/Stevens Group, il pianista da fondo nel cd a tutta la sua intuitiva arte poetica fatta di espliciti richiami a certo romanticismo, debitore nei confronti della lezione lasciata da Bill Evans, senza disdegnare un’evidente accademismo contemporaneo (For Galo, The Search e Musica Callada di Mompou parlano da sole). Mostrando un’ampia austerità di linguaggio, la suite omonima lunga trentatre minuti, si dispone invece in cinque suggestive sezioni interamente composte ed improvvisate sul momento con tanto di dedica agli scomparsi dell’11 settembre. (GT)