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For Andrew by Michael Jefry Stevens Trio

Pianist/composer Michael Jefry Stevens has been an international force in creative improvised music for more than 35 years with 58 CDs and over 400 compositions to his credit. His projects have involved him in a variety of settings. 2008 found Stevens recording with a number of small groups: Eastern Boundary Quartet - including two noted Hungarian players, Conference Call - representing a ten-year collaboration with German woodwind master Gerhard Ullman, the Memphis-based Southern Excursion Quartet and the Michael Jefry Stevens Trio.

The trio's CD, For Andrew, is dedicated to pianist/composer Andrew Hill, one of Stevens' major influences. Hill passed away in April 2007. This studio session, although recorded in 1996, is as new as today.

Stevens, Siegel and Herbert are not your basic mainstream piano trio. They prove that freedom and interaction are compatible and bring improvisation to the level of on-the-spot composition with their performance of two standards, "Nardis" and "Lazy Afternoon." On Miles' "Nardis" the listener is taken on a long and innovative journey to the familiar theme. "Lazy Afternoon" opens with Siegel's soft percussion. Herbert enters on bass. Then we hear the opening phrase, "it's-a-lazy-afternoon," which underlies an exploration of sound and space guided by Stevens' harmonic sense, crisp touch, well-placed chords and clusters of notes.

Stevens' compositions conjure up many moods."The Lockout" is a blues with an air of mystery. There's calm in the lyrical "Spirit Song" and darkness in "Specific Gravity." "Waltz" contains some hand-in-glove exchanges between piano and bass. It and "Lazy Waltz" are a long way from conventional one-two-three. Seigel's drums add to the intensity of "Parallel Lines" and the closer, "The River Po" showcases Herbert's bowed bass.

Stevens believes that "For me music is first and foremost an expression of beauty...There is beauty in a triad and there is a different but no less exotic beauty in a dissonant interval or sound. Along with the expression of beauty I am trying to express my heartfelt emotions at the moment. "

It's not easy to write about beauty. I thought so in 2002 when reviewing Andrew Hill's A Beautiful Day. The words I used then seem appropriate now for Stevens' For Andrew : "His music is not meant to be inspected, dissected and analyzed but to be felt. It will involve you emotionally." Enjoy.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Michael Jefry Stevens Trio
  • CD Title: For Andrew
  • Genre: Free Jazz / Avante Garde
  • Year Released: 2008
  • Record Label: Konnex Records
  • Rating: Five Stars
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