Over the past 40 years Pianist/Composer Michael Jefry Stevens has been associated with some of the most important figures in modern jazz.
Beginning with his first CD release in 1991 as a member of Mark Whitecage’s Liquid Time Group, Michael has been in the forefront of the NYC and international improvised music scene. Between 1988-1990 he co-led the now legendary “Mosaic Sextet” with Dave Douglas. This group included Mark Feldman on violin, Michael Rabinowitz on bassoon, and the rhythm section of Harvey Sorgen on drums and Joe Fonda on bass. Their “Today This Moment” CD release on Konnex Records and re-release on GM Recordings is considered one of the classic modern jazz recordings of the 1990s and was voted one of the best 1000 jazz recordings by the 2011 Penguin Guide to Jazz.
This rhythm section went on to become the nucleus for the Fonda/Stevens Group. Since the quartet’s inception in 1992, the Fonda/Stevens Group has released 14 CDS, repeatedly toured Europe and is one of the most successful working modern jazz groups on the international scene. Michael also began a very fruitful and fulfilling relationship with Leo Records with his duo “Haiku” CD release in 1994, featuring Mark Feldman on violin. These piano/violin improvisations proved to be a pivotal link between Stevens’ work in both the composed and improvised music worlds.
In 1999, Michael began the Conference Call Quartet, featuring his partner of many years, bassist Joe Fonda, in collaboration with German saxophonist Gebhard Ullmann and George Schuller on drums. This quartet has released eight CDs over the past 20 years.
Michael has released over 100 CDs featuring his own music and has performed and recorded extensively with many of the top names in Jazz, including Dave Liebman, Oliver Lake, Dave Douglas, Leo Smith, Matt Wilson, Han Bennink, Mark Feldman, Steve Wilson, Walt Weiskopf, Valerie Ponomarev, Cecil Bridgewater, Jeanne Lee, Dakota Staton, Pheeroan AkLaff, Charles Moffett Sr., George Schuller, Dame Evelyn Glennie and many others.
In 2016, Michael was voted “Best Composer of WNC” by the Mountain Xpress. In 2017 he received a Regional Project Artist Grant from the Toe River Arts Council. In 2021 he received a $10,000 Doris Duke Foundation Performing Artist Recovery Fund Grant administered by the New York Community Trust Fund and grants from the North Carolina Arts Council and Buncombe County’s Mountain Bizworks. He received his Master of Arts degree in Jazz Performance from Queens College (CCNY).
More recent projects include the “Eastern Boundary” featuring Hungarian drummer Balazs Bagyi and Hungarian saxophonist Mihaly Borbely, his partnership with New Orleans horn man and vocalist Brian “Breeze” Cayolle, the “Generations Quartet” featuring saxophonist Oliver Lake, the Mountain Chamber Jazz Ensemble and most recently the Lillard/Stevens Sextet. He was the “Margaret Lee Crofts Fellow” for 2000-2001 at the MacDowell Colony, and was a Centrum Arts composer fellow (2004).
Michael was artist in residence for at EMU Conservatory in La Plata, Argentina between 2005-2010, and has taught master classes at the Royal Academy of Music in Denmark, Sibelius Academy in Finland, University of Michigan, Indiana University, and many other educational institutions in Europe, Latin America and North America. He currently teaches jazz piano, composition and jazz theory at Eastern Tennessee State University.
Michael Jefry Stevens is truly a believer in the global music community and a vocal exponent of an international music. He is a member of the IASJ (International Association of Schools of Jazz), ISIM (International Society of Improvised Music), JEN (Jazz Educators Network) and the AAPF (Asheville Area Piano Forum).