Michael Jefry Stevens

Reviews

"In over 30 minutes, Michael Jefry Stevens sends us through five stages of complexity. Minds of such intelligence gravitate to expanse, and this qualifies. The suite is three-dimensional. One crawls inside it. This music is as uncommon as what lies beneath the naked image."

"Pianist Michael Jefry Stevens blends a pliable rhythmic and melodic sense with a mercurial technique that serves him well."

"Throughout the record, Michael demonstrates a command of his instrument, not only in a technical sense, but also for the warmth and feeling he coaxes from this stringed, wooden box. His classical notions are explored in particular depth on the floating waves of "Cloud Drift" and the captivating "Whispering Wind", the latter of which bursts with a rich splendor that drives right to the core of Stevens’ sense of emotion."

"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. His phrasing has an elegance, and while he does take a line at a tangent he does not let this alter his focus. 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."

“Stevens’ melodic sensibility shines through even the most free moments of this 2015 live date while Lake makes full use of expressive distortion such that his acidic, angular lines bring spice to any sweetness. Often the tunes progress by stealth, as in Stevens’ lovely “Mantra #2”, pointillist exchange unfurling into a passage of rippling chiming piano from which a Satie-esque melody emerges.”

"Pianist Michael Jefry Stevens and bassist Joe Fonda function as a duo in the most diverse situations, and where Fonda is the man with the presence, the humble Stevens gives in many cases the music just what makes them exciting and accessible at the same time."

"Poetry In Motion, by the collective group Conference Call, deserves to be considered as one of the year's best for the simple reason that its balance of thought and emotion, structure and freedom, clarity and abandon, is exquisitely and transparently laid out. Regardless of who composed any particular tune, providing a distinctive voice, the group acts as an organic unit, with the total sound becoming more than the sum of its parts."

"When four musician-composers with this level of technique and creativity get together, it's sure to bring quality playing, but the most interesting moments on Poetry In Motion occur when the quartet forgets what they know and just do."

"What About The ...? contains all the elements that made the previous great Poetry in Motion: Material composition dense, cohesive and highly elastic, strong running, great care despite frequent explosions of sound or timbre exasperation, the harmonious development of executions in spite of the great freedom of interpretation, magically conveyed to millimeter perfect joints and fittings. Rating: 4 stars"

"Stevens' playing on "Liquid Cage" simultaneously evokes post-bop and Debussy's Preludes. Stevens' stylish voicings and Ullmann's emotive tenor are nicely offset by a gently swinging rhythm section."

“Stevens strokes the piano as if it is a set of chromatic bells. His work on the long title track rings out both during his solo where he ham-mers open intervals then fills them in with crosshatching, or under Ullmann's soprano solo where his open tones alternate with the insistent theme that brings the performance home. Stevens' "Could This Be a Polka" on disc 2 is ample demonstration of his virtuosity. The piece is in fact an old fashioned waltz that in these hands is anything but musty.” Cadence Review 3/1011 by (Conference Call “What About……?”

"What’s surprising is the quietude that lingers over the album Brass Tactics'. The band almost feels a sextet, because in addition to the brass and the piano, your attention gets drawn to the air. The absence of bass, drums, or chord instruments forces you to reckon with the blank spaces between those brass notes, whether they’re puffed bursts or the longer, elegant tones of a track like 'For Alban Berg'.”

"As a composer, Stevens teases by opening up the sequences by throwing in quotes that refer to Dixieland and Baroque-styled laxity as well as others that could be military band showpieces, C symphonic-like crescendos and even “God Save the Queen”. Outstanding writing though comes in the compositions with the least references. The original “Temperature Rising” for instance, is rooted in the Blues, but with penetrating notes from one trumpet plus tightened rasps from the trombones that segments the piece as it advances. Still, the ending is cannily linked to the introduction."

"The American pianist Michael Jefry Stevens is one of those jazz musicians of the middle generation, who has not yet succeeded with a major breakthrough. In the past two decades, the man from Brooklyn has worked with an impressive list of first-class jazz people, including Dave Douglas, Mark Whitecage and Mark Feldman, and he has an understanding of free improvisation, which doesn’t exclude a priori any form of harmony, melody or rhythm. His European quartet “In Transit”, which he co-leads together with Juerg Solothurnmann, weaves in an intuitive way a subtle network of impulsive emotional lines. Juerg Solothurnmann’s subtly dosed saxophone playing always seems to find the right tone in an almost somnambulistic manner. He leaves open much empty space for Stevens who knows how to fill it with curling and bold piano inventions."