Michael Jefry Stevens

For the Children

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During his long and fruitful career, pianist Michael Jefry Stevens has spanned the range of music from commercial rock and funk to mainstream jazz, and the modern creative improvised style. This recording was in the can for some 13 years before seeing the light of day. It showcases the quartet of Stevens while he was living in New York City, teamed with the mighty bassist Dominic Duval, drummer Jay Rosen, and ex-Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers tenor saxophonist David Schnitter. The music reflects on a certain hard- to post bop esthetic, ballads for old flames, and a solid metropolitan edge that neither boils over, nor secedes to any pressure, expectation or self-doubt. In many ways a robust session due to Schnitter's expressive playing, it also marks this rhythm section as a driving force that can also play tender and restrained, but no less potent jazz. There's a correlation to the post-hard-neo bop music made by Chick Corea and Joe Henderson in the late '70s to early '80s, confirmed by the driven intricate swinger "Henderson," but further cemented by the more mysterious "Specific Gravity" with the rumbling piano of Stevens. "Patato's Song," for the great conga player Carlos "Patato" Valdes, is also in the Corea-Henderson mode, with a thin, minimalist Latin groove built by the band other than Stevens, although he does come in late, and Schnitter's Bronx swagger comes across on the straight bluesy "The Hunt." "Lazy Waltz" is passive in rhythm and melodic content, while the spirited "Graduation," led by Duval's modal bass, has Stevens and Schnitter playing deft lines together in the most convincing modern bop presentation of the date. On the lighter side "Sadness of the Madness" is a reflective, moody ballad that can also be heard on the recording that Stevens and bassist Joe Fonda released, Parallel Lines. "Sunny's Song" is a soulful tribute to love lost, especially from Duval's bass, and the title track, while not at all a child's song, is a reflection of the helpless innocence of youth we all must lose, but many times refuse to. This for some might be an interesting aside in the discography of Stevens, for his horizons would expand in the next decade. It's good to look back sometimes at the way things were, how we used to be, and how thankful we are for the now, being both difficult but exciting. This CD also gives a glimpse to the vast abilities of Duval and Schnitter, unsung heroes in jazz who, like Stevens, deserve much wider recognition.

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