Michael Jefry Stevens

The Survivors Suite

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Pianist Michael Jefry Stevens co-leads the fine Fonda-Stevens modern jazz group, amid numerous session dates for many of his peers. With this effort, the pianist fulfilled a wish -- to coincide with his 50th birthday -- by performing and recording works for solo piano. This outing represents the final concert of a mini-European tour. While Stevens might not enjoy the widespread popularity of many high-profile jazz pianists, his colors shine in glittering fashion here. Other then a rendition of Thelonious Monk's "Ask Me Now" and Federico Mompou's "Musica Calldada," the remaining four (original) works highlight his penchant for embossing quaintly organized melodies and deconstructing motifs. In addition, Stevens possesses an uncanny knack for melding simplistic, yet often lilting themes with complex chord voicings. He seems equally comfortable in a variety of settings, including the blues, free jazz, and mainstream frameworks. However, the equalizer resides within Stevens' multifaceted compositional elements, awash with contrapuntal, left-hand-based ostinatos and rhythmically oriented block chords. He doesn't always dazzle via a speed-demon approach, but can turn up the heat when the occasion arises. It's all about mood-evoking lyricism that is prone to challenge the listener's imagination as he injects a hodgepodge of disparate concepts and ascending movements into the mix. In sum, Stevens' dream comes to life in rather prolific fashion. Recommended.

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