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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Fonda Stevens Group - Memphis (Playscape, 2009) ****

The Fonda Stevens Group is a band that's been around for more than 20 years in various line-ups, but always with the solid foundation of Joe Fonda on bass and Michael Jefrey Stevens on piano, and Harvey Sorgen on drums, and with most of the time Herb Robertson on trumpet. The great thing about the band is its human warmth and musical openness. They can play AACM-like music ("In The Whitecage"), post-bop ("For My Brother"), blues , Stanko-esque melancholy ("Whole Majesty"), free improvisation ("Yes This Is It") as spontaneous chants ("Memphis Ramble"), as long as it sounds well, it is fun, musically entertaining and interesting. The interaction is great, with four musicians who have come to know each other so well that it all sounds so easy and smooth, with shifts and turns being taken almost simultaneously, smoothly, flowing between forms, soloing and group playing, between genres and subgenres, as if the whole jazz catalogue is just there for the taking and seamless improvised integration. True, they stay away from the boundary-shifting approach (don't expect the Robertson you think you know, you've rarely heard him play so "in-side" as here), but the lack of adventure is more than easily compensated by the warmth and musical joy.

Watch a performance in Philadelphia last year

© stef


Foka said...

Stef, I'm literally addicted to your blog. Anyway, do you know some jazz releases with marimba? I can't stand the sound of vibraphone, it's to cold for me, but I love the sound of marimba and I wonder if it apears in free jazz?

mjsjazz said...

Thanks for the great review of my latest CD "Memphis". However, please note the drummer is Harvey Sorgen!!! And has been for over 20 years! THanks
Michael Jefry Stevens
Fonda/STevens Group

Foka said...

I found also great recordings on youtube with Fonda/Stevens Group with two Hungarian musics in Eastern Boundary Quartet

Stef said...

Oops - sorry for the mistake - of course it's Harvey. I'll rectify immediately.


Stef said...

Hi Foka,

There are numerous albums by Kevin Norton on which he plays both vibes and marimba.

One album I can really recommend is "Indigenous Technology" by Ken Schaphorst (flugelhorn, piano), Dane Richeson (marimba) and Matt Turner (cello). An insufficiently known, but brilliant modern jazz album.

Hope this helps.

Foka said...

Thanks a lot:)