Tag Archives: Joe Fonda

Jazz’N’More review by Jürg Solothurnmann

cf079ANTHONY BRAXTON / JOE FONDA – „Duets 1995“ (CF 079)
Note: 4
Diese CD ist eine Wiederveröffentlichung einer beim deutschen Label Konnex erschienenen CD. Anthony Braxton hat schon verschiedene Duetts mit Bassisten aufgenommen, beispielsweise mit Mario Pavone und Peter Niklas Wilson. Mit Joe Fonda, der ebenfalls in Neuengland lebt, spielt Braxton schon seit den 80er Jahren immer wieder. Der stark unterbewertete Bassist und Komponist ist vielleicht am besten bekannt von seinen Gruppen mit dem Pianisten Michael Jefry Stevens, in denen es häufig um allerlei Brückenschläge zwischen modernem Mainstream und Free Jazz/Free Music geht. Dies kommt der CD zustatten. Am Anfang und am Schluss stehen die Standards „All Of You“ und „Autumn in New York“. Braxtons Spielweise als Altist ist zwar stark von der Tradition (Benny Carter, Cool-Saxophonisten) beeinflusst, aber die Bebop-Stilistik hat er nie gemeistert – weder die Artikulierung noch die form- und akkordbezogene Improvisation. Diese seltsame Vorliebe irritiert darum. Doch mit allerlei Wassern gewaschen, versteht es der voluminös klingende und temposichere Fonda glänzend, die wackeligen Momente aufzufangen. – Ueberzeugender sind die anderen sechs Tracks, je drei Eigenkompositionen. In Fondas Stücken werden Themen frei weiter gesponnen, wobei Braxton Gebrauch macht von seinen differenzierten „sound languages“ und „rhythm languages“. Seine eigenen unisono exponierten Kompositionen verwerten improvisatorisch isolierte Teilaspekte, was eine kohärente Wirkung erzeugt. Jedes Stück hat einen anderen Fokus. “Composition 168 (+147)” kontrastiert bedeutsame Stille mit heftigen Ausbrüchen. In “Composition 173” wird mit Power linear gespielt, wobei Braxtons spezielle rhythmische Phrasierung besonders zur Geltung kommt. Und die “Composition 136” erforscht Varianten der Intonation und mit weiten Sprüngen zwischen extremen Tonbereichen.

Tomajazz review by Patchi Tapiz

cf-118Conference Call – Poetry in Motion (CF 118)
Poesía en acción ****
Poetry In Motion de Conference Call (cuarteto compuesto por el saxofonista y clarinetista bajo Gebhard Ullman, el pianista Michael Jeffry Stevens, el contrabajista Joe Fonda y el percusionista George Schuller) es un manjar. El menú que proponen estos cuatro músicos está compuesto por siete exquisiteces. Como ocurre con los platos más selectos, su magnífica entrada en oido explota en múltiples sensaciones si se degustan empleando para ello el tiempo suficiente.

Un factor decisivo es la enorme categoría de esos cuatro músicos. Conference Call no es la típica reunión de figuras de turno que coinciden en un estudio y que habitualmente suele devenir en experimento con mayor o menor fortuna en su forma final. Este grupo lleva funcionando como tal diez años, siete con estos cuatro integrantes. Una cantidad de tiempo más que suficiente para dar lugar a conciertos, grabaciones en directo y en estudio, colaboraciones en otros proyectos, pero sobre todo para crear esos lazos invisibles que hacen que haya un grado de entendimiento que va más allá de lo que aparece escrito en los pentagramas.

Conference Call funciona como una unidad orgánica, a lo que colabora sin duda que todos los músicos hayan aportado sus correspondientes composiciones. Éstas son expuestas con un grado de libertad tal que permite que los instrumentistas varíen sus roles habituales o que trabajen en una aparente independencia que de repente se transforma en sincronía perfecta. El resultado es un paradigma de cómo debe funcionar un grupo de jazz y pura poesía para los oídos de principio a fin.

All About Jazz review by Karen Hogg

cf-118Eastern Boundary Quartet (Konnex)
Conference Call – Poetry in Motion (CF 118)
Southern Excursion Quartet – Trading Post

Pianist Michael Jefry Stevens has enjoyed a prolific musical journey but collaboration could be seen as the inspiration behind his music. Each project Stevens participates in offers a different framework to explore his compositional and improvisational ideas.

On the eponymous debut of the Eastern Boundary Quartet, the music literally crosses international boundaries as Stevens, along with bassist Joe Fonda, collaborates with Hungarian musicians Balazs Bagyi (drums) and Mihaly Borbel (sax). This live recording is a musical quilt combining the spirit of jazz with the distinctive nature of Hungarian music. The disc begins with “Song for My Mother,” a Fonda composition, that starts off plaintively, building to an insistent crescendo and ending with masterful drum work. “The End Game,” a Latin-flavored Stevens piece, features a melodic, virtuosic solo from Fonda and on “Tuzugras/Fire Jumping,” the quartet exhibits an uncanny energy and drive. Rounding out the disc is an improvisational piece and Mongo Santamaria’s “Afro Blue”. With two American and two Hungarian musicians, the Eastern Boundary Quartet is a musical melting pot of the best kind.

For Andrew by Stevens’ trio with bassist Peter Herbert and drummer Jeff “Siege” Siegel is a showcase for Stevens the composer. Though the Miles Davis/Bill Evans classic “Nardis” and the Moross-Latouch composition “Lazy Afternoon” are included, the majority of the compositions belong to Stevens. “Spirit Song” exemplifies Stevens’ lyrical playing, “Waltz” is a propulsive piece that lets Siegel demonstrate his nuanced, expressive drumming and “The Lockout” is a playful, insistent tune with a march-like feel. “The River Po,” the closing track, begins with Herbert bowing in the upper registers, creating a dark, moody tone. The compositions exhibit various influences from modern and free jazz, but each tune has Stevens’ distinct stylistic stamp.

Conference Call, on the other hand, finds Stevens as part of a composing collective. All the members—Stevens, Fonda, reedman Gebhard Ullmann and drummer George Schuller—contribute compositions to Poetry in Motion. Stevens wrote the title track and the aptly named “Quirky Waltz”. Another standout track is Fonda’s “Next Step,” a kinetic composition that highlights the rhythm section. Schuller’s “Back To School” allows Ullmann to showcase his prodigious skills. The last tune, Ullmann’s “Desert…Bleue…East,” is a shape-shifting tour-de-force demonstrating the rhythmic interplay of the ensemble.

Stevens is also a part of the Southern Excursion Quartet, a collective of musicians living in the southeastern part of the United States (with saxist Don Aliquo, bassist Jonathan Wires and drummer Tom Giampietro.) True to its moniker, Trading Post has a distinctly southern feel. The Andrew Hill composition “Ashes” is languid, like a humid Tennessee summer afternoon. It builds in intensity, but never loses the relaxed feel. Giampietro’s “A Long and Lonely Nights Work” sounds like it could be heard drifting out of a jazz club on Beale Street. Stevens, who moved to Memphis after years in the New York City area, contributed two pieces to this CD, “For Wheeler” (dedicated to trumpeter Kenny) and “Spiritual,” the soulful closing track.

Touching Extremes reviw by Massimo Ricci

The specialist skills of the members of this quartet – together with a perceivable enthusiasm in the approach to the music – are relevant elements in this particularly elegant recording, which gathers musicians who – one way or another – have been working jointly for many years (especially pianist Michael Jefry Stevens and bassist Joe Fonda, whose artistic connection dates back to 1984). Saxophonist Gebhard Ullman performs on soprano and tenor, plus bass clarinet; both he and drummer/percussionist George Schuller are also frequent partners of Stevens. Each of the accomplices contributes with his own compositions, thus applying an iridescent lacquer to the record that is all the more conspicuous given the high standards of the instrumental level. The foursome are able to unchain themselves from straight behaviour when they wish to do so, pushing the boundaries of attitude well ahead of the canons of mainstream; it’s clearly observable, though, that their strongest asset is the ability of cuddling the listener across relatively placid seas, a rigorous pursuit of the graceful and the tasteful the fundamental objective through passages where delicacy and fervour find a point of compromise, leaving a door open to comprehensibility in the most elaborate fragments as well. The single voices shine throughout but, overall, this is a truly collective effort, the only actual deviations from the canon being a moaning-and-panting bass solo by Fonda where he seems to make love to the instrument (“Next Step”) and Schuller’s suggestive hammer whistle call ending the disc in “Desert… Bleue… East”. Fluently communicative and sophisticatedly instinctive, Stevens and Ullmann complete a superb combination, their coolness being the proof that jazz can still reach significant altitudes even when not furiously screaming and flaming from the nostrils.

CONFERENCE CALL – Poetry in Motion (CF 118)