I, Leo Feigin, producer of this CD, hereby confirm that I have been waiting for this kind of recording for twenty years!
At last, Leo Records has a truly jazz CD in its catalogue. Not the retro bullshit, not the nauseating smooth jazz, not the
young lions crap, but the real jazz; the way jazz music should have been had it
not been hijacked by big business, glossy magazines, brainless DJs, prostitute
journalists and brainwashed festival promoters.
Joe Fonda, Michael Jefry Stevens, Harvey Sorgen and Paul Smoker are equally at home in and out. They wrap up all the
influences, all the sounds that came before, then they roll the universe into a ball and make it new!
The total time is 58'28
The music will tell you everything. It lies, simply, beyond words. When
what is felt lies too deep, when what must be said and what's most strongly
felt cannot be said, then people speak in their music. The most lasting
truths are those that not only can be sung, but must be sung. That's when
there's only music.
And the best music isn't made to sell and sell quickly, but to endure. To
warm cold days and cool hot ones. To take root in the soul and give it
expression. It doesn't have to be complex or esoteric in order to do this.
In fact, some of the most potent music through the ages has been simple and
straightforward. But complex or simple, this kind of music can only be made
by people who are honest to the core of their being.
Joe Fonda, Michael Jefry Stevens, Paul Smoker, and Harvey Sorgen make
honest music, music of the present moment, on this live recording. Their
music brims with calm and deep joy and just as deep sorrow; it's driven
throughout by nothing less than what's most precious to them. One of the
glories of jazz and improvised music in general is that it's personal music.
No one else is speaking but the musician. Listen to music by Louis, Duke,
Miles, Coltrane, Anthony Braxton, Steve Lacy, Evan Parker, and the rest:
it's just like listening to them talk about what they love most. That's the
way it is here. In a world of lies, music is true. The music on this disc
is powerful, personal, moving, exquisitely crafted, variegated,
uncompromising, delicate, and strong. And oh, the images it brings to the
mind's eye! Images of a millisecond's duration and ones that form a trace in
the mind - images of beauty beyond telling, of love and hope and joy and
"Music atrophies when it gets too far from the dance," said Ezra Pound.
The Fonda-Stevens Group never does - not from the brave and resigned
reminiscences of "For Us" to the sunny front-yard folk of "Oh, Lord, It's
Nice to Sit on Your Porch Today." Like all the music of Fonda, Stevens,
Smoker, and Sorgen, it breathes the air of many worlds. Fonda is equally at
home in Anthony Braxton's farthest-out large groups and with the gutsiest of
electric bluesmen. Stevens tabs as his main piano influences the
spectrum-opposites of Bill Evans and Cecil Taylor. Smoker can whisper and
muse like Miles and blaze forth like a muezzin. Sorgen is right there no
matter what kind of swing it is: swing swing, ballad swing, free swing,
no-swing swing, or porch swing.
"There is no separation in the music. It's all part of the same
continuum," says Fonda. "I'm someone who's attracted to the entire spectrum
of the music."
Stevens concurs: "For me the basic aesthetic principle which exists in
all my artistic endeavors is to create beauty. Fortunately I'm able to find
beauty in many different styles, and all of these styles have become part of
my musical vocabulary." What you get is music that's supremely accessible
in the best sense. It doesn't condescend or traffic in cliches, but it
doesn't ignore any of the places you can go to find music, either. In just a
few moments at the beginning of "For Us," Stevens' solo encompasses a
history of jazz piano. There are a lot of ballad performances in the world
that call attention simply to themselves as examples of virtuosity in the
balladic form; this one, on the other hand, with its delicately shaded
colors, isn't just about itself. It evokes mist and midnight and images of
love and loss. In other words, instead of being shallowly self-referencial,
it tells a story. As does all great music - which is not to say that the
music is merely a backdrop, or that those stories can or should be told in
Indeed, all the music of this quartet is supremely evocative. Often as it
struggles between order and chaos, it becomes unclear which is order and
which is chaos. What is harmony? What is symmetry? There are no pat or easy
The finale sums it up in microcosm: "Oh, Lord, It's Nice to Sit on Your
Porch Today," even more varied influences and strains are brought in - from
Seventies pop-folk to the freest Taylorian sturm und drang. "And that's
something we need to continue to do," says Fonda. "Always bring everything
in, and see what you can do to make it new, you know?" It works: this song
gave me an overpowering desire to sit on a porch and watch a summer sunset,
with a Corona and a good friend, someone who could help me make it new.
Make it new. That's the imperative of all great music: to wrap up all the
influences, all the sounds that came before, to roll the universe into a
ball, and make it new. The Fonda-Stevens Group makes new music on this disc.
Sit on the porch and enjoy it. The music will tell you everything.