The Healing

COMPOSERS: Various
LABELS: Leo
ALBUM TITLE: The Fonda/Stevens Group
PERFORMER: Joe Fonda (b), Michael Jefry Stevens (p), Herb Robertson (t), Harvey Sorgen (d)
CATALOGUE NO: CD LR 338

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The Fonda/Stevens Group has been producing hard-hitting but carefully considered music since the mid-Nineties, and its recordings for Music & Arts, DeWerf and Konnex as well as, more recently, for UK-based Leo, have been notable not only for their power but also for their consistency.

The band’s stylistic approach has been called ‘freebop’ – a label that neatly summarises its particular mix of post-bop punchy fleetness and fondness for the textures and space associated with free jazz – but, as bassist Joe Fonda says, they are clearly ‘attracted to the entire spectrum of the music… it’s all part of the same continuum’.

Three of this latest album’s eight tracks were recorded live in Avignon in October 2000, the rest a couple of months later in New Jersey’s Tedesco Studios, and they range from relatively conventional theme/solos/theme pieces, through attractively nervy, scurrying free improvisations, to contemplative ballads imbued with a degree of tenderness not often found alongside such unrestrained vigour.

Composing duties are shared between the co-leaders, and the band’s overall approach is a model of democratic, fiercely interactive spontaneity, but in Herb Robertson they have found a true original who somehow contrives to combine the unconventional, woozy expressiveness of European trumpeters such as Tomasz Stanko with the febrile energy of his US bop and hard-bop forebears.

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As Michael Jefry Stevens comments, the band finds ‘beauty in many different styles’, but as the muscular, viscerally exciting music on this memorable album proves, it has successfully integrated them into a lively yet always coherent whole. Chris Parker