REVIEW: Michael Jefry Stevens Quartet – For The Children

A new release on the Cadence Jazz label proves that you can sometimes stumble onto a hidden treasure, even one that’s been out of sight for over a decade. For The Children, featuring the Michael Jefry Stevens Quartet, was actually recorded in 1995 but has just now been issued as part of Cadence’s Historical Jazz Series.

The quartet is headed by – surprise – Michael Jefry Stevens, a respected pianist and composer with a solid record of experience in both traditional jazz and cutting-edge stuff, and he’s joined by some others with similar resumes. First and foremost is his old friend Dominic Duval, a bassist who should be familiar to fans of free jazz, and who is also the father of the children mentioned in the album’s title.

Filling out the quartet are two more veteran musicians, including tenor saxophonist David Schnitter, who was well-known in the post-bop era but has kept a low profile since, and drummer Jay Rosen, another fine instrumentalist. Both help give the quartet a firm footing in several different jazz disciplines.

The album is filled with a mix of music that reflects the diversity of the musicians’ history, although all pieces were composed by Stevens. They range from the hard-bop sounds of “Henderson” and “Graduation,” to softer and slower ballads. Some of my favorites among those included the title track, along with a nice piece called “Sunny’s Song,” which is dedicated to one of Stevens’ old girlfriends.

Another good listen was “Lazy Waltz,” although it’s free-spirited sound combined with Schnitter’s bop turns make it a piece that you could not waltz to unless you were double-jointed. I also enjoyed “Patato’s Song,” written as a tribute to Stevens’ former bandmate, Latin percussionist Patato Valdez.

A nice collection, though one that will probably appeal more to fans of free jazz or hard bop, rather than traditional. More info and samples available at artist’s website.

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