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Michael Jefry Stevens Trio: For Andrew

Remember the line from Butch Cassidy and the Sun-dance Kid: “Who are those guys?” How can a piano trio be this cool and not be famous? But, of course, this is jazz: You can play all over the world for 30 years and appear on 58 CDs, like Michael Jefry Stevens, and remain under the radar.

The other two members are bassist Peter Herbert and drummer Jeff Siegel. What is interesting about this trio, besides individual chops and collective cohesion, is that they mostly sail in the uncharted waters of a transitional creative zone. They venture beyond Andrew Hill (an acknowledged Stevens influence to whom this album is dedicated) but stop short of Cecil Taylor. They choose to play a cabaret standard like “Lazy Afternoon,” but they dissolve it into bare, disparate, isolated elements: a cymbal shimmer, a tentative fragmentary piano interval, an obsessive bass figure. Crashing piano chords and fierce tremolos gradually coalesce into an actual “Nardis.”

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