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The Fonda/Stevens Group: Forever Real

The perpetual outrage I felt in my youth about inequity in the jazz biz has faded over the years. Some stuff’s going to be popular. Other stuff isn’t. Some fine players win critics’ polls. Others don’t. That trumpeter Herb Robertson doesn’t is almost enough to reawaken my dormant idealism.

On Forever Real Robertson displays an abundant creativity and a comprehensive knowledge of his horn’s possibilities. He’s the complete jazz trumpeter, as able to mix it up on bassist Joe Fonda’s “Forever Real,” a loose, bossa-like modal tune, as on the many free-time episodes that dot the various tracks.

Fonda is a hard-swinging player who balances melodic and support roles exquisitely. Drummer Harvey Sorgen is a master of moving time hither and yon-maintaining the pulse while shattering meter into tiny shards. Pianist Michael Jefry Stevens blends a pliable rhythmic and melodic sense with a mercurial technique that serves him well. “Human beat box” Napoleon Maddox’s contributions are not particularly effective, but they are brief. This stuff’s out, but the band holds onto a thread of groove and swing, making it something an avant-newbie might dig.

Originally Published