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Dayna Stephens’ Patience & Grace

In his music and his health struggles, the saxist exuded composure and fortitude

Dayna Stephens

That Nepenthetic Place (Sunnyside), the captivating third album from the Paterson, N.J.-based tenor saxophonist Dayna Stephens, builds slowly. It doesn’t hurry. At its wildest, on a take of “Impressions,” things catch fire but never burn down the house. “Where’s the tension in letting go completely?” it seems to ask. The perils of moving too quickly are always on Stephens’ mind.

“I think that’s just me being honest about who I am naturally,” explains Stephens when asked about the composed nature of Nepenthetic. “I’m telling myself these things as I’m playing: ‘It doesn’t need to be rushed’ and ‘Just take your time.’ So maybe it comes across that way without even saying it.”

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