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Album Review

More proof — as if it's necessary — that classical music and jazz-based improvisation are not mutually exclusive spheres. Pianist Michael Jefry Stevens and violinist Mark Feldman have flaunted their abilities as free jazz players in a variety of contexts; here, they pare down the instrumentation and explore a less overtly aggressive music. The quiet intensity of this record at times bears a resemblance to fully composed chamber music (might Feldman be related to Morton, per chance?). It's remarkable how both men meld the composed and improvised so completely. Of course, the vast majority of the music is improvised. Where a classical composer will state a theme and then elaborate upon or vary it on paper, an improviser simply uses the theme as raw material for spontaneous development. Even knowing this, in the hands of Stevens and Feldman, it's occasionally somewhat difficult to determine where the composed ends and the improv begins. Feldman is one of the most intriguing violinists in new music: His tone is uncommonly elastic and expressive. In its purest form it's as beautiful as the most conventionally classic tone, yet Feldman is able to take it into sonic areas worthy of George Crumb. Feldman pays great attention to detail; his attacks and releases are always sculpted, never tossed off. He reacts instantly and cogently to directional shifts in the course of an improvisation. As does Stevens; such instantaneous recognition of one another's intent is part of what makes this music so good. Like Feldman, Stevens is a thorough player. His beginnings and endings are finely wrought. His touch and articulation is sensitive and varied. The music they create is quiet and meditative, for the most part, yet seasoned with episodes of great agitation. World-class music, created by musicians beyond category.


Born: 1955 in Chicago, IL

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Virtuosic violinist Mark Feldman is classically trained, but probably best known for his performances with the top improvisers and composers of the '80s and '90s in avant-garde jazz and new music. Having appeared in numerous John Zorn projects, Feldman was also a member of Arcado String Trio, with renowned bassist Mark Dresser, and cellists Hank Roberts (on the JMT/Polygram releases) and Ernst Reijseger (on the Avant release). He has toured extensively with Pharoah Sanders, trombonist Ray Anderson,...
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Haiku, Mark Feldman
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