Michael Jefry Stevens

FSG live concert - Ottawa Jazz Festival

Joe Fonda/Michael Jefry Stevens Group

Where: National Arts Centre Studio

BY JAMES HALE The Ottawa Citizen

It's always interesting to hear a good, new band in its early stages of, development, and the people in the audience at Friday's With An Edge sliow got a taste of what might evolve into one of the most exciting quintets of the late '90s.

New York City pianist Michael jefry. Stevens and bassist joe Fonda have collaborated on various projects for 12 years, but this current lineup — with trumpeter Herb Robertson, alto saxo-phonist Mark Whitecage and drum- ; mer Harvey Sorgen — has the poten­tial to attract more attention than any previous jointwork.

What's most striking about the quintet is the balanee lt achieves between aggressive, sometimes abrasive, playing and languid passages of deep con- - templation. Robertson contributes the squawldng, blubbering sound he used to great advantage with Tim Berne and Bobby Previte, and Whitecage can sob and soar with aplomb.

A front line that strong might be enough for some bands, but this group pairs them with a rhythm section that is just as individualistic.  Fonda has recorded with Anthony Braxtona, passionate soloist, and Sorgen is a ferocious percussionist who is in a streetfight. Stevens, an effective colourist, was almost too reserved  in contrast. This unevenness of the band's intensity levels is likely a sign of the it's young age. The highlights of this show including an energetic sax/drums duet and a swaggering closing number reminiscent of the Art Ensenible of Chicago, were evidence that this band could mature to greatness.            `,;    1