michael jefry stevens
conference call is a working band since 1998 featuring the exciting german woodwind virtuoso gebhard ullmann, the established piano/bass collaboration of michael jefry stevens and joe fonda (the fonda/stevens group) and the highly individual percussion stylings of master drummers george schuller, matt wilson, han bennink or gerry hemmingway.
the quartet features original music from each member of the group and utilizes the distinctive improvisational and textural talents of each of the 4 actual members: gebhard ullmanns extensive woodwind palette (bass clarinet, bass flute, tenor and soprano sax), the textural and timbral virtuosity of george schuller, the organic and highly creative piano/bass interplay between joe fonda and michael jefry stevens. all these ingredients create a highly creative and unique variety of musical flavors.
the first studio cd after 'final answer' was released in 2008 on the portuguese clean feed label entitled 'poetry in motion' - also marking the 10th anniversary of Conference Call and was listed among the best cds of the year 2008 in allabout jazz new york.
in 2010 the quartet released a new double live cd on the polish nottwo records label entitled "what about ...?" and toured the U.S. for 3 weeks.
gordon marshall's interview on allaboutjazz 1/2011
conference call on you tube (video 1)
conference call on youtube (video 2)
view conference call's electronic press kit (click here)
'what about ....?' live 2 cd set (nottwo records 2010)
'poetry in motion' studio cd w. george schuller (clean feed 2008)
'live at the outpost performance space' live w. gerry hemingway (482 music 2006)
'spirals. the berlin concert' - live w. george schuller (482 music 2004)
'variations on a master plan' - live w. han bennink (leo records 2003)
'final answer' studio cd w. matt wilson (soul note 2002)
download photo (size 18x12 cm / 300dpi / 363kb)
photo by manfred kiesant (click here)
review and photos from a concert at the bimhuis in amsterdam on february 16, 2006 (click here)
watch conference call videos on michael's website (click here)
download photo (size 22x12 cm / 300dpi / 453kb)
(live at dewerf in brugge)
photo by jos l. knaepen (click here)
about 'what about ...?
" expertly recorded and well-captured this is a monster quartet. all four members of this colossal group take a number of inspired solos throughout. at over 100 minutes, between two discs, this entire set is excellent throughout on many levels."
bruce gallanter, downtown music gallery, nyc 6/'10.
" the continuous changes of mood and texture, from rhapsodic to dadaist to wistful are stunning, and only broken when the listener has to change cd's. dig the frenzied searching 13 minutes into the title track - wow ! "
nathan turk, signal to noise fall 2010.
" when the free jazz idiom is wielded with such authority and prowess as demonstrated by gebhard ullmann and conference call it seems clear that a transformation (of the idiom) is underway ... it is difficult to envision a better exhibition of ability, creativity and group cohesiveness in this idiom'
mike reynolds, music reviews.com 10/'10
budd kopman in allaboutjazz about 'poetry in motion' (10/08)
poetry in motion, by the collective group 'conference call' deserves to be considered as one of the year's best for the simple reason that its balance of thought and emotion, structure and freedom, clarity and abandon, is exquisitely and transparently laid out. regardless of who composed any particular tune, providing a distinctive voice, the group acts as an organic unit, with the total sound becoming more than the sum of its parts.
glenn astarita in downbeat about 'final answer' (8/03)
' from the onset, it becomes easily discernible that the musicians' karma equates to a magical session ...****1/2 .'
tobias soeldner in sueddeutsche zeitung about a concert of conference call feat. han bennink at the unterfahrt in munich ('03/'01)
' selten geht man nach einem jazzkonzert hinaus und stellt ueberrascht fest: besser geht's nicht. gebhard ullmann hat in der unterfahrt mit dem quartett 'conference call' diese leistung vollbracht.'
daniel spicer in one final note about 'live at the outpost performance space' (6/'06)
' if it's possible to have a super-group in a musical form as marginalized as contemporary, left-field jazz, then conference call is a pretty good contender ... the quartet sounds like a band with one foot firmly in the paris/chicago axis of the late-60s BYG avantgarde sound and another keeping up to date with the tuneful, exploratory freedom of wayne shorter's recent celebrated quartet. ask yourself this: is there anything about that equation that doesn't sound like a good thing ?'
chris kelsey in jazz times about
'spirals. the berlin concert' (5/04)
' conference call as a whole swings with a gleeful impetuosity that's hard if not impossible to dislike. kinda sounds like what the late '60s miles davis band might have become had they stayed the course.'
joerg meilicke in jazzthetik, germany
about 'final answer' (04/03)
' so und nicht anders wuenscht man sich die essenz des jazz des neuen jahrtausends. ***** .'
thom jurek in allmusic guide, usa
about 'final answer' (2003)
' this is a remarkable record that will leave the listener wondering why this band isn't headlining festivals all over the world.'
tobias boecker about a concert at the 'birdland' in neuburg/donau ('02/'06)
' freiheit die ich meine: wer an die jazzszene der deutschen hauptstadt denkt, sollte vor den möbus, mahall, wahnschaffe und wie sie alle heissen nicht vergessen, dass andere schon lange vor dem roten bereich und dem rosa rauschen den berlin sound prägten. einer davon ist gebhard ullmann, seit 20 jahren unverdrossener protagonist der freien improvisation von dessen ungebrocheneer kreativer energie sich die besucher des birdalnd wieder einmal überzeugen konnten ...
der international hoch geachtete gebhard ullmann ist ein technisch höchst versierter virtuose an saxophon und bassklarinette, verfügt ueber ein schier unbegrenztes ausdrucksspektrum, brillante instrumentale fertigkeiten und ein exzellentes feeling für das dem augenblick gebührende. was er und seine exquisite band - michael jefry stevens am piano, joe fonda am bass und george schuller am schlagzeug - auf der bühne des birdland spielen, ist hochdifferenzierte interaktive musik, die sich verdichtet und wieder entflicht, zumeist hochofenheiss glühend, mal überraschend schmuseweich und geschmeidig oder von nachdenklichem zögern getragen. gespeist von multikulturellen impulsen werden die themen in vielgestaltiger expressivität mit raffinesse entwickelt, komplex ausgeschöpft, kraftvoll, kommunikativ und konsequent ins leben gesetzt. der kurs in richtung freiheit bleibt der richtige.'
randy mcelligott in jazzreview.com, usa (2002)
' conference call is one of the most important ensembles on the scene today.'
michael jefry stevens has performed a.o. with dave douglas, mark feldman, leo smith, gerry hemingway, cecil bridgewater, valery ponomarev, dominic duval, dave liebman and billy martin. a sampling of his discography includes the fonda/stevens group 'evolution', 'the equinox trio' feat. dominic duval and 'haiku' feat violinist mark feldman (all on leo records)
joe fonda has been recording and touring over the last several years with anthony braxton and is featured bassist on numerous recordings with mr. braxton including the famed charlie parker project recordings as well as the piano quartet recordings with braxton on piano. he has performed a.o. with ken mcintyre, charlie persip, lou donaldson, perry robinson, kenny barron, leo smith, curtis fuller and chico hamilton. he recently recorded his first solo bass cd and has released numerous cds on the konnex label, leo records and music and arts.
george schuller drummer/
george schuller is a founding member of 'orange then blue', and has recorded and produced all five of orange then blue's releases over the last 16 years including the latest on gm recordings entitled 'hold the elevator: live in europe and other haunts'.
he has released several albums as a leader including the latest entitled 'hellbent' released in dec. 2002 on playscape recordings featuring the schulldogs with tim berne, tony malaby and ed schuller.
schuller appears on joe lovano's 'rush hour' (blue note) which was voted album of the year by downbeat Critics ('95) and was nominated for a grammy the same year. he has also recorded and/or produced cd's with tom varner, luciana souza, ed schuller, bill dearango, lisa thorson, ballin' the jack, mario pavone, mike musillami, bevan manson, mili bermejo, tom beckham, andrew rathbun, miles donahue, eugene maslov and gunther schuller.
since graduating from the new england conservatory of music in 1982 he has performed with dee dee bridgewater, lee konitz, nnenna freelon, jaki byard, danilo perez, dave douglas, kenny werner, george adams, fred hersch, mose allison, the wdr orchestra among many others.