Amy Stephens Group
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Amy Stephens Group

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“Instantly embraceable jazz…Stephens reveals towering talents.” - David Lindquist


“Stephens is a brilliant composer who is able to allure you with a sophisticated appealing feel.” - Chuck Workman


“Here is contemporary jazz that is passionate, innovative, engaging and witty. You can spend hours pouring over it with headphones on. It stands up to close examination. The biggest star on the disc is Stephens, whom I’ve never met but whose playing is so warm and intimate I feel like I’m best friends with her already.” - Steve Hammer


“This is one of many artists whose music I truly believe in. I've found her music quite engaging and listenable; it has great spirit, verve, and imagination.” - Michael Nastos


“The jazz enthusiast will recognize influences of John Coltrane and Miles Davis. The unsophisticated jazz lover will just find music that is both stimulating and comfortable. In listening to her compositions, it is evident that Stephens has thoroughly absorbed the jazz idiom and is able to express her own muse with real authority in that uniquely American musical tradition.” - Alex Suczek


“Hers is an irrepressible talent that the world will hear from in years to come. Amy is a brilliant musician, pianist, and composer-arranger. These compositions of Amy's rank with the best I have heard. I found it impossible to single out a favorite.” - David N. Baker, internationally-renowned jazz educator and composer


"It's great music and a great band... the doctor prescribes it!" - Dr. Mike, program director


"The third album from pianist Amy Stephens shows off a noteworthy maturity in composition....the majority of the works are in a highly structured modern jazz vein. Stephens suggests Keith Jarrett on the keys from time to time, with some dexterous moves inspired it would seem by classical training (there are hints of third stream embedded in some of the compositions as well). In other parts, the pace picks up for something akin to a Vince Guaraldi number, thumping bass keys all a-flutter. The rest of her quartet works admirably. Jack Helsley stretches each note out of the bass as though there was a limited supply, adding a pensive effect to the music. Tom Clark is a standout on the soprano sax in both solos and the basic melodic lines. Kenny Phelps holds up the rhythm admirably, keeping time and tone... The performances are all tight, but the composition is the star on this one. Give it a listen for the delicate mix of old and new hidden in the works. "
- Adam Greenburg


The third release by pianist/composer Amy Stephens provides further confirmation that jazz has matured sufficiently as an art form to serve as a vehicle for very different, very individual moods and feelings. With a background that includes classical training, study with jazz educator David Baker, and experience as music director for various churches, Amy has developed a very personal mode of expression within the jazz genre, expressed as much through her compositions as through her piano work. Having kept a quartet together since 1998 she has had the opportunity to perform and develop her work, although having recently moved from the Midwest--Indianapolis I believe--to Seattle, she now has a new group, which is heard on one track.

This is not the run-of-the-mill jazz group--it is clearly an extension of Stephens' musical personality which reflects an interesting combination of elements: her classical background ensures that pieces such as "Inquietude of the Soul" is not the normal bread and butter of bebop; "Breakfast In Atlanta" has a definite gospelly, hymn-like feeling; and her time in the Midwest gives her music that same wide-open feeling you can hear in some of Pat Metheney or Charlie Haden's work, as well as in some Scandinavian players such as Jan Garbareck and other ECM artists. Interestingly, some outlets classify her as Rock/Pop as well as jazz, and the airplay she has received have been from a gamut of different stations. But Amy's music is not the bloodless stuff of smooth-jazz or pop. True, "Waiting For You" has the feel of a Carole King or Joni Mitchell song without lyrics, and the melody of "There Must Be A Place Called Heaven" also has the simple inevitability of a pop song. But this kind of simplicity is what a lot of composers strive for and melodic accessibility is a strength not a weakness. No, this music is exactly as she has billed it–reflective of her Many Moods": joy at "Reunion" with her original quartet, wistfulness in "Waiting for You," tenderness in "Lullaby." And, of course, "Tranquility" speaks for itself.

The quartet members provide admirable support wherever they appear; Helsey provides firm, big-toned lines, both in accompaniment and solo passages, Phelps is crisp but unobtrusive, and Clark, where he appears–"Inquietude Of The Soul" is a piano solo and "Waiting For You" is for piano plus rhythm only–is a strong improviser with a purity of tone that fits perfectly into the sound of the group.

"My Many Moods" features Stephens' new, Seattle-based ensemble, adding a sense of transition to the other life changes that underlie the compositions here. Judging by the performance, her next album will pick up right where this one leaves off. And this one is a gem.

Reviewed by Peter Westbrook, jazzreview.com, posted March 2007
- Peter Westbrook


Discography

My Many Moods, 2005, OA2 Records

Gold Through Fire, 2000

Amy Stephens Group (debut CD), 1998

Compilation CD's featuring ASG songs:
• WTPI-FM Jazz Sampler CD's #4 & #5 (benefiting music education in Indianapolis public schools)
• Here for You (benefiting women's health research)
• Project Bloomington (benefiting national forest preservation)
• Seattle Jazz Vespers 2005 (benefiting jazz education scholarship fund)
• Indianapolismusic.net and City of Music Project 2001 (benefiting the arts community)
• Live from Bloomington 1999 & 2000 CD's (benefiting regional food bank)

Photos

Bio

Amy Stephens Group is proud to be with OA2 Records, a Seattle-based jazz label gaining international acclaim and Grammy nominations. Amy Stephens Group is now based in San Francisco.

For her third album as a leader, composer/pianist Amy Stephens takes her quartet through a set of originals inspired by recent life changes, including marriage, motherhood, and her cross-country move. With interests ranging from Brazilian and Afro-Cuban to Mainstream and European chamber jazz, Stephens performs eclectic yet seamless music that's been described as "...passionate, innovative, engaging and witty" by Indianapolis' Nuvo.

The Amy Stephens Group has performed throughout the Midwest and the Pacific Northwest and is currently building a new audience in the SF Bay Area. They have performed at many festivals including the American Pianists Association Festival, West Seattle Jazzfest, and Indianapolis International Jazzfest and have appeared in four PBS television jazz specials. Amy's compositions have been included on eight CD compilations.  The ensemble also enjoys opportunities in the area of jazz education, serving as clinicians jazz festivals and schools.

ASG has been featured on jazz radio across U.S. & internet jazz radio around the world:
WEMU-Detroit, WRTI-Philadelphia, WSKG-Ithaca, WWSP-Wisconsin, WFPW-Washington D.C., KSJS-San Jose, WIIT-Chicago, KPLU & KBCS-Seattle, WICR & WFIU-Indiana, WSHA-Raleigh, WKAR-Lansing, KSDS-San Diego, KMXT-Alaska, WHCJ-Savannah, WSUM-Mississippi, WBGU-Ohio, Radioio.com, Jazzexcursion.com, and more!