Drummer - Percussionist - Educator - Composer

Forever Real Review for onefinalnote.com


  • Herb Robertson - trumpet
  • Michael Jefry Stevens - piano
  • Joe Fonda - bass
  • Harvey Sorgen - drums
  • Napoleon Maddox - human beat-box and poetry

Simply put, the Fonda/Stevens Group is one of the finest and most underrated post-bop groups around. If you want to talk about innovation, tight musicianship, and near stellar interplay (all of the most important things in putting together a group) then you have to mention the group on Forever Real, Fonda and Stevens’ latest effort. The album, which includes Michael Jefry Stevens on keys, Joe Fonda on bass, Herb Robertson on trumpet, Harvey Sorgen on drums, and special guest Napoleon Maddox on human beat box and poetry, has flashes of everything from Ramsey-Lewis style funk to reminiscence of Anthony Braxton.

Together since their days in the Mosaic Sextet, Stevens, Fonda, and Sorgen take their intense musical relationship to the next level on this, their eighth album. The title is appropriate since these guys are one of the truest groups in modern jazz, blending all elements from the most traditional to the most free. All seven tunes are Fonda/Stevens composed, keeping with the tradition of what they have been doing for years whilst still breaking some new ground. The group’s constant experimentation with time signatures can be heard most overtly in “The Call”, a bluesy piece driven by freeform movements and subtle but pushing trumpet of Robertson.

“Cotton”, probably the hippest cut on the record, is the only one to feature guest beat boxer and poet Maddox of the Cincinnati hip-hop group Is What?! Behind front piano and drumming and atonal trumpet, Maddox can be heart dropping ridiculous hi-hat and bass drum sounding beats, playing extremely well with drummer Sorgen. Halfway through the cut Maddox starts waxing poetic about his sociopolitical beliefs and it is wonderful. He speaks his mind about the state of youth and the things that make material items worth more today than nonmaterial ones. Shouting like a modern day beat poet behind a supped up 50s free jazz quartet, I was left wishing that Maddox had been featured more prominently on this record.

The other tracks on the album speak for themselves. From the haunting, piano-driven “A Question of Love” to the upbeat rap of “From the Source”, the record is easily one of the most solid records of 2005 so far. There isn’t a bad cut on the album. Just take in all the myriad styles the Fonda/Stevens Group has to offer and hope that other groups can come close to how consistent they are with their near-perfection and intensity.