Release Date: April 9, 2021
Label: Outside in Music
Kinetic is the spellbinding big band debut from pianist, composer, arranger, orchestrator, educator and Yamaha Recording Artist Steven Feifke. One of the most in-demand artists of his generation, Feifke has amassed an impressive discography having appeared on 30 albums all before turning 30 years old. After over a decade’s worth of work as a notable sideman, conductor and arranger for esteemed artists as Steve Tyrell, Chad Lefkowitz-Brown, Santino Fontana, and most recently, Veronica Swift, Feifke finally comes to the fore on this smashing new album that highlights his singular vision and distinct voice.
Joining the bandleader is an ensemble made up of players from the very frontline of the contemporary jazz scene including drummer Ulysses Owens Jr., vocalist Veronica Swift, tenor saxophonist Lucas Pino, and alto saxophonist Alexa Tarantino among many others. The music on Kinetic was refined during the big band’s popular monthly residency at The Django in New York City that ran for nearly two years before COVID brought all live performances to halt. These regular live performances afforded the band to develop a cohesive common language and solid rapport, lending a rare intimate air to this large ensemble recording.
While Kinetic is his formal label debut, Boston-native Feifke has been a ubiquitous presence on the scene in a plethora of musical arenas. A two-time semi-finalist in the Thelonious Monk Jazz Piano Competition, Feifke has written commissioned work for such notable institutions as the Manhattan School of Music Jazz Orchestra featuring jazz trumpet greats Sean Jones and Jon Faddis, the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra with Ken Peplowski, the Malmo Big Band with Katie Thiroux, and the New Generation Festival Orchestra featuring Dominick Farinacci. Additionally, Feifke works as musical director for musical theater luminary and Tony Award Winning actor and singer Santino Fontanato. In the realm of television music, Feifke’s compositions and orchestrations have been prominently featured on such hit shows as Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee (Netflix), Impractical Jokers (TruTV), and Animaniacs (Hulu).
Feifke is also a respected educator; he is currently on faculty at The New School of Jazz and Contemporary Music where he teaches composing and arranging. He has served as a guest educator at Moravian College, Yale University, Williams College among others, and was the 2018 recipient of the “Pros Meet Pupils” grant from Arts Mid-Hudson after developing a comprehensive curriculum about the history of civil rights in America and its relation to jazz pedagogy and performance.
All of this and more informs Feifke’s unique artistry, which is on full display on Kinetic. “I have been running my big band for the past 10 years — since just after I moved to New York, pretty much. Of all the musical releases I have been a part of since then, Kinetic is the one that contains the most “Feifke” on there. It’s just 100% me. It’s my own voice, and it’s my own unique stamp on the big band idiom,” Feifke says, adding, “I am really proud of the end result.”
Acclaimed pianist, producer and arranger Gil Goldstein notes, “There is a traditional quality to the music but upon closer listening you can hear Steven’s voice and how he reinvents the big band format to suit his musical personality. He plays with a similar adventurous spirit, which is at once rooted in the modern jazz piano tradition, while showing a curious and probing musical mind.”
Kinetic begins with the bright tempoed swing of the album’s title track. Feifke’s Coltrane – McCoy tinged melodic refrains glide atop an unshakeable swing before the band descends on the tune’s rich melody. The track demonstrates the pianist’s immense improvisational acuity with solo features from the composer as well as trumpeter Gabriel King Medd and drummer Ulysses Owens Jr. The album’s first single, the video for “Kinetic” premiered late last year with JazzTimes. The album continues with another highlight, “Unveiling Of A Mirror”, a composition rife with impressionistic intrigue. The two contrasting parts of the tune (a softer and more mysterious textured beginning, and hard-hitting swing section) speaks to the complexities of reflections and our often-diverging perceptions versus realities. The piece features solos by trumpeter Benny Benack III, saxophonist Sam Dillon, and drummer Joe Peri. The composer won second place, for “Unveiling of a Mirror,” in the 2016 BMI Charlie Parker Jazz Composition Competition (judged by Wynton Marsalis, Jimmy Heath and Alan Ferber).
“The Sphinx” is a true feat of sonic exploration and instrumental virtuosity. The shifting time signatures and sonorities of the piece serves the overall energy of the composition, not for one second sacrificing musicality for the sake of technicality. The piece is equally served by the stunning musicianship of the ensemble and especially soloist Lucas Pino who acts here as the Gonsalves to Feifke’s Ellington. The album ventures on with a sultry vocal feature for vocalist Veronica Swift on “Until The Real Thing Comes Along”. Recalling iconic moments of this song’s rich history, from Andy Kirk to Jackie Wilson, Feifke’s arrangement ultimately is one of restraint, romanticism, even reverence.
Showcasing a who’s who of acclaimed, virtuosic instrumentalists and masterful arrangements, Kinetic offers audiences the polish of a studio album with the electric intrigue and emotional ebb and flow of a live performance in a time when gathering to enjoy live music is impossible. The echoes of the Django residency ring throughout this album with ebullient arrangements of gorgeous Feifke-penned originals and jazz standards, reflecting the very pinnacle of orchestral jazz.
"The post-cancellation payoff has arrived with pianist Feifke’s debut big-band release, an impressively varied set of music featuring top-rank NYC players roaring on compositions and arrangements that occasionally bring to mind jazz orchestras of yore, including the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra, but also point to a fast-developing talent who’s bringing fresh ideas to the genre." Read this review here.
ALL ABOUT JAZZ
"...for those who appreciate contemporary big bands whose guiding purpose is swing, Kineticshould furnish ample excitement and pleasure. If Herman, Basie and, Buddy Rich were still around, it is reasonable to surmise that this is the path they would have followed. Read the review here.
NEW YORK CITY JAZZ RECORD
"The title could arguably be Hyper-Kinetic. Steven Feifke takes the idea of big band seriously, pushing ensemble strategies at the listener like a juggler keeps multiple balls in the air." Read the review here.
DEE DEE MCNEIL
"The opening tune explodes into the universe like a meteor streaking across the sky. It features conductor, pianist Steven Feifke, invincible and tenacious on piano." Read the review here.
BEST OF JAZZ
"Kinetic provides us with some impeccable medication: lively music in its approach and manner, throughout the tracks and their succession. Yet the sound is polished and clean, making it even more enjoyable." Read the full review here.
ALL ABOUT JAZZ
"Showcasing Feifke's skills with pen and piano, and highlighting the work of many of his rising-star peers, it's a shining example of how possibility may be transformed into reality." Read the review here.
Read the complete feature story in the March 2022 issue of Downbeat Magazine.