Dayna Stephens Quartet featuring Billy Childs
Sunday, October 8th, 8 p.m.| Morris Graves Museum of Art, Eureka
"A tenor saxophonist of lissome tone and square-shouldered attack."
—Giovanni Russonello, New York Times
We’re grateful for saxophonist Dayna Stephens’s return to the RJA stage, not only because he’s a busy sideman, but because only a couple of years ago it would have been nearly impossible. And that’s the theme of his eclectic new album, Gratitude, an exultant and humble tribute to the interconnectedness of life, conceived and recorded in the wake of life-threatening kidney disease.
Born in Brooklyn, raised in the Bay Area, Stephens has worked with everyone from Roy Hargrove to Carlos Santana, always with a clarity of intention that suggests he’s listening as much as playing. The new record is full of what he thinks of as “earworms”—emotive, infectious tunes penned by a variety of songwriters, all animated by what the New York Times calls a “gravity-defying melodicism.” Across the nine compositions, Stephens’s improvisations follow threads of discovery that weave around his bandmates (including Brad Mehldau) with a focused, exploratory reach.
For this show, we’re also lucky to have the prestigious composer/pianist Billy Childs in an all-too-rare role as inventive accompanist. Known in the ‘80s as a sideman for the likes of Freddie Hubbard and Joe Henderson, Childs has a dynamic new album, Rebirth, that signals a return to his roots in small-group performance, nourished by the intervening decades of sophisticated composing and arranging that have garnered him countless awards (including four Grammys and a Guggenheim fellowship) and commissions from the likes of the Detroit Symphony and the LA Philharmonic.
Rounding out Stephens’s impressive band are bassist Dave Robaire and drummer Christian Euman. Like their leader, they’re alums of the elite Thelonious Monk Institute, in-demand players who have worked alongside Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, and plenty of others. For the Morris Graves show, the quartet will play music from both Gratitude and Rebirth, as well as tunes by Horace Silver, Hoagy Carmichael, and more.
Stephens released Gratitude on his new record label Contagious Music. Medical associations aside, the label’s name invokes a story of connection. Latin scholars tell us that contagious translates literally as “touching together”—apropos for an event where, we predict, musicians and audience alike will be touched by the spirit of gratitude.
Tickets ($15 General Admission, $10 Students & Seniors) are available here at our website and at People's Records, Wildwood Music, Wildberries, and The Works.
Dayna Stephens, Dave Robaire, and Christian Euman will also present an open public workshop at 9:00 a.m. on Monday, October 9th in Music 131 on the HSU Campus (across the walkway from Fulkerson Recital Hall). People of all levels of experience are welcome to attend, and admission is FREE.
Words & Pixels:
Video (see also at left):
Audio (see also at left):
Additional support for this show comes from Dick Taylor Craft Chocolate, Karole Ely & Arcata Stay, Humboldt Arts Council, Humboldt Folklife Society, Marimba One, Carol & Les Scher, and Tomo Japanese Restaurant.