“If you have never seen her perform live, she is joy incarnate. She scats, she wails, coos, squalls, caresses, plays with words as if writing a play on stage, and does so with a twinkle in her eye. One can hear influences ranging from Nina Simone to Frank Zappa to Bill Dixon to Jimi Hendrix in her music.”
– Richard Kamins, Step Tempest
In command, infectious, energetic and strong, Fay Victor hypnotizes audiences, whether she sings a blues, sculpts a free piece, reinvents a Herbie Nichols tune through her own lyrics, or effortlessly improvising over the harmonies of a jazz standard or her own material with lyrics that speak of universal themes in story-driven ways, running the full gamut of human emotion in an original mix of traditional song forms and free improvisation – or “FreeSong” – that has become Victor’s trademark approach to improvised vocal music.
The trademark not only applies to Victor’s own groups and original music but also to esteemed ensembles and band-leaders that have featured her unique vocal abilities, so unique in fact, that the ensembles Victor is now featured rarely, if ever, have vocalists in them. Other Dimensions in Music (ODIM), the perennial free jazz outfit going on 40 years of existence joined forces with Victor for 2012’s Silkheart Release, Kaiso Stories (which Victor also produced) that was lauded for its unique fusion of Calypso and free jazz as well as the original synthesis of Victor’s vocal approach with the groups’ dynamic range of expression. Victor has also been featured with the Misha Mengelberg/Han Bennink outfit the Instant Composer’s Pool Orkest, touring with the Dutch group in 2010 and appearing with them during their 3-day run in Philadelphia on their 2011 US tour. In 2015, Victor was asked to be one of six guests featured with ICP over their 3-day run at Roulette in Brooklyn, NY. (check article in NYT here). Victor was one of the vocalists in Anthony Braxton’s Tr-Centric Orchestra, featured on Trillium E (New Braxton Records 2011) and the performance of Trillium J during the four-day Braxtonian Festival held in October 2011 also at Roulette in Brooklyn, NY. More forays with instrumental groups include touring and recording with the Dutch reedist Ab Baars celebrating 20 years with his trio, the first time the Baars had written material for voice and specifically for Victor. In September and October, Victor appears in Glorious Ravage, a song cycle written by Bay area bassist and composer Lisa Mezzacappa to perform with 4 original films created by independent filmmakers from the Bay area as well. The ensemble consists of 15 of the most respected and lauded musicians on the West Coast including Myra Melford, Vinny Golia, Nicole Mitchell, Mark Dresser and more. The piece will premiere on the Angel City Jazz Festival in September 2015, a few days later opening for two night at the beginning of October at the Brava Theater in San Francisco . Learn more about this fascinating project here.
“Post Captain Beefheart Jazz” – Kevin Whitehead
Victor’s own projects, starting with the Fay Victor Ensemble, Victor’s flagship group now over eight years old has released two critically acclaimed recordings of all original music and are about to release the third in the Fall of 2013. The music is an expansive and cohesive mix of jazz, rock, blues, new music and free improvisation written by Victor and bass guitarist/collaborator Jochem van Dijk. The group’s last release, The FreeSong Suite (Greene Avenue Music 2009), was The Jazz Session’s Jason Crane TOP Pick for 2009. The record also placed 4th Place in the Jazz Vocal Category of the 2009 Village Voice Jazz Critics Poll and a spot on the 2009 best of lists in AllAboutJazz-New York, NPR and Popmatters.com amongst others. This recognition has gone on to get Victor listed on Downbeat Magazine’s Annual Jazz Critics Poll for the first time in 2010 (and again in 2011 and 2012); tremendous attention for an all-original program and an avant-garde vocal project. Absinthe & Vermouth (Greene Ave Music 2013) released in November 2013 has revealed the evolution of the group’s musical and theatrical personality even further.
Victor also collaborates with FVE guitarist Anders Nilsson in The Exposed Blues Duo, a formation set off after an invite to Marseille, France in December 2007 to lecture and perform at the WinterNights Festival. The resounding response from the audience made clear something new was being said – fusing true blues and blues based music with free jazz and suite-like shapes. The Duo’s debut release, BARE, was released in August 2010 and received accolades from The New York Times and Time Out New York. BARE just landed 10th in the Vocal Category of the 2010 Village Voice Jazz Critics Poll(legendary journalist David Fricke picked it as his Vocal pick for the year for the Poll) and was selected one of the Best Vocal Releases for 2010 in AllaboutJazz-New York. The ExPosed Blues Duo perform regularly around New York City and have featured guests from time to time such as alto saxophonists Roy Nathanson and Darius Jones, cellist Tomas Ulrich and bass guitarist Tim Dahl. in 2013, the duo started developing compositions of Ornette Coleman that opened new sound vistas and collaborative ideas.
In addition to working on the Fay Victor Ensemble’s new release, Victor is also developing a project of the iconic and underrated pianist Herbie Nichols entitled Herbie Nichols SUNG. Victor has written lyrics to a large number of Nichols compositions with an active group in place for the project. Last April, there was a small European tour of Herbie Nichols SUNG that was an astounding success. Will head back to Europe in 2016 to tour with Herbie Nichols SUNG once more and there are plans to release this project in the not too distant future. Victor has a monthly residency on the last THURSDAY of every month at the West Village spot for jazz, the 55 Bar, mixing it up with her own groups, special projects and celebrations while in the meantime building a strong following in that special space.
With her active groups or as a featured guest, Victor continues to perform extensively around New York City and internationally appearing at venues/ festivals such as BAMCafe Live, The Stone, Firehouse 12, The Bimhuis(Amsterdam), De Singer (Belgium), Nardis (Istanbul, Turkey), Roulette/Location One, The Apollo Theater, Galapagos Art Space, Barbes, The BopShop, Cornelia Street Café, Tonic, The 55 Bar, The Vision Festival XV,XVI and XVIIII (NY, NY) New Frequencies Festival (SF, CA), The ArtActs Festival (Austria, The Very Very Threadgill Festival and more. Outside the USA, Victor has performed in the Netherlands, Spain, Belgium, Germany, France, Turkey, Italy, Sweden, Austria, Slovenia, Romania, Andorra, Mexico, India, Poland, Russia & Japan. She has collaborated with musicians such as Misha Mengelberg, Anthony Braxton, Han Bennink, William Parker, Lawrence “Butch” Morris, Andrew Cyrille, Gary Lucas, Anthony Coleman, Steve Coleman, Nicole Mitchell, Marvin Sewell, Roswell Rudd, Vijay Iyer, reedist Michael Moore, Dave Burell, Marika Hughes, Sam Newsome, Aruan Ortiz, Connie Crothers, Tyshawn Sorey, Matana Roberts, Wolter Wierbos, Ab Baars, Wilbert De Joode, Fred Lonberg-Holm, Anton Goudsmit, Henry Butler, Achim Kaufmann, Curtis Clark and the Duke Ellington Orchestra.
–Ben Ratliff, The New York Times