“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 last year while on their US tour. Victor is 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 at Roulette in Brooklyn, NY and Victor toured with the Dutch reedist Ab Baars celebrating 20 years with his trio. It was the first time the reedist had written material for voice and specifically for Victor.
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) just out this past November has revealed the evolution of the group’s musical and theatrical personality even further.
–Ben Ratliff, The New York Times
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 ExPose 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 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. Victor’s other activities include running an active teaching practice and a weekly Jazz Vocal Workshop in New York City. Victor has a monthly residency 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), Roulette/Location One, Zebulon, The Apollo Theater, Galapagos Art Space, Barbes, The BopShop, Cornelia Street Café, Tonic, The 55 Bar, The Vision Festival XV, The ArtActs Festival (Austria) and the River to River Festivals. Outside the USA, Victor has performed in the Netherlands, Spain, Belgium, Germany, France, 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, Aruan Ortiz, Duck Baker, Connie Crothers, Tyshawn Sorey, Matana Roberts, John Hebert, Wolter Wierbos, Ab Baars, Wilbert De Joode, Fred Lonberg-Holm, Anton Goudsmit, Henry Butler, Achim Kaufmann, Curtis Clark and the Duke Ellington Orchestra.
“Betty Carter is less an influence than one of her few peers in jazz history” – Tom Hull, The Village Voice
–Tom Hull, The Village Voice