Biography

FAY VICTOR, hailed as ‘artistically complete’ by the New York Times is an improvising vocalist, composer, lyricist and educator riding all the chasms and seams of musics that are improvisational and conversational in nature. 

 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

Called “artistically complete” by the New York Times and “a thrilling improviser” by Downbeat magazine, vocalist/composer Fay Victor consistently hones a unique vision of the vocalist’s role in jazz and improvised music. Victor’s eight critically acclaimed recordings as a leader since the late 90’s has seen praise in venerable media outlets such as Downbeat, JazzTimes, The New York Times, The Village Voice, Time Out New York, The Wire, Signal to Noise, The San Francisco Chronicle, Time Out Chicago, The Chicago Reader, The New York City Jazz Record and JazzWise (UK). Victor’s long standing group, the Fay Victor Ensemble, an expansive and cohesive mix of jazz, rock, blues, new music and free improvisation has released three albums to huge critical acclaim (2009’s The FreeSong Suite made it onto numerous year-end lists including The Village Voice, NPR and Popmatters.com). The experimental blues project The Exposed Blues Duo, with FVE guitarist Anders Nillson delving deep into a variety of blues forms released Bare in 2010. There is Herbie Nichols SUNG, Victor’s homage to the unsung be-bop pianist incorporating Victor’s lyrics and arrangements in a quintet and trio format. The trio project has been recorded and currently looking for label support for release and 2018 will see Victor release Wet Robots on ESP-DISK, a brand new vehicle for fresh sounds and improvisational approaches in a group called SoundNoiseFUNK.


In addition to Victor’s band-leading projects, her voice has attracted esteemed ensembles including Other Dimensions in Music (ODIM), the perennial free jazz outfit joined forces with Victor for 2011’s Kaiso Stories on Silkheart Records in 2011, lauded for its impressive fusion of Calypso, the music of Trinidad & Tobago and home to Victor’s cultural roots, with free jazz. The legendary and longstanding Dutch outfit, the Instant Composer’s Pool Orkest (ICP) led by Misha Mengelberg/Han Bennink invited Victor to tour with them in Europe in 2010 and appear during US tours in 201, 2014 and 2015. Victor is the first vocalist to work consistently with ICP in it’s 50 year history. Victor was one of the vocalists on Trillium E (New Braxton Records 2011) with Anthony Braxton’s Tr-Centric Orchestra and Trillium J during the four-day Braxtonian Festival in 2011. Reedist Ab Baars invited Victor and french horn hero Vincent Chancey to celebrate 20 years with his esteemed trio in 2011 including a 15 concert European tour, the first time Baars had written material for voice and specifically for Victor; that work is contained on The Invisible Blow (Stichting Wig 2014). Victor received a presenting commission from Anthony Braxton himself on behalf of the Tricentric Foundation for Neighborhood Dynamics (co-composed with Jochem van Dijk) that was presented during TriCentric Festival in a double bill with Anthony Braxton’s Nonet in 2014. Neighborhood Dynamics is a composition about gentrification and the changing demographic landscape of Brooklyn, NY, where she calls home. Over the past four years, Victor’s work with esteemed avant-garde trombonist Roswell Rudd has seen a deeper connection appearing on his 2014 Trombone for Lovers and now appearing on every track of Embrace (RareNoise 2017), a project of re-imagined standards. Victor is part of a voice/percussion/piano duo with MacArthur genius grant recipient, professor and composer/multi-instrumentalist Tyshawn Sorey, with appearances at Constellation in Chicago, IL (2016) and Vision Festival XVVI (2014) amongst their performance highlights. Currently Victor is out on record as part of Glorious Ravage, a sprawling song-cycle in honor of Victorian-era female explorers composed by Bay Area bassist/composer Lisa Mezzacappa (New World Records 2017). Mezzacappa and Victor have collaborated frequently since 2011 and the song cycle was originally inspired by Victor’s first trip out West to play with Mezzacappa. Finally, Victor is part of ReDDeer a trio of improvisors that met at MusicOmi in 2010 with a record of live duo/trio recordings in New York & Austria called New York – St. Johann (Evil Rabbit Records 2017) and Victor is a featured guest on Marc Ribot’s Songs of Resistance, due for release in January 2018. Victor was just awarded a residency at Yaddo for Music Composition, staying there for 6 weeks to complete a large work on the life and death of her mother, in early 2018.
Victor performances has included such luminaries as Wadada Leo Smith, Marshall Allen (Sun Ra), NEA Jazz Master Dr. Randy Weston, NEA Jazz Master Archie Shepp, Nicole Mitchell, William Parker, Myra Melford, Lawrence “Butch” Morris, Gary Lucas, Dave Burrell, Henry Threadgill, Andrew Cyrille, Jason Moran, Sam Newsome, Darius Jones, Anthony Coleman, Aruan Ortiz, Joe Morris, Vijay Iyer, Matana Roberts, Mark Dresser, Steven Bernstein, Marika Hughes, Mazz Swift, Marty Ehrlich, Melvin Gibbs, Henry Butler, Curtis Clark and the Duke Ellington Orchestra.
Victor has graced stages around the world at venues/ festivals such as BAMCafe Live, The Stone(NY), Firehouse 12 (New Haven), The Bimhuis (The Netherlands), Cankarjev Dom(Slovenia), Koln Philharmonie (Germany), Nardis(Turkey), Rostov Philharmonic Hall (Russia), De Loft (Koln), The Jazz Standard, Jazz at Lincoln Center, National Sawdust, The 55 Bar (monthly residency for over 5 years), Vision Festival XV, XVI, XVIV, XXI, The ArtActs Festival (Austria), New Frequencies Festival (San Francisco), River to River Festivals (New York) to name but a few.

“Post Captain Beefheart Jazz” – Kevin Whitehead

“Victor is at the vanguard of jazz singers…”
-Robert Iannapollo, Signal to Noise

Fay Victor is a powerhouse with a clear, precise and cutting voice, and the dynamic and textural range of any master instrumentalist.”
-Roger Kim


Accomplished vocal modernist Fay Victor manages to deconstruct the tradition of jazz song without pretension or tedium” -Time Out New York


A selfie I took at the Stone

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