Today, Fay Victor is announcing Blackity Black Black Is Beautiful – her 2nd album for Northern Spy – along with the first single “Breezy Point Ain’t Breezy,” a first person story about accidentally getting lost in Breezy Point, a private enclave in Queens that is a bastion of Trump supporters in liberal New York City.
Blackity Black Black Is Beautiful is the very first solo record by Fay Victor, whose 30-year-long music career has covered everything from House, New Music, Jazz (Blues) and Free Improvisation. Her deep history with dance music, her genreless output, and her lived experience as a Black woman in the world shaped a brand new process she used to create this prismatic album which touches on all the decades of her life like diary snapshots. It’s a mesmerizing collection of composed work that could only be made by an extraordinary improviser.
From hearing the raw, almost gospel vocal style over a heavy beat of Donna Summer and Sylvester, to obsessing over shows like Soul Train, Solid Gold, and Dance Fever on TV, to experiencing the sweat and groove, the freedom of bodies moving at NYC clubs like Danceteria, The Loft, and the Paradise Garage – her life changed forever. As she was developing as a jazz singer in Amsterdam in the 90s, she danced to trance music in clubs like Mazzo and The Soul Kitchen. She landed on the Billboard charts with a club hit “You Make Me Happy” in ’91. Stoned on the sacred dance floor, Fay found ecstasy in the moving body, the groove, the beat.
As she entered deeper into the world of jazz, she was attracted to the rhythmic qualities of Thelonious Monk, Eddie Harris, Eric Dolphy, Art Ensemble of Chicago, Betty Carter, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Nicole Mitchell, Milford Graves, Julius Hemphill, Charles Mingus, Herbie Nichols. Their confrontational rhythm sends her soul leaping, connecting her back to her clubheadheart.
With Mavin Gaye’s “Got To Give It Up” as a template, Fay started thinking about how her solo album might unfold. She sang, played keyboards, added textures and further dimensions with no other humans, without electronics. That was her process. Thoroughly creative, composed with music and words straight from her spirit.
Fay Victor SOLO Voice, Compositions, Nord 4 Keyboard + Processing Recorded on July 30-31, 2022 by Chris Weiss for Northern Spy Records at Birdwatcher Studios, Big Indian, NY
Greetings to you! It’s been sometime since I’ve connected on the site. It’s been a super intense Fall for all the reasons these times are intense for us all.
Thankfully, we’ve made it past Election Day 2020. WHATS??!! Stress induced days leading up to November 3rd including being part of a great work by musician and composer Darius Jones entitled We Can Save The Country just the day before. I present a small portion of my Mutations of Justice work earlier in October, a work that’s been chronicling the Trump administration since 2017. Look out for a new & dedicated website page devoted to that project coming shortly! Finally, I got to perform an amazing improvised Blues duo with guitarist Marc Ribot the day after Election Day – just the medicine we all needed that day.
Personally, THE most important NEWS to share is I have a NEW record out! My latest album with SoundNoiseFUNK is OUT (Esp-Disk) called WE’VE HAD ENOUGH! Released at the end of October 2020, our new record goes into fresh improvisational territory compositionally and emotionally. Nate Chinen selected one composition entitled “What’s Gon’ Wrong?” for his Election Day Special Playlist that included music by Dave Douglas, Wynton Marsalis & Khalil El’Zabar. Deep gratitude to Sam Newsome, Joe Morris and Reggie Nicholson for their amazing contributions to the music and to the connection we have as a band. Link via BANDCAMP
“Fay Victor is a vocalist and composer with a proud history of social commentary, and a fearless commitment to discovery. In her working ensemble SoundNoiseFUNK, she engages fully with an outright all-star team: soprano saxophonist Sam Newsome, guitarist Joe Morris and drummer Reggie Nicholson. Their second album, just out on ESP-Disk is plainly titled We’ve Had Enough. “What’s Gone Wrong” is an impassioned lament that finds Victor repeating its title phrase, along with a secondary clause (“…with the world?”). There is despair in her rhetorical question, which doesn’t seem to expect an answer — but there’s also clear determination in the way Victor and her improvising partners work through their development. Without putting words in their mouth, I’d suggest that their cohesive oneness is one answer to another open question: what’s going right?”
Sharp Visions of America by Wynton Marsalis, Kahil El’Zabar, Fay Victor and Dave Douglas by Nate Chinen (WBGO Election Day Special Playlist)
Tomorrow (11.14.2020) I’m presenting a video as part of the Jazz Gallery LockDown Sessions along with musicians John Ellis, Kweku Sumbry & Matt Stevens via Live Stream. Learn how to sign on and more on JG website. Thank you Rio for doing what you can to keep artists creative and working during this time. www.jazzgallery.org
NYC is on the uptick with Covid -19 cases, even after the Election, this tension surrounds us as the the death toll mounts. In these last few months since I’ve posted here I’ve been working more than I ever have and I welcome the distraction. Then some days it’s just too much. I try to find the balance, aiming to stay creative and active in ways that are healthy and safe. Trying to listen more deeply to myself and everyone else that I can. Trying to keep going when I can, grateful to have what I need. Please share here how you’ve been coping. I’d love to hear from you and know.The main thing I found is not to be too hard on oneself for not doing or being whatever we thought we should be.
What I want more than anything is to meet and play with friends in person again. Hug people I haven’t seen in months then throw a big party to celebrate life. Someday soon. Wishing you much love, health and safety until the next time.
Hoping this message finds you all in peace and goodwill. I’m writing from the Marine Headlands in Northern California where I’m on residency at Headlands Center for the Arts. It’s an incredible place deep in nature, yet so close to San Francisco. I’m here for a couple more weeks to work on Mutations for Justice, a large work encompassing the current administration in the White House. There will be SO much more to say about that. For now, posting to send Autumn Greetings to you all and give a heads up on what’s happening this Fall. (Check the GIG section on the FV site to get specific details!)
This Fall is one of my busiest yet. While I’m out in the Bay Area – I’ll be performing the music I’ve composed and have been waiting to share with you all! Most of this music’s been written in the last 2-3 years and hasn’t been performed so I’m excited to make that happen while I’m here working with pianist Myra Melford (we have a bunch of appearances starting in October 2019 in the Bay Area, Vancouver & Seattle), Lisa Mezzacappa (double bass) and trumpeter Darren Johnston).
When I’m back to NYC, my first appearances are at the Whitney Museum of American Art as part of Jason Moran’s STAGED, his 5-month long exhibition at the Whitney started on September 20, 2019. Just a week later, my SoundNoiseFUNK project hits Firehouse 12 in New Haven, CT to perform and we hope create a LIVE recording for future release. A release much closer in the future is BARN SONGS, my next album out as as leader coming on November 15, 2019 on the Northern Spy Label with cellist Marika Hughes and alto saxophonist Darius Jones. Thrilled for you all to hear it! I’ll be back on the West Coast in November as well for a 4 day Artist in Residence at UCLA on the invitation of Dr. James Newton. Finally a NEW Creative Improv Course starts at the beginning of November – November 5th to be exact (spots are filling up)
In other news: I won’t be back at the 55BAR for a few months due to travel and dates of the major holidays coming up. Will keep you posted about mu next date there so I’ll end my performing year doing a set for Arts for Art in DUO with the great drummer/composer Gerald Cleaver on December 15, 2019.
Thanks for reading – much love and music from here, Fay
Thank you and much love to all the musicians, students and friends that were a major part of my music making life in 2018. It was a transforming year for me starting the year as a Yaddo Fellow for 6 weeks that changed my artistic mindset completely. Seriously. Those 6 weeks exposed me to some of the most brilliant artists I ever encountered in any discipline. The constant talks about process and development forced me to take a good look at how I viewed my own work as musician. I’ve spent the rest of 2018 ingesting these new perspectives, a true mind shift for me.
I upped my teaching game in – I taught more courses on Creative Improvisation and Improvising Strategies for Songwriters (w hubby Jochem van Dijk) and was a guest lecturer at Banff for the first time, I also continued to run the Jazz Vocal Summit at the New York Workshop for the 8th year in a row.
The We Have Voice Collective truly blossomed in 2018 (We started at the end of 2017) with the release of our Code of Conduct for the Performing Arts that created a wonderful flurry of discussion and discourse around sexual harassment and bullying within our performing arts community. This is the most amazing group of powerful women and non-gender conforming artists that I’ve ever had the honor of being a part of. I’m in awe of them as individuals and the dedication they have shown to this Collective and to the cause.
2018 was an amazing year for album releases! Grateful to have been a guest on guitarist Marc Ribot’s Songs of Resistance Project alongside powerhouses such as Tom Waits, Steve Earle and Meshell Ndegeocello, I’m also singing on the brilliant composer/flutist Nicole Mitchell’s Maroon Cloud with Tomeka Reid & Aruan Ortiz in the mix.
After 5 years of no project out under my own name, I released Wet Robotson ESP Disk with my ridiculously incredible group SoundNoiseFUNK. Grateful that Wet Robots made some waves (including 4.5 stars in DownBeat magazine, being in the DB HotBox for the first time, a feature in a Norwegian newspaper and great reviews & words and outlets such as Popmatters, JazzTimes, The New York Times….and #4 on the Jazz Critics Poll for 2018 (tied with Kurt Elling) Wow!! I was floored by the attention the album received, and grateful.
I went back into the studio in 2018 (well a barn-like studio as it were) Upstate NY in September to record Barnsongs, Old & New and working on releasing that in 2019. A combination of old and new compositions of mine and Jochem van Dijk’s reconfigured for voice, alto saxophone (Darius Jones) and cello (Marika Hughes).
Last and not least by far – health became a focal point for me in 2018. Had a health scare that required a major operation and an 8 week recovery just before Summer began. I’m OK now, absolutely fine. Although it was was tough and difficult to go through. Yet, there was an abundance of beauty too. So much love and community came to the fore, a deep trust that all would be OK prevailed. People showed up and showed who they were. I learned about love in a deeper way than I understood it before. I don’t want to go through something like this again but I learned from it and I’m here! And the ultimate lesson I learned about myself… to quote a title from Marc Ribot’s Songs of Resistance album ”I ain’t gonna let nothing turn me around” for long.
Greetings and Happy Holidays to you all! Wishing everyone a wondrous holiday season and a prosperous and positive 2019.2018 has been some year on the world stage with a swift wind change right in politics around the world.Watching the news makes everything seem grim or how it all is coming to a dismal end.Climate change notwithstanding, there is still lots of positivity around the world.People trying to enjoy and simplify their lives as best they can.I spent most of the autumn in amazing cities: Seattle, San Francisco, Long Beach, Rome, Venice, Krakow, Poland and Mexico City. Everywhere the similar thread was so many homeless among the opulence. Affluent folk peering in at the lives of people either catering to their whims or somehow superficially related to outside perceptions. Yet I also met people happy with their lives as is. Content. At peace. No longer searching if they ever were. Except for music, maybe, in time of need. I was amazed to discover in Mexico that anyone can sing with Mariachi musicians and people DO when they are sad or full of heartbreak over jilted lover. This is how normal folk come out to relieve themselves of the pain of loss and more, in community. One example of how it is still a big beautiful world out there and if you can, go out and taste it.
After all this moving around, I’m firmly planted back in NYC for sometime and so much good stuff is coming up.January is chock full of goodies including the Herbie Nichols Centennial Celebration at The Stone that I’m honored to curate + my Mutations for Justice project is on the Winter JazzFest January 12th 2019 at SOB’s. Before we hit 2019, please join me at the 55BAR for the last performance of the year: at the 55BAR with Old Songs, New Skin. Come and join us for a toast to kissing 2018 goodbye!
DEC 27Old Songs, New Skin
FV – voice, compositions
Marika Hughes – cello
Darius Jones – alto saxophone
55 Christopher Street
No Cover, 2 drink minimum
Seriously though, sending the best wishes for a safe, fun and rewarding holiday season + a spanking new and prosperous 2019. I am so grateful for everyone’s support this year of the music and projects I’m involved in and coming out to shows. I could not do what I do without working with and in front of great people. Incredible to be on record with Marc Ribot, Nicole Mitchell and my own SoundNoiseFUNK in 2018, amazed that all of these projects were well received by music lovers as well as the critics.
Labor day weekend…for many a death knell to the end of summer. Life gets back to its normal rigor. Well, I’m asking what IS normal anymore, if there ever was such a thing. Seasons start to matter less as global warming creates a muddy connection. And American politics has flowered into a cruelty and blatancy not seen in my lifetime anyway. I’m not surprised at the reasons we’re here just surprised that we actually let it happen. So going ‘back’ to normal seems nostalgic or maybe the want of a memory that didn’t exist anyway. And how normal can any world feel with Aretha Franklin and now Randy Weston gone?
Strange times to be and feel positive yet I have to try. Keep moving on into worlds and spaces that feel enriching and open possibilities for what might be possible. This idea is at work this month with a new recording project of old material that Jochem van Dijk and I wrote when we began our writing life together at the end of the 90’s. Before the compositions for the Fay Victor Ensemble and back when our song forms resembled many others. Revisiting these songs with Darius Jones (alto saxophone) and Marika Hughes (cello) at the 55BAR the last few years has been a revelation in how much I still love these tunes and how now and within this sound world, they seem brand new. I look forward to sharing this when it comes out in 2019. Here is a video taken by Gerald van Wilgen that captures the special 55BAR vibe…and some surprises:
Deeper into September I’ll delve into another sound world for a first time performance with pianist extraordinaire Myra Melford, performing both of our music as well as improvising with Marika Hughes joining us on SEPTEMBER 21, 2018 at the Greenwich House. Back at the 55BAR on September 27th with SONGS We LOVE (w Sean Conly & Michael Vatcher), closing out the month on the InGardens in DUO with bassist Brandon Lopez – a first!
CREATIVE IMPROV WORKSHOP IV is coming up soon too, starting September 18 2018 for over 4 consecutive TUESDAYS at I-BEAM in Brooklyn, NY. Click the link HERE to learn more about the course and spread the word. Or drop an email to email@example.com
*In other SEPT news, A new Marc Ribot record is coming out this month and I am delighted to perform three songs on Songs of Resistance, an album of old and new protest songs with guest artists such as Steve Earle, Meshell Ndegeocello, Tom Waits and more. This will be epic.
The word is getting out about my latest release with SoundNoiseFUNK – WET ROBOTS (ESP-Disk) with some great feedback on the press front. Fantastic that so far people not only dig the music but really get what we do as a group. after the quotes, checkout the links to purchase/listen and share this music. Will add a clip from WinterJazzFest 2018 at the end.
4 ½ STARS – Downbeat Magazine “Wet Robots is a program of thoughtful particulars, but it’s Victor’s acrobatics that mesmerize. Unabashed when it comes to sound creation, one can hear the passion in every syllable she utters, whether manic or modest. With echoes of Lauren Newton and Meredith Monk, the singer builds a web of personalized pieces that boast exuberance, with each warble, shriek and roar crafting a ferocious identity. Informed by blues and politics, their cagey deployment is downright entrancing, especially when bolstered by this kind of collective clout.” –Jim Macnie, Downbeat Magazine (+HotBox), October 2018
“Singer Fay Victor is the solution to so many “What is the role of the singer in jazz today?” puzzles. The role, Victor proves throughout Wet Robots, is anything at all, anything the imagination allows. …On a third or fourth pass through this remarkable document—and what can only be called a narrowly focused part of Fay Victor’s art, as she has fronted many bands with many different instrumentations and approaches—I felt I needed to rethink what “jazz” singing really could or ought to be so many years after talents like Betty Carter, Nina Simone, and Cassandra Wilson had dared to begin redefining it. Victor is at another level of freedom and daring and creativity. Sure, this kind of music is at the arty margin, but Victor proves that this kind of abstract singing is also flesh and blood and heart and earth.
‘I sing to save my life / I sing to look human’, Fay Victor makes clear.” –Will Layman, Popmatters (8/10)
“This record stands out from the usual free jazz gestures and credit belongs to Victor. It’s not just that this is her band, but her unique singing concept leads the way. She has a familiar toolbox of vocal sounds, but it’s the way she uses her notes that matter—she has exceptional intonation and it sounds like it comes effortlessly, so she improvises with pitches and melodically logical and coherent tonal phrases. On top of that, she manages the challenging high-wire act of improvising text while always keeping it interesting and fresh. It’s a measure of a first-rate intelligence— take that F. Scott Fitzgerald.”…As abstract as most of this is, the earth of the blues comes through almost every track, often with power…” —George Grella, NYCJR, September 2018
CREATIVE IMPROVISATION WORKSHOP IV by Fay Victor Four TUESDAYS: September 18, 25; October 2, 9 2018
12 Hours over 4 weeks 6-9PM each session
I BEAM 168 7th Street
Brooklyn, NY 11215
(between 2nd & 3rd Avenues)
+ FINAL Concert @ IBEAM for all the participants SUNDAY, October 14th @5PM Sign-up to hold your spot – firstname.lastname@example.org signup & payment due by Tuesday, September 4, 2018 Course fee: $250.00 (Payable by Paypal, Zelle or by Check) Course fee: $250.00
About the Creative Improvisation Workshop
Vocalistswill learn, discover and explore their voices, leaving the course with tangible tools for improvising inside, outside, alongside songs and beyond with an improvising vocalistwith over 15 years of experience as an improvisor performing with everyone from Marshall Allen (Sun Ra) to Dr. Randy Weston with Anthony Braxton, Archie Shepp, Roswell Rudd, Misha Mengelberg, William Parker and Wadada Leo Smith in between.
During the CREATIVE IMPROVISATION WORKSHOP you’ll experience how to develop language, listen, and interact with instrumentalists as an improvisors cultivating your own creations within an improvised context. The course will feature instrumentalists to work with participants during the course, also a group for the final concert.
A Testimonial “The Creative Improvisation Workshop allowed me to step out of my mind and into the depths of my feelings. What I’ve learned most from the experience is that being in the moment, both still and actively listening, brought out my true artistic expression. Fay provided a foundation for us in the form of technique and improvisational language. But, the heavy focus that I normally apply to my singing was lessened because I was trusting in the moment. As a result, the technique and language followed. I encourage all singers to jump into the experience, step out of their norm and find their whole creative selves. Sharing this experience with other women also added a spiritual element that is not always present in traditional jazz workshops.I am looking forward to the next time.”
August is here and that signals the downward slide of summer. For me, it’s my only summer space since the first half was spent tucked away and now this month I truly get to play. Before I get to all that, many thanks to those of you that wished me a Happy Birthday in and out of Social Media Land. It felt so grand to get your good wishes and the hang at the 55AR was sublime – fun, serious, intense, great house of great people with old and new friends! Back at the 55 BAR with Old Songs, New Skin (which we will record just a week later for release in 2019), more on that below. Before that – I’m honored to appear with Nicole Mitchell Dusty Wings project at the NewPort Jazz Festival (a first!) on August 5th and at the Stone as part of her Xenogenesis Suite: Tribute to Octavia Butler on August 11th. Then teaching in NY and Canada this month for the New York Jazz Workshop and Banff Center for Creative Music respectively. Details below…thanks for reading
SUNDAY, August 5 2018 – NOON Nicole Mitchell’s Dusty Wings NEWPORT JAZZ FESTIVAL Newport, RI Nicole Mitchell – flutes, compositions
Taylor Ho Bynum – cornet
Rashaan Carter – double bass
Shinazatte Tinnen – drums
FV – voice
THURSDAY, August 9 – SUNDAY, August 12 2018 Jazz Vocal Summit – Intermediate/Advanced FV, Course Instruction 8th year in a row! The New York Jazz Workshop – www.newyorkjazzworkshop.com
SATURDAY, August 11 2018 Nicole Mitchell’s Xenogenesis Suite: A Tribute to Octavia Butler The STONE 55 West 13th Street, NYC Nicole Mitchell-flutes, compositions Darius Jones-alto sax
Marika Hughes-cello Pheeroan Aklaff-drums FV-voice
MONDAY, August 20 – SATURDAY, August 25, 2018 Guest lecturer – Banff International Workshop on Jazz & Creative Music Banff, Alberta, Canada Vijay Iyer & Dr. Tyshawn Sorey – Artistic Directors
THURSDAY, August 30, 2018 55 BAR Monthly Residency – Old Songs, New Skin Marika Hughes – cello
Darius Jones – alto sax
FV – voice, compositions The 55 BAR
7-9PM 55 Christopher Street New York, NY
In December 2017, I opened up the Evolving Series Festival (by Arts for Art) with a new project called Mutations for Justice (Mantras for Change). I wanted to write small pieces (composed and text-based) about the political reality we’re all in right now. As an information drenched society – I wanted the texts to be repetitive, like a meme. easily subliminal perhaps leading to change. This is ambitious of course but the fear of other words taking over makes me dream even bigger and feel even stronger that these words must be said. Simply.
That concert in December with bassist Luke Stewart and drummer Michael Vatcher was a great start – so many things went well. Our next outing is on the Vision Festival 23 adding to the trio trumpeter Jaimie Breezy Branch with a bunch of new music I’ve written for the occasion as well.
Mutation: the changing of the structure of a gene, resulting in a variant form that may be transmitted to subsequent generations, caused by the alteration of single base units in DNA, or the deletion, insertion, or rearrangement of larger sections of genes or chromosomes.
What is the Mutations for Justice Project?
Mutations for Justice are a series of small composition mantras or ‘memes’ out of the need to articulate political ideas in a minimalist repetitive framework further developed through improvisation. Chanting and utilizing protest music as a mutable entity to change how we see. Words and music written by Fay Victor, these pieces will mingle with a fantastic group of improvisors adding their personal spin on the Mutations. This performance is the beginning of a developing project for Victor, who plans to write Mutations for Justice pieces throughout the Trump Administration as a document to memory of living in this time. The culmination of Mutations For Justice will be a recording project of 40 pieces in 2020.
Mutations for Justice – Vision Festival 23 Fay Victor – voice, compositions
Jaimie ‘Breezy’ Branch – trumpet
Luke Stewart – double bass
Michael Vatcher – drums
7:00PM SAT May 26 2018
Full ? here: https://youtu.be/z-PP0UrYIes
The idea of developing an avant-garde ‘dance’ group has been on my mind for sometime. I love dance music, was a club head myself (even a member of the legendary Paradise Garage). As an improvisor I’ve wanted to develop a project that you can move to while still enabling deep improvising spaces to play in. In thinking about this for a few years – the idea of what that group looked very different. Then there was the beginning of the SoundNoise Trio that inadvertently lead to an avant project….from the kernel comes out a new corn.
I started SoundNoise with drummer/percussionist Reggie Nicholson and soprano saxophonist Sam Newsome in 2015 as an open exploration that hit hard our first time out. As SoundNoise performed, I thought about how to pursue improvisation at the core of the group while keeping a pulse in the music that was organic and alive. Arriving at SoundNoiseFUNK (the addition of guitarist Joe Morris), a funk-driven free improvisational unit with a penchant for exploring this and more sonic terrain while keeps the groove going. SoundNoiseFUNK has performed on the Vision Festival, Capital Bop (Wash. DC), New Revolution Arts, the Arts for Art InGarden Series and most recently at the WinterJazzFest 2018 where Downbeat magazine had this to say about the group’s performance:
“…while Morris astounded with his staccato runs, sounding at times like a cross between Johnny Smith and James “Blood” Ulmer, and Newsome showcased his expansive vocabulary, alternately making his straight horn sound like a digeridoo, a duck call, a fuzz guitar, it was Victor’s finesse, ferocity and freestyle abandon that led the way. Watch for the upcoming debut recording on the ESP-Disk label by this extraordinary musical collective.”-Bill Milkowski, Downbeat Magazine
I am very excited about the group and project…look forward to sharing the music with you all. And keep your eyes on the FV gig pages as the SoundNoise TRIO will hit the road in Fall 2018!
Personnel: Fay Victor – voice, text, conceptualist
Sam Newsome – soprano saxophone
Joe Morris – electric guitar
Reggie Nicholson – drums Recorded August 4, 2017 at Park West Studios RELEASE DATE: JUNE 29 2018
“If jazz is the sound of surprise, this album startles – a sonic funhouse of left turns.The band floats in its own space, untethered by a bass. Morris’ guitar moves like a snake. Newhouse keens, taps, sighs on the straight horn. Nicholson makes his percussion set-ip a skittering, rattling thing. Then there is Fay her voice…as attuned to unfettered expression as Albert Ayler’s tenor.”