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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
*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
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.”