Kudos to Downbeat for doing a feature on Brooklyn based tenor saxophonist Dayna Stephens. We will definitely be hearing more from this young musician and that’s a very good thing. ‘A Timeless Now’ is a beautiful record from start to finish. It’s rare that I listen to a record more than twice and I’m already on my fourth run through of this one, discovering new things on each listen.
Dayna’s big, robust, yet sweet sound and beautifully melodic lines make you think he is twice his age. He is only 27. After just one listen however you do hear his youthful exuberance but its disguised with so much musical maturity it confuses you. His debut release as a leader is a wonderful collection of originals; a gorgeous reading of ‘On The Trail’ and an equally gorgeous turn on ‘But Beautiful.’ Featured throughout the album is young piano phenom Taylor Eigsti who shines on every track. It’s hard to pick a highlight. I particularly enjoy his Rhodes work on ‘Teeth’ and more specifically the sound he coaxes out of the Rhodes. The rhythm team of bassist Ben Street and Eric Harland are rock solid with the latter turning in some of the more creative drumming on record that I have heard recently. The addition of John Scofiled on the date is no doubt a coup for the young saxophonist but in my opinion is unnecessary. That’s not a dig on Sco but more a compliment to this band being able to stand on its own. Having said that Sco turns in some really swinging solos especially on “On The Trial.” The thing I enjoy most about Sco’s playing on this record is that he for the most part is using a dry guitar sound at least more dry than I have heard in many years.
The one thing that stands out about Stephens’ overall performance is his complete focus on making great music and not relying on flashy technique or impressive saxophone tricks. You can hear that his technique is flawless but I re-iterate he keeps ‘music’ in the forefront of his mind. Its modern jazz but its very rooted, which I think, is missing in a lot of the young players these days.