SHORT HISTORY of the New York Free Quartet

The New York Free Quartet (NYFQ) features four musicians at the height of their creative powers. Michael Moss (tenor and soprano saxophones, Bb and bass clarinets, flute, non-western instruments: wooden and cane flutes from India, the Balkans, and the US, Thai khean, Indian ektara, shofar,Tibetan bells, composer), Steve Cohn (piano, shakuhachi, poet, trombone, ektara, Hichirichi, shofar,, African Talking Drum, Wuhan Chinese Gong, Japanese Bowl, Fir Wood Blocks, Indian Cow Bell – large/small and other exotic wind instruments, Vietnamese and other percussion, composer), Larry Roland (bass, poet, composer), and Chuck Fertal (drums, piano, miscellaneous instruments, composer) founded the NYFQ because of the vibe between them. They actively listen to each other, extending their musical quest into unexpected aural realms of abstraction and emotion.

Moss, Cohn, Roland, and Fertal are mature musicians. Each has played in vastly different settings from one another, and with each other, for many years. You can hear it in the organic yet abstract way they flow, going from one tradition to another with ease and grace, from one era of jazz to another, from one genre to another, one musical area of the world to another, but never in a straight line. After many years playing together and in other ensembles they formed the New York Free Quartet and have already recorded and are preparing for release a cd of that concert.

They believe in the redemptive healing power of music and have devoted their lives to perfecting their craft and bringing it to the public. As Chuck says, we have gone through all the issues young musicians encounter and emerged in a distilled form, alchemically transformed from the primitive, unconscious prima materia into gold.

Jazz is a musical export of American culture that presents the world with our sense of freedom; by displaying freedom in action through musical examples the NYFQ brings that power to audiences and students individually and in workshops alike. Coming from diverse backgrounds, cultures and educational experiences makes it possible for each member of this group to relate to audiences and to show them how they can play together even though they’re very different from each other. In this people-to-people environment there is a transmittal of the creativity Americans constantly practice that is not only effective but reaches across all borders through the music. The music—that’s the highest value.

Cover art by Steve Cohn

HI everyone.  Announcing the digital-only cd release of FREE PLAY, (4th Stream Records, ERG 2015), the first cd recorded by the New York Free Quartet.  Please follow the above link to our webpage to listen to and to purchase individual tracks or the entire album.
We are excited to introduce ourselves on this beautifully recorded, mixed and mastered cd:  Free Play.  Each cut is only $1 and the entire cd is only $10.  I hope you follow the link and listen to Un/Known, featuring urban folk music and poetry by our bassist, Larry Roland.  There are several poems on the cd.  We play both freely created and composed pieces.  On Eat, Lay Eggs and Run only non-western instruments such as the shofar, the rikkidichi, the shakuhachi, and the Thai khean form emergent and primitive motivs.
Recorded in July, 2014 at ShapeShifter Lab in Brooklyn, the music was mixed by myself and my old friend John Shea who appeared on all of my previous releases on 4th Stream Records.  It was mastered by Jeff Jones, The Jedi Master, Director and Producer of World Alert Productions and friend of our drummer, Chuck Fertal. Cover art is by our pianist/shakuhachi, Steve Cohn.



Open-form extended group improvisation as practiced today has become a highly evolved art. It is as hard to do right, without a safety net, in the full public eye, as anything humanity has taken on in its history. It takes decades of dedication to come together and really play, to make all the difference between a good record and one that is truly transcendent, beyond the given and into a higher plane.


The New York Free Quartet does it–some prime examples of the art, as set down on a live recorded gig (cd entitled FREE PLAY to be released in 2015) in the heart of New York, on a summer day, July 29, 2014.


When you hear the results in all subtlety and expression, it should come as no surprise that these four artists have put in significant time, both together and in a myriad of similar playing situations. Reedist Michael Moss has been interacting with pianist and multi-ethnic instrumentalist Steve Cohn and bassist Larry Roland for some time now. And Steve’s association with drummer Chuck Fertal goes back 30 years. They all have been musical gladiators in the fight to make improvised music anew for a long time. Mike’s key experience in the early loft scene in Manhattan is only a part of the involvement of all in the music of the trenches. So that by now they well know who they are and how they can channel the experience of the history of improvisation, the wide world of musics, the musical heritage of the eternal Afro-diaspora, the world slipstream that we all still participate in. The music you hear is the culmination of all that.


Then there are the poetic utterances that we get an excellent taste of here, with Larry’s evocative recitations. Like the music it is about being there, becoming in the spirit of creation, surviving a world mostly disposed to have you “eat, lay eggs and run,” to live like roaches, with no room for what else there can be unless like the NYFQ you insist on a repeating soundings of the depths. In spite of it all.


But most of all this is about totality, total sound generation. You can hear them speak with the sure vocabulary and eloquence of masters long apprenticed, chained to the lodestone of woodshedding, gigging, communicating in the classroom, on the stage, in the streets. It all leads up to this moment in July when the New Free Quartet gives out with definitive individuality-in-togetherness. Check Michael Moss on bass clarinet or any instrument in his reed arsenal, flowing out with the very together freedom that takes years to reach. Steve Cohen as the pianist who by touch and thought brings significance into sound like very few pianists alive can do. Larry Roland on bass, never wasting a note, making it all mean something. Chuck Fertal on drums, a master of tone, everything hit in just the right place, with second-splitting soul science.


And the more of it, the totality of collectivity. You don’t get what the NYFQ achieved that day in July without all the jousts of life in alleys and cold-water flats combined with the extended free-thinking togetherness of group playing that comes only with much time, talent and perspiration. It’s all here. All on this recorded set. Just sit back and listen!

– Grego Applegate Edwards


NYFQ YouTube videos

NYFQ at the Bridge Street Cabaret on August 8, 2015




NYFQ at ShapeShifter Lab on January 15, 2015  




The NYFQ members each have their own webpages, Facebook pages, email lists, press lists, contacts in the literary and music worlds in addition to connections with venues, non-profit organizations, county, state, and federal granting entities. They have received Meet the Composer grants and New York State Council on the Arts grants, Arts International grants in Estonia, Massachusetts Council on the Arts grants for educational programing within middle school to buy drums to support discussion and percussion program, and Boston Symphony Hall Days in the Arts grants that exposed urban middle school children to classical music and art resources in the city of Boston. They have also written grants for different cultural institutions as board members and performing artists. They run independent record labels and publishing companies and have released many LPs, cassettes, and CDs under their individual names. The New York Free Quartet released a digital download only CD recorded in 2014 entitled FREE PLAY (4th Stream Records). We have a Facebook bandpage; the NYFQ bandpage link: New YORK Free Quartet/nyfq; Name of page: New YORK Free Quartet/nyfq.

We are aware of current business trends and how to market our product and are happy to share our experiences with any people who are getting into the music business.

Models of music marketing have changed drastically due to technological developments having to do with the way music is played, sold, and distributed through various devices. We will first give a history of recording in the US using jazz as an example. We will examine the effect WWII had on the music focusing upon how the war relates to jazz expressions and the way the music reflects the times. The distribution of jazz has evolved since those earliest times. We will look at the distribution of the music from past to present to see the way jazz is listened to and consumed, comparing the effect of live jazz versus recorded jazz and jazz over the broadcast media such as iTunes, YouTube, FaceBook, Pandora, music websites with a jazz category, and SoundCloud files emphasizing that this is constantly evolving into new forms. Class discussion, lecture and listening sessions will constitute the teaching format so as to enhance the marketing of jazz as a cultural art form through media-savvy examples. Students will be encouraged to develop their own media protocols and present them to the class.

Recordings / Films / Documentaries / Publications

4th Stream Records, in releasing FREE PLAY, as a digital only New York Free Quartet CD in 2015 on 4th Stream Records, entered the 21st century stream of consciousness. FREE PLAY was recorded live at a New York Free Quartet performance on July 29, 2014 at ShapeShifter Lab in Brooklyn. A YouTube video of the performance of Conjunction, a piece by Michael Moss, may be found at:

Members of the New York Free Quartet have an extensive history documenting their work. Following is a summary of each member’s contribution to the overall scope of the group.

Michael Moss formed 4th Stream Records, an independent record label, and ERG Publishing, an independent publishing company in 1972 On 4th Stream Records Moss released Intervals ( 2013, featuring Billy Stein); Death And Transmigration Of Souls and Qaballa/Entanglement(2008 with PRO VISO featuring Ralph Denzer, Louisa Bieler, Dan Scholnick); The Imitations Great Hall Concert 1965 (released in 2008, featuring vocalists Tracy Nelson, Chuck Matthews, and Irma Routen, and musicians Mel Nusbaum, Ben Sidran, Gary Karp, Dick Drake, George Haberichter, Hart McNee, Kip Maercklein, Myron Cohen); Double Vision (2007, with PRO VISO featuring Ralph Denzer, Louisa Bieler, Dan Scholnick); PROVISiOns, (2005 with PRO VISO featuring Ralph Denzer, Louisa Bieler, Dan Scholnick); The Vessel (2003, featuring John Shea and Nick DelGreco); Pyramid (1983, featuring Mikko Mikkola, John Shea); Live At ACIA (1979, featuring Bob Stern, Mike Mahaffay, John Shea); Cross Current (1978, featuring Greg Kogan, Bob Stern, John Shea, Muruga Sharma, Armen Halburian, Mike Mahaffay, Laurence Cook); and Upstream (1976, featuring Greg Kogan, John Shea, Mike Mahaffay). Moss also appears on New York And Me (2013, featuring storyteller Regina Ress) which received The 2014 Storytelling World Resource Award; Natural (2013, Michael Mahaffay Archives) with the Willamette River Pirates (featuring leader Mike Mahaffay, John Jensen, Michael Lastra, Lisa Lipton, Scott Steele, Enrique Ugalde); Music to Lift the Soul (2014, featuring leader Chazzen Michael Kasper with a large ensemble); Ether-Real (2004 featuring leader Jack Bowers, Bob Stern, Donald Alston, Tom Bockhold); Dreamcatcher and Bindu, (1993 with the Collective 4tet featuring Mark Hennen, William Parker, Hans Geisser, Stork Music); Weltwunder Der KinematographieAngel Prologue, (2001, on Film History Auf DVD, Ralph Denzer, composer, Polzer Verlog, Potsdam, Germany); Benny & The Wildachayas (1996, featuring leader Ben Laden and ensemble); Fourth World (1993, featuring leader Chazzen Jack Kessler and ensemble); and I’m The One (1972, featuring leader Annette Peacock and Paul Bley and ensemble, RCA).

A selected discography of the work of Steve Cohn contains the following LPs and CDs: Sufi Dancers (1983), White Cow Records (featuring Larry Hancock, Warren Gale, David Shrader, John Donnely); Arts &Crafts (1984), White Cow Records (featuring Jay Elfenbein & Chuck Fertal); Shapes, Sounds, Theories (1984), Cadence Jazz Records (featuring Reggie Workman, Chuck Fertal); Ittekimasu, LP (1989), White Cow Records *reissued CD 1991 by ITM Pacific (featuring Fred Hopkins & Thurman Barker); Beggar and The Robot in Diamonds (1996), ITM Pacific (featuring Fred Hopkins, Jason Hwang, Tom Varner, Frank Lowe, Bob Stewart, William Parker, Karl Berger, Zen Matsuura); Bridge Over the X-Stream (2000), Leo Records (featuring Reggie Workman, Jason Hwang, Tom Varner); Blair Recordings (2002), Leo Records (featuring Blair Hardman & Johnny DeRobertis); Wire (2007), Konnex Records (featuring: Adam Lane, Ray Sage, Blaise Siwula & Motoko Shimizu); Iro Iro” (2008), Red Toucan Label (featuring: Masahiko Kono, Thomas Ulrich, Kevin Norton). CDs released in 2011-2012 include We,(featuring: William Parker and Tom Tedesco); Round the World,(Solo Piano); Cowboy Film School, (featuring Bruce Ditmas, Tony Decicco, Chris Kelsey ); No Lunch in Hackensack, (featuring Jimmy Bennington), all on Unseen Rain Records Label through Meyefi Media; in addition to Electric Jazz Opus, (2012)Cause Attention Records, (produced by and in collaboration with Doc Holiday).

Larry Roland has appeared on The History of Jazz in Boston (1997), Perseverance with Nick Goumas, Beginning of a New Birth with Worlds/Jamyll Jones, Do Nothing is to Move Backwards (Worlds/Jamyll Jones), Sirens, Bells and Whistles (Raphe Malik Quartet), 21st Century Text (Raphe Malik Quartet), Looking East (Raphe Malik Quartet), 21st Century Decisions (Larry Roland Urge Quartet), Streets (Charles Gayle Trio), and As Time Flows On (Larry Roland solo bass and poetry).

Chuck Fertal composed the music for an independent movie, The River Runs Red, Arts and Crafts (Steve Cohn, Jay Elfenbein) and Sounds, Shapes, Theories (Reggie Workman, Steve Cohn). He was in a documentary entitled Drummers Row (Michael Kelly, Director) about drummers Max Roach, Elvin Jones, Barry Altschul, Paul Motian, Mike Clark and Mr. Fertal who all lived on Central Park West in New York City’s west side between 100th and 107th Street.


International touring and/or collaborations with international soloist or ensembles




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