Wet Robots (ESP-Disk’)

Fay Victor’s SoundNoiseFUNK

Released July 27, 2018

DownBeat Four-and-a-Half-Star Review






“Few vocalists have the sheer boldness – the outright fearlessness – of Fay Victor as an improviser. The New York native has long been a creative force on the avant-jazz scene, as a singer, bandleader, composer, arranger, and teacher. She has worked on both sides of the Atlantic with the likes of Misha Mengelberg, Roswell Rudd, and Anthony Braxton, along with recording several distinctive albums as a leader. Reviewing her recent disc Absinthe & Vermouth, NPR declared evocatively that Fay’s original songs sound “as if Joni Mitchell wrote lyrics for a lost Betty Carter prog-rock album – and it totally works.” Fay has also recorded edgy blues in a duo with guitarist Anders Nilsson, and she is an inspired re-animator of vintage instrumentals as vocal material, in the spirit of Carmen McRae in Monk; to this end, Fay has performed with her In Praise of Ornette group and with her house-rocking Herbie Nichols Sung band.

“Now we have on record Fay’s SoundNoiseFUNK quartet, featuring Joe Morris, Sam Newsome, and Reggie Nicholson – each an exceptional maker of music in the moment. Although Fay enjoyed a rapport with each of these players in various combinations, this foursome had never played together as a unit before the single summer day last year when Wet Robots was captured in a Brooklyn studio. 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’s guitar moves like a snake. Newhouse keens, taps, sighs on the straight horn. Nicholson makes his percussion set-up a skittering, rattling thing. Then there is Fay – her voice primal and wild, as attuned to unfettered expression as Albert Ayler’s tenor.” – from Bradley Bambarger’s liner notes This is Fay Victor’s first album as a leader released on an American label other than her own Greene Street Music, but she is already a star on the New York avant-jazz scene.

Track Listing:

1. Funky Dunk 3:55

2. A Witness in the Wilderness 5:24

3. Information Highway 5:16

4. Police Lights and Sirens 7:20

5. Squeeze Bottle 5:01

6. The Blues Are Always Free 5:51

7. Creative Folks! 4:49

8. Textured Pines 10:00

9. Whistling on a Skateboard 7:18

10. I Sing 7:44

11. The Ha-Ha’s 1:56

12. Holding Back the Scream 7:03


Fay Victor: vocals

Joe Morris: guitar

Sam Newsome: soprano saxophone

Reggie Nicholson: drums

Recorded August 4, 2017, at Park West Studios by Jim Clouse

Produced by Steve Holtje

Drawings by Diana Kinscherf

Design & layout by Jonathan Granoff


At New York’s Winter Jazzfest this past January, vocalist Fay Victor’s latest group fried minds with its memorable blend of abstraction, delicacy and impulse. Listening to Wet Robots these past few weeks, it was hard not to envision the quartet at work. Its music, which is built on the fanciful judiciousness of free improv and secured by the expertise of experience, can be both frantic and nuanced, and the way it milks the advantages of both on their debut is vivid, vivid, vivid. Victor’s band-building skills helped the ensemble attain this achievement. SoundNoiseFUNK—consisting of guitarist Joe Morris, saxophonist Sam Newsome and drummer Reggie Nicholson —is a wise balance of personalities. Along with the leader, each is insightful when addressing the rigors of free music. And the result is a level of coherence that might turn the heads of those who’ve previously been doubtful of this kind of music. 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)