Sound It Out: “20 Questions” #2 — Fay Victor

Another installment of the recurring “Sound It Out: 20 Questions” feature on, with an artist answering a survey inspired by the famous Proust Questionnaire…

(Fay Victor performing at Greenwich House with her Herbie Nichols Sung band. Photo: Bart Babinski.)

Fay Victor has long been a creative force on the New York 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 album Absinthe & Vermouth (with guitarist Anders Nilsson and bassist Ken Filiano), NPR declared 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 avant-blues in an edgy duo with Nilsson, and her next release will come next year via ESP-Disk, featuring the singer alongside guitarist Joe Morris, saxophonist Sam Newsome and drummer Reggie Nicholson. An inspired re-animator of instrumental classics as vocal material – in the spirit of Carmen McRae in Monk – Fay has performed in the Sound It Out series multiple times, with her In Praise of Ornette group in November 2016 and with her house-rocking Herbie Nichols Sung band in December 2013 and, to help celebrate the fifth anniversary of the series, in June 2017.BB

  1. What was the first jazz album you fell in love with and stayed in love with?

Live at the Village Vanguard, Vol. 1 by Sonny Rollins.

  1. What do you think is one of the most overrated jazz albums ever?

Any album by Brad Mehldau.

  1. What’s one of your all-time favorite non-jazz albums?

’Til Shiloh by Buju Banton.

  1. What’s the last album you listened to from beginning to end – and did you like it?

Nerve Dance by Michaäl Attias – I love it!

  1. What’s your favorite film score?

Superfly by Curtis Mayfield – hands down.

  1. What was the most recent concert – of any genre – that made you fall in love with music all over again?

Meshugga, at the PlayStation Theater in New York City.

  1. Which are your very favorite and least favorite venues for live music?

My very favorite is the 55 Bar in Greenwich Village – relaxed, unpretentious, open. My least favorite is the Blue Note in New York – cramped, expensive, unattractive.

  1. What’s your favorite quote about music?

“Information is not knowledge, knowledge is not wisdom, wisdom is not truth, truth is not beauty, beauty is not love, love is not music, music is the best.” — Frank Zappa

  1. If you could have a drink with any visual artist of the past, who would it be?

Mark Rothko.

  1. What are the top three tools of your trade?

Rhythm, tone, clarity.

  1. What’s your most indispensable piece of technology that isn’t music-oriented?

My smart phone. (I rarely listen to music on my phone.)

  1. What are your top media sources of writing/opinion/news about music?

The New York Times, Village Voice, Mojo magazine, The New Yorker sometimes. And all the musicians around me are a rich source of information for what to listen to, what’s interesting, what’s cool to check out. Some fantastic work never gets covered…

  1. What non-musical/non-technological quality is most important be being an enduringly creative musician?

Keeping an open mind and being honest with one’s self (soul).

  1. What living person do you most admire – and what’s one quality he or she has that you most admire?

Harry Belafonte. For as long as I’ve been alive and aware of him: First, as a vocalist that, albeit in very commercial way, popularized calypso music, which is the music from Trinidad & Tobago, the country of my mother. Then, he went on to become socially active and deeply involved in the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s; since then, he has never wavered with deeds, money and words regarding where he stands on issues of human rights and civil rights for all peoples. His integrity is bar-none. I admire so much about him, but it’s perhaps the firmness of his principles that I admire most.

  1. What living person do you most despise – and what’s one quality he or she has that you most despise?

Steve Bannon – his quest for destruction is terrifying.

  1. What’s your favorite place in the world? Use three words to describe it.

Valencia, Spain – mountains, sea, city.

  1. If you could live in another time period, when would that be?

I’m black, so the time period I’m in works just fine, thank you.

  1. What book would you most like to read again?

Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace by Gore Vidal. I’ve thought about re-reading it a lot in the past six months. It’s on my bookshelf, just have to make that move.

  1. What film haven’t you seen that you feel like you should?


  1. What aspect of the past do you miss most (not a person) – and what’s one thing you look forward to about the future that doesn’t yet exist?

I miss the old New York City. I’m a native New Yorker, so the new vibration here really hurts… And I look forward to the day when people stop hating each other for reasons their parents gave them.