Raised on Chicago’s turbulent South Side, Steve began his relationship with the saxophone at age thirteen, and soon discovered the music of Charlie Parker, a favorite of his father’s. During his college years, the saxophonist prioritized the guidance of Chicago veterans like Von Freeman and Bunky Green and an education only possible through listening to the greats and trial by fire on the bandstand. Before long, Steve moved to New York and began performing with the big bands of Thad Jones and Mel Lewis, Cecil Taylor, and Sam Rivers.
A band that Steve put together with the cornetist Graham Haynes to hone their craft while busking in New York’s busy streets evolved into Five Elements, Steve’s flagship ensemble and one of the most influential outfits in recent memory (and on the artists who perform at The Jazz Gallery). A concept known as M-Base has bound the group’s many explorations, which are informed by Steve’s travels and studies of African diasporic traditions from around the globe. These collaborative explorations have informed the conceptions of some of the most innovative minds in our music, including Greg Osby, Cassandra Wilson, Geri Allen, Marvin “Smitty” Smith, Dave Holland, Robin Eubanks, Vijay Iyer, Ambrose Akinmusire, and countless others.
Steve’s work is documented on over twenty five releases, many of which can be downloaded for free here. But the scope of Steve’s influence isn’t limited to his collaborators. He presented acclaimed weekly workshops at The Jazz Gallery in New York City almost every season from 2004-2013, where anyone with a thirst for knowledge could go to absorb the infinitude he has to offer. Steve likes to think of himself “like a [West African] griot”; he hopes to function “like a person that’s documenting something in music, telling a story and passing information down.”