Since the release of his 2007 disc, The Timeless Now (CTA), Dayna Stephens has emerged as one of his generation’s most distinguished modern jazz tenor saxophonists and composers. He hones a sinewy yet supple tone that unfurl poised improvisations with melodic ingenuity. As a composer, Stephens continues to build a multifaceted oeuvre filled with pieces that are cinematic in dynamic scope as they incorporate and suspenseful dialogue and interplay.
In addition to establishing himself as a leading early 21st century jazz voice, Stephens has collaborated with an impressive array of jazz musicians, including pianists Brad Mehldau, Taylor Eigsti, Muhal Richard Abrams, Kenny Barron, Theo Hill, Gerald Clayton and Aaron Parks; drummers Brian Blade, Al Foster, Idris Muhammad, Marvin “Boogaloo” Smith, Eric Harland, Matt Slocum and Justin Brown; trumpeters Roy Hargrove, Ambrose Akinmusire, and Michael Rodriguez; saxophonists Jaleel Shaw, Ben Wendel, Chris Potter, John Ellis and Walter Smith III; bassist Kiyoshi Kitagawa, Joe Sanders, Linda Oh, Doug Weiss and Larry Grenadier; vocalists Gretchen Parlato, Becca Stevens and Sachal Vasandani; guitarists Julian Lage, Lage Lund and Charles Altura.
The New York Times heralded Stephens as a “must see,” and wrote, “Everything flows with unusual fluency and makes you feel rewarded,” regarding his improvisational facilities. “When I’m playing, I’m really trying to make something new happen,” explains Stephens about his approach to improvisation. “It often happens by playing unintentional notes. That leads me to somewhere. It’s always trying to come up with something singable.”