Take Five With Bill Stevens

AAJ Staff By

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Meet Bill Stevens:

Bill Stevens (trumpet and flugelhorn) received a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education from Fredonia State University in 1978 and a Masters degree in Jazz Studies from the University of Miami in 1980.

Bill spent the next 10 years playing professionally in Miami, Florida; upstate New York; New York City, San Francisco and Seattle, Washington. He has performed with Billy Eckstine, Earl 'fatha' Hines, Ira Sullivan, Julian Priester, Spyro Gyra and ensembles under his own name including currently the Bill Stevens Quintet and the Bill Stevens, Rich Russo, Gary Fogel Trio.

Bill has been the recipient of performance and composition grants from the Seattle Arts Commission and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Upon returning to New York City in 1990 Bill has performed in various Jazz clubs including Visiones, The New Music Cafe, The Angry Squire, The Green Room, Kavehaz, Cornelia Street Cafe, Puppet's Jazz Bar and Small's. He has studied with Elliott Topalian, Herbert W. Harp, Philip Johnson, Randy Brecker, Jack Walrath, Laurie Frink and with bassist Joe Solomon.

In the 1990's he received a Masters in Education Administration from New York University and is currently the Assistant Principal- Administration/Organization and the Supervisor of Performing Arts studios, as well as the Director of Jazz Studies at the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts in New York City. Bill Stevens lives in New York City with his wife Laura and their son Miles.


Trumpet and flugelhorn.

Teachers and/or influences? Bill has studied with Elliott Topalian, Herbert W. Harp, Philip Johnson, Randy Brecker, Jack Walrath, Laurie Frink and with bassist Joe Solomon. Bill also studied composition with Ron Miller and arranging with Gary Lindsey.

I knew I wanted to be a musician when... I remember the first time I heard a recording of Maurice Andre, it touched me so deeply I felt like he was communicating with my soul. I knew that I wanted to experience this spiritual connection from the performer's side.

Your sound and approach to music: My goal is to be as spontaneous as possible, to always be "in the moment" and to create an environment through my music that allows a conversation to occur among musicians in a small group setting.

Your teaching approach: While in high school in Syracuse, New York two individuals, my high school band director Burt Dunlap and Jazz drummer George Reed, taught me that the study of music, and Jazz improvisation in particular, requires dedication. Years later, in my studies with Jack Walrath and currently with Joe Solomon, I have learned that the study of music is a life long journey best taken slowly. What is learned during this journey must be shared with your peers and passed on to the next generation.

The first Jazz album I bought was: I grew up listening to mostly rock albums by such artists as Jimi Hendrix, Sly & the Family Stone, Eric Clapton and Cream, The Who among others. My high school band director, Burt Dunlap, used to play a lot of big band recordings for us at school (Maynard, Kenton, Buddy Rich). One day, a friend of mine brought the album Miles Davis' Greatest Hits to school. I had never heard anything like that before.

I wanted to get this album or another Miles Davis record, so I went to a record store and I started looking through the bin of Miles Davis albums. I had no idea what I was looking at since I knew nothing of Jazz history. So I chose an album based on the cover art work and I chose a cover that reminded me of similar rock oriented album covers that I had been listening to. The album turned out to be Miles Davis' Live Evil. Needless to say, it was nothing like the album I heard earlier in the day or like anything I had ever heard before; however with my rock background I loved what I heard.

I approached the recordings of Miles Davis through his electric period first and to this day I love the recordings from the late '60s into the early 1970s, including the newer releases of the Lost Quintet, the Cellar Door band and, as Paul Tingen—author of Miles Beyond—refers to as Miles' last '70s ensemble, the funk collective.

Did you know...

I am a coach with the Greenwich Village Little League where my son, Miles, plays. It's fun to watch him pitch, catch, play the field and hit. We are also really big baseball fans and like to attend games at the new home of the Mets, CitiField.

CDs you are listening to now:

David Liebman, Pendulum: Mosaic Select;

Miles Davis, Live at the Plugged Nickel;

Wadada Leo Smith, Tabligh;

John Coltrane, Complete Atlantic Recordings;

Gary Keller, Blues for an Old New Age (Music of Ron Miller).

What is in the near future? I am composing a 15-movement suite based on the series of paintings, The Stations of the Cross by abstract expressionist artist Barnett Newman.

By Day:

By day I am an Assistant Principal—Administration at the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts (which was started by Tony Bennett) where I supervise all of the arts studios (dance, fine art, vocal and instrumental music, drama and film & media). I also run the Jazz Studies department which includes a big band, small groups and instruction in improvisation, Jazz history and styles. I continue to study, practice and write, as well as rehearse and perform with a quintet and trio in New York City.

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