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Meet Jason Steele: Originally from Colorado Springs, Colorado, Jason received his B.M. in Jazz Composition from the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University. Prior to arriving in Chicago, he attended Hutchinson Community College in Hutchinson, Kansas under the tutelage of trumpeter/educator Bryce Luty and drummer Eugene "Bones" Hutchinson. During this time, Jason was selected as the guitarist for the 1997 International Association of Jazz Educators' All-Star Community College Big Band and performed at the Montreux Jazz Festival as well as at the New Orleans, Reno, and Witchita Jazz Fests.
Teachers and/or influences? After my studies in Kansas I moved back to Colorado to study under guitarist and composer Dale Bruning. I can sum up my influential experience as Bruning's student by simply saying, "I showed up a guitarist and left a musician." After moving to Chicago, I had the chance to study with guitarist John McLean, David Bloom of the Bloom School of Jazz, Tom Garling, Mike Smith, Eddie Baker, and trumpeter Tito Carillo. What a great time at CCPA.
Your dream band: That's a tough one. Mostly I would build a band that's made up of musicians who have a high level of sensitivity to all musical situations and are open to a wide variety of musical styles. There are so many people I would love to work with; a few that come to mind are Bill Frisell, Ben Allison, Hamid Drake, Jon Brion, Jeff Parker, and John Hollenbeck.
Your favorite recording in your discography and why? The one and only: Some Wonderful Moment. It's my first one and I will never forget the experience. It has been so humbling to learn what's involved, and it has been a great learning experience. Recording with Ron Miles, Josh Sclar, and Keith Johnson for the first time was amazing, not to mention having a great group of local musicians - Thad Franklin, Matt Ulery, Tim Sullivan, and Charles Rumback. I hope to work with these top-notch musicians as much as I can in the future.
What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically? I've felt for a long time that composing music comes most natural to me. Yes, I do play guitar and admire so many great players who can not only play well, but write great music too. So I would have to say that my writing is the most important thing I am contributing right now - it's what I feel most comfortable with at this point in time.
CDs you are listening to now: Manu Chao - Clandestino (Virgin, 1998); Deerhoof - The Runners Four (Kill Rock Stars, 2005); Sufjan Stevens - Greetings From Michigan: The Great Lakes State (Asthmatic Kitty, 2003); Ben Allison - Cowboy Justice (Palmetto, 2006).
Desert Island picks: John Coltrane - Love Supreme (Impulse!, 1964); Larry Young - Unity (Blue Note, 1965); Elliott Smith - Figure 8 (DreamWorks, 2000); Beatles - Abbey Road (Capitol, 1969); Bill Frisell - Bill Frisell Quartet (Nonesuch, 1996).
How would you describe the state of jazz today? Don't know. I've never been but would love to check it out sometime. I have a friend that grew up near Swing and talks highly of Jazz all the time.
What is in the near future? First of all the release of my debut is in the near future along with a release party here in Chicago on March 31, 2007. I haven't played with many of the musicians on the CD for a long time and can't wait to share a bandstand with them again. Actually it will be my first time performing live with Ron - can't wait.
The release party will be recorded in addition to a show I'm doing the day after with Ron, Josh Berman (cornet), and Bill Mackay (guitar); so if all goes well I will be releasing those in the next year. In the immediate future I'm planning some tours with the ensemble. I haven't really toured much so really looking forward to it.
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.