Take Five With Steve Sacks

AAJ Staff By

Sign in to view read count
Meet Steve Sacks:

A jazz saxophonist/flutist and Harvard-trained musicologist, Steve, has for 35 years, focused his talents on the richness and diversity of Brazilian and Latin music. An internationalist fluent in five languages, and with twenty years experience on the New York music scene, Steve has performed, recorded and/or written for a wide variety of artists including Tito Puente, the Duke Ellington Orchestra, Airto Moreira and Flora Purim, Earl Klugh, Mongo Santamaria, Astrud Gilberto, Paquito D'Rivera, Paul Simon, and Talking Heads. David Byrne made extensive use of Steve's talents on his Rei Momo and Uh-Oh albums and subsequent world tours. He has released three solo CDs: First Dream; Look To The Sky; and Christmas Presence.


Sax (alto/soprano/baritone), flute.

Teachers and/or influences?

Teachers: John Lewis, Steve Lacy, Andre Hodeir, Ron Carter, George Young.

Influences: Cannonball Adderley, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Milton Nascimento, Hubert Laws, Oregon.

I knew I wanted to be a musician when... I joined my high school jazz band on lead alto sax, and discovered that music was challenging and liberating beyond anything else I'd experienced to that point in life.

Your sound and approach to music: Playing music requires the ability to express oneself, collaborate with your fellow musicians, and communicate with your audience. It begins with your individual tone color, distinctive and yet responsive to the sounds of others.

Your teaching approach: Discover who they are and where they are headed in music and in life, recognize their strengths and limitations, and guide them by serving their needs above your own.

Your dream band:

I would love to play with Hubert Laws, Brian Blade, Paul McCandless, and Larry Goldings.

Road story: Your best or worst experience: Best experience: playing with my Brazilian group, Trilogia, in New York's Greenwich Village, when a guy sitting at a table in the back of the room came up to us in the break, saying "I like your music and I'm going to come back to hear you." The guy was Ornette Coleman...and he did come back!

Worst experience: getting a horrible sunburn on a tour of Ecuador with the Tito Puente Band, then driving all night through the mountains on bumpy roads to get to the next day's gig...

Favorite venue:

Visiones in New York City—good treatment, regular gig, complete artistic freedom.

Your favorite recording in your discography and why? Four Colors, featuring my four-flute group of the same name, because I could arrange some great standards and originals for four outstanding players (plus rhythm section) and communicate the rapport we had built up over many rehearsals and gigs.

The first Jazz album I bought was: Kind Of Blue, Miles Davis.

What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically? A sense of hope, freedom and joy in a world which desperately needs them.

Did you know...

I am fascinated by the characters used to write in Japanese, and can spend hours in a museum looking at calligraphy.

CDs you are listening to now: Larry Goldings Trio, As One;

Oregon, Live At Yoshi's;

Sonny Rollins, Worktime;

Chick Corea and Steve Kujala, Voyage;

Sam Yahel Trio, Truth And Beauty.

Desert Island picks: Herbie Hancock, Speak Like A Child;

Cannonball Adderley, Cannonball's Bossa Nova;

Bill Evans, Live At The Village Vanguard;

Quarteto Novo, Quarteto Novo;

Milton Nascimento, Minas.

How would you describe the state of jazz today? Jazz is caught between the incessant drive to innovate of the real creators, and the need to survive in a world of changing musical tastes and economic turmoil.

What are some of the essential requirements to keep jazz alive and growing?

*Places to play;

*People willing to go out and listen to live performances;

*Exposure to good recorded jazz in schools, on radio, over the internet;

*Musicians willing and able to make the financial sacrifices necessary to develop their art, yet with the open-mindedness necessary to develop their craft through playing in many different situations.

What is in the near future? I have just released a new CD of jazz and Latin arrangements of Christmas carols, called Christmas Presence, featuring some of the top jazz musicians in Tokyo, Japan where I've been living for the past 11 years.

If I weren't a jazz musician, I would be a: music minister in a church.

Post a comment


Shop Amazon


All About Jazz needs your support

All About Jazz & Jazz Near You were built to promote jazz music: both recorded and live events. We rely primarily on venues, festivals and musicians to promote their events through our platform. With club closures, shelter in place and an uncertain future, we've pivoted our platform to collect, promote and broadcast livestream concerts to support our jazz musician friends. This is a significant but neccesary effort that will help musicians now, and in the future. You can help offset the cost of this essential undertaking by making a donation today. In return, we'll deliver an ad-free experience (which includes hiding the bottom right video ad). Thank you.

Get more of a good thing

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories and includes your local jazz events calendar.