Unlikely 2.0

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Editors' Notes

Maria Damon and Michelle Greenblatt
Jim Leftwich and Michelle Greenblatt
Sheila E. Murphy and Michelle Greenblatt

A Visual Conversation on Michelle Greenblatt's ASHES AND SEEDS with Stephen Harrison, Monika Mori | MOO, Jonathan Penton and Michelle Greenblatt

Letters for Michelle: with work by Jukka-Pekka Kervinen, Jeffrey Side, Larry Goodell, mark hartenbach, Charles J. Butler, Alexandria Bryan and Brian Kovich

Visual Poetry by Reed Altemus
Poetry by Glen Armstrong
Poetry by Lana Bella
A Eulogic Poem by John M. Bennett
Elegic Poetry by John M. Bennett
Poetry by Wendy Taylor Carlisle
A Eulogy by Vincent A. Cellucci
Poetry by Vincent A. Cellucci
Poetry by Joel Chace
A Spoken Word Poem and Visual Art by K.R. Copeland
A Eulogy by Alan Fyfe
Poetry by Win Harms
Poetry by Carolyn Hembree
Poetry by Cindy Hochman
A Eulogy by Steffen Horstmann
A Eulogic Poem by Dylan Krieger
An Elegic Poem by Dylan Krieger
Visual Art by Donna Kuhn
Poetry by Louise Landes Levi
Poetry by Jim Lineberger
Poetry by Dennis Mahagin
Poetry by Peter Marra
A Eulogy by Frankie Metro
A Song by Alexis Moon and Jonathan Penton
Poetry by Jay Passer
A Eulogy by Jonathan Penton
Visual Poetry by Anne Elezabeth Pluto and Bryson Dean-Gauthier
Visual Art by Marthe Reed
A Eulogy by Gabriel Ricard
Poetry by Alison Ross
A Short Movie by Bernd Sauermann
Poetry by Christopher Shipman
A Spoken Word Poem by Larissa Shmailo
A Eulogic Poem by Jay Sizemore
Elegic Poetry by Jay Sizemore
Poetry by Felino A. Soriano
Visual Art by Jamie Stoneman
Poetry by Ray Succre
Poetry by Yuriy Tarnawsky
A Song by Marc Vincenz

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The Steve Elmer Trio

Fire Down BelowThe music of jazz veteran Steve Elmer brings to mind the best of Yoko Kano & the Seatbelts. Elmer's work recalls the brilliance of The Seatbelts' soulful, classic-minded jazz/blues score that was composed for the iconic anime series Cowboy Bebop. It's been ten years since that group finished with the show and disbanded. But even now, their work proves that the Japanese have long since picked up the ball for jazz and are continuing to run in some pretty interesting directions with it.

This fact isn't lost on pianist/composer Steve Elmer. It's not much of a surprise that two of the three members that comprise The Steve Elmer Trio are from Japan's consistently excellent jazz scene. Even with the genre changing in the hands of Japan's DJs and their club scene, Elmer was able to find two remarkable talents, Hide Tanaka on bass and Shingo Okudaira on drums who match his own desire to continue moving forward with a more traditional sound. Not that any of these three terrific tracks from their second album, Fire Down Below, are derivative or are lacking in creative spark. "Constant Lee" is a particularly sharp, inspired piece of energy. It quickly and clearly represents everything a good jazz number is capable of. The sound and flow bounces and moves with insight and enthusiasm, coming off as brand-new and traditional at the same time. There's a great sense of exploration in the song. The tone and force could change at any moment, but it would never make Elmer and his cohorts any less in command. Each member is distinctive and impressive in their own way, but no one musician ever runs roughshod over the others. Everyone comes together and never fails to move in perfect sync to create the atmosphere of the song.

Most importantly—and the same can be said for their equally-excellent "Tanaka's Hideout" and "Aaronology"—it evokes all the right imagery. No matter who you are or where you are, this is the soundtrack for a kind of cool that's never really gone out of style. It's hard to listen to these, especially "Tanaka's Hideout," and not imagine that you've just walked into the hottest club in town wearing your best suit and carrying your best internal monologue. Even if you don't smoke, you light up a cigarette as you move towards the bar and order a drink from a bartender who bears an uncanny resemblance to Humphrey Bogart. After that, you simply wait for the action and adventure to come to you. The music of Steve Elmer and The Steve Elmer Trio does a wonderful, laid-back job of making you believe that the world will come to you in due course. For now, it's best to just sit back and relax. As a soundtrack to doing just that, you couldn't ask for anything better. —GR

Pianist/Composer Steve Elmer is an expressive and creative musician of growing acclaim. Once called "the most anonymous piano player in New York" by a respected jazz pianist impressed by Elmer's playing, he is now receiving praise from jazz publications and musicians throughout the nation. Jazz Times says "He plays with the ferocity of a man with no more time to waste," and All About Jazz Los Angeles says "Pianist Elmer has imbibed from Bud Powell's well, and has come up with a bucket overflowing with some hard hitting and vibrant bop. " Elmer describes his musical approach as "Classic Jazz: play the melody, improvise, tell a story, and make it swing."

Steve ElmerSteve Elmer began his musical training as a drummer in a Brooklyn junior high school when he was thirteen years old. He earned a BS in Music Education from Hofstra University in 1967 and an MA in Music Composition from Queens College in 1969. At age 25, he switched from the drums to the piano, studying with jazz pianist Lennie Tristano. After six years of intensive training, Steve moved away from Tristano's influence and at age 40, began classical piano lessons with Arminda Canteros and Jon Verbalis, broadening his scope and redefining his love of music.

Elmer's musical direction changed again in 1991 when he met a young drummer named Myles Weinstein and discovered they were both on the same musical wavelength. They formed a group called The Jazz Mentality with Chris Potter on saxophones and Ralph Hamperian on bass. The group recorded two CDs, Maxwell's Torment and Show Business Is My Life, featuring many of Steve's original compositions.

In 2006, Steve recorded I Used To Be Anonymous, a CD featuring Hide Tanaka on bass and Shingo Okudaira on drums playing nine original Elmer compositions. The trio went on a 2,500-mile tour of Japan in 2007 and recorded Fire Down Below, their second CD, in 2008, featuring ten of Steve's original compositions. All About Jazz New York says "It is quite evident that Elmer has stayed true to his muse, producing a fine example of piano trio jazz that is an exuberant and facile demonstration of his skills as a jazzman as well as those of bassist Hide Tanaka and drummer Shingo Okudaira."

Steve Elmer says: Many of my compositions are dedicated to people who have inspired me or who have had a direct impact on my life. I also try to write tunes that have clear melodies and rhythmic variety so listeners have a frame of reference for the improvisations that follow. This is the traditional way jazz musicians have been making music since the early 1920s."

Unlikely is proud to present three songs totalling eighteen minutes of music, available on-site, from Fire Down Below. Once you're done here, be sure to check out Steve's YouTube channel and SteveElmerJazz.com.

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Music from Fire Down Below is not available for download, but instead can be heard right here on the web site. If you don't see a jukebox above, try downloading Flash player.

Comments (closed)

2009-05-01 02:40:42

Great article. I feel like I have a much better idea of what is going on down there now.