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Jazz - Released January 1, 1970 | CM BLUE NOTE (A92)

Wayfaring Stranger is Jeremy Steig's one and only date for Blue Note Records as a leader. Originally issued in 1970, it was produced by Sonny Lester. Steig had been recording as a leader for a number of labels since 1963, including Columbia, Verve (on What’s New, a co-lead date with Bill Evans), and Lester’s Solid State. The lineup here includes longtime cohort and bassist Eddie Gomez, drummer Don Alias, and guitarist Sam Brown. Steig wrote or co-wrote five of the six tunes here. The title track is an expansive interpretation on John Jacob Niles' arrangement of the traditional folk tune. On it, Gomez lays out a strolling vamp, Steig goes to work building on the melody, and Brown comps and fills behind him. Alias colors the backdrop with shimmering brushwork and snare breaks. About three minutes in, Steig and Gomez both begin to take chances and funk up the melody without ever leaving it completely behind, but the group improvisation is at a premium, they move East, West, and even toward Latin inside it. Opener “In the Beginning" commences with a far-flung flute solo on which Steig displays brilliant flourishes with breath and tongue acrobatics. When the band comes it, it’s Gomez laying down proto-jazz funk on the upright and Alias breaking and popping in counter rhythm. “Mint Tea” weds together rock dynamics, soul-jazz, and hard bop vamps. The set’s final two tracks, “All Is One” and “Space,” sound like they belong on a different album, given that they are on-the-spot improvs that focus on tonal and textural investigations that sit firmly in the vanguard with deliberate use of silences as a mode to carry on very inventive conversations. They are anything but difficult to listen to, however; in fact, they’re both gorgeous and reflect how wide-ranging Steig’s (and by turn Gomez’s) vision was for the time. ~ Thom Jurek

Jazz - Released January 1, 2008 | Blue Note Records

"Howlin' for Judy" is flutist Jeremy Steig's best-known track, thanks to the Beastie Boys' use of a sample from it in "Sure Shot." As the title track for this collection, it marks new chapter in Blue Note's Rare Groove series. This seven-track set is compiled from two different albums: 1969's Legwork, which appeared on Solid State, and 1970's Wayfaring Stranger on Blue Note itself -- both of which were originally produced by the great Sonny Lester. Blue Note's Michael Cuscuna produced this collection by paring down the original albums to just the tracks that featured the trio of Steig, bassist Eddie Gomez, and drummer Don Alias. Why? In order to maximize its groove quotient; Legwork had its share of duo cuts and Wayfaring Stranger had some that featured a quartet with guitar. That said, the previous outings were quite adventurous in places: they contained various blues, ostinato workouts, and more ponderous numbers, too. Cuscuna pruned away until only the deeply funky, beat-driven trio tracks remained. That said, there is plenty of adventure -- not just in the music, but in its production: Steig was a fan of stereo separation and overdubbing techniques that were focused to maximize the rhythmic aspects of certain tracks. His own playing style is a great cross between Hubert Laws' more soulful technique and the dynamically rich and physically percussive aspects of Rahsaan Roland Kirk -- both rhythmically attuned players. While many are familiar with the title cut with its two-channel overdubbed bass and flute, far fewer punters know Steig's wildly groove-drenched sound world from the era. What a treat! You are the person this compilation is directed at. Take "Mint Tea," with Gomez offering a deep wood-toned upright ushering in Alias' skittering breaks and rolling snares. For his part, Steig blows, whispers, moans, and groans through the flute, using an astonishing array of techniques. (Anyone who has ever thought of the flute as an airy, effete instrument has obviously never heard him play!) Alias gets busy with the kit, offering Gomez a solid beat to get behind. There are layers of hand percussion, shakers, and cymbals overdubbed onto that rhythm, so Alias can feel free to let the breakbeats fall. Gomez is hypnotic in his steadiness, and Steig enters by blowing another rhythm track and a staggered melody track overdubbed on top. Only four minutes and 20 seconds in length, this monster is all too brief -- but ripe for beatheads to plunder. There is a beautiful and provocative version of Miles Davis' "Nardis" here, too. It begins sparsely as an Eastern-tinged flute solo on the melody; when the rhythm section enters at about the two-minute mark, it becomes an exploratory folk melody before Alias and Gomez ramp it up into a finger-popping bop number. This might throw some the first time through, but it is one of the hippest numbers on the disc. "Waves," a more languid groover, is a bit more elemental; but when it comes to rhythm and grooves that's a stone positive quality -- the pizzicato work by Gomez on this baby is stellar. Ultimately, Howlin' for Judy signals a new kind of compilation -- where a certain period in an artist's oeuvre is mined for maximum aesthetic effect. Cuscuna took this material from a very brief period in Steig's development as an artist, but he came up with a monster that withstands not only repeated listening, but the hard critical assessment of hipsters, club connoisseurs, and jazz fans. ~ Thom Jurek

Jazz - Released July 25, 2014 | Legacy Recordings


Jazz - Released May 29, 2015 | Art Of Groove


Jazz - Released May 29, 2015 | Art Of Groove


Jazz - Released May 29, 2015 | Art Of Groove


Pop - Released August 18, 2003 | Epic

Produced by Creed Taylor himself, Jeremy Steig's jazz-funk throwdown, Firefly, is one of the great forgotten masterpieces of the genre. Steig is a monster flutist who may lack some of Herbie Mann's subtlety, but more than makes up for it with his chops. Taylor surrounded Steig with a band that was testosterone-fueled yet knew how to get the sexy grooves. Firefly was designed for the purpose of being a hit in the dance clubs, and it should have been, because it kicks ass on that level as well as on the jazz-funk beam. Arranged and conducted by pianist Dave Matthews, the band included guitarists Eric Gale, Hiram Bullock, and John Scofield, Richard Tee on keys, drummers Steve Gadd and Allen Schwarzberg, conguera Ray Mantilla, percussionist Sue Evans, and vocalist Googie Coppola. As for the commercial edge, tracks like Dave Grusin and Earl Klugh's sublime groover "Livin Inside Your Love," features beautiful double-tracked flute solos going into the red on the funky soul edge; then there's the title track opener where Steig plays inside and out in shimmering interplay with Gary King's popping bassline. But it's on "Grasshopper," a Steig original, that this disc really soars. Overdriven chunky guitars, cutting across one another, electric Rhodes, and acoustic piano in counterpoint on two different melodies, bass bubbling like Sly Dunbar's, and orchestral horns giving Steig a punch lead line he can really mess with in his fills and solo. This is burning. ~ Thom Jurek