Steffen Kuehn
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Steffen Kuehn

Concord, California, United States | INDIE

Concord, California, United States | INDIE
Band Jazz Funk


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I'm blown away by this new project from San Francisco Bay Area trumpeter Steffen Kuehn. It's outstanding, and here's why… he's incredibly talented, and he gets it! Steffen knows what works for Smooth Jazz. The recipe isn't a secret, but it amazes me how so many artists seem to miss combining the right ingredients in the right proportions. TRUMPOP is a surefire lesson plan for anyone planning to release a hit Smooth Jazz album. Compose solid, lyrical songs, add two or three killer covers (in this case a pop hit, "Through the Fire" and two jazz classics, Pat Metheny's "Spring Ain't Here" and Miles Davis' "Blue in Green."), include a tasty vocal ballad ("For All the Things," featuring Carla Helmbrecht) and an engaging Latin tune (the Bossa-flavored "Sleepless Nights," featuring scatting from Claudia Villela). Then find a talented support team, like keyboardist/producer Peter Horvath, guitarist Ray Obiedo, bassist Nelson Braxton, drummer Brian Collier, and percussionist Karl Perazzo. Now, here's the essential spice you need… arrange all of these ingredients with a jazz sensibility; then add brilliant, passionate performances and crisp production values. Voila! You have a fresh, exciting collection of music that Smooth Jazz fans worldwide are going to love, and that forward-thinking Smooth Jazz broadcasters are going to embrace and support.
You have a hit album. You have TRUMPOP by Steffen Kuehn. Class dismissed!
- By: Scott O’Brian


A veteran trumpeter from the San Francisco Bay Area, German-born Steffen Kuehn presents his second album as leader with “Trumpop,” and offers original new music in a delicious session of smooth jazz grooves. An in-demand musician in San Francisco’s music scene, Kuehn has recoded various CDs as a sideman including the last two albums with The Contemporary Jazz Orchestra, one of the finest big bands performing regularly at Jazz at Pearl’s, the premier jazz club in the Bay area.

Kuehn crafts one first-rate contemporary smooth jazz recording with no mediocre tunes to worry about as every piece here has a unique and exciting smooth texture. He uses no less than eight musicians on the recording highlighted by producer/keyboardist Peter Horvath, Norbert Stachel on a monster alto saxophone and several vocalist including Kenny Washington, Carla Helmbrecht and Claudia Villela just to name but a few.

The program takes off with the title track, a rather funky beat and tune that was a feature in the Miramax movie “Birthday Girl,” starring Nicole Kidman and Ben Chaplin. The trumpeter is prominent here on the muted horn. The only other funk-shaded tune found is “Above The Fold” the moves quickly to a lively up beat rhythm.

A melody-rich number with excellent horn arrangements, “Utopia” is one of the best cuts here with Kuehn’s horn play backed up by a terrific solo from Stachel on the alto. Vocalist Carla Helmbrecht delivers a sultry performance on the soft ballad-like “For All The Things” where Kuehn lays back and blows that horn ever so gently.

The music turns south on the bossa-tinged “Sleepless Nights” featuring warm trumpet phrasings from the leader accompanied by wordless vocals from Claudia Villela in my choice for the most beautiful piece of music on this disc. The program rounds out with two Kuehn originals in “The Sky Is The Limit,” and the stylish finale of “NYC” showcasing a brief solo from Horvath and where Kuehn sounds a bit like Herb Alpert on one dynamite closer.

If one is partial to the sounds of relaxing smooth jazz, then “Trumpop” is one must album for your collection. Trumpeter Steffen Kuehn produces a masterpiece that will no doubt please the critics and jazz audiences alike. Kudos Mr. Kuehn for one fine album that’s highly enjoyable.
- By: Edward Blanco


German-born Steffen Kuehn performed for and worked with The Platters, Marilyn McCoo, Bob Hope, John Handy, Mark Levine, John Fedchock, Chico Freeman, Tim Hagans, Ray Obiedo, Kenny Werner, Ray DeLa Paz, The Temptations, Evelyn ‘Champagne’ King, The 4 Tops, Ray Sepulveda, Lydia Pense & Cold Blood, Lefty Perez to name a few. After his debut album Now Or Later (2002), Trumpop is Steffen's second release on his own label Stefrecords. Steffen was supported by producer Peter Horvath (Victor Bailey) who plays keyboards and synth bass on two tunes, and recording engineer Ray Obiedo (Herbie Hancock, George Duke), who also performs his famous guitar on this ambitious album.
Further guest musicians are Nelson Braxton (bass), Brian Collier (drums), Karl Perazzo (percussion, Marty Wehner (trombone), Norbert Stachel (saxes), Jeff Cressman (trombone),
Carla Helmbrecht, Kenny Washington, Claudia Villela, Larry Batiste and Sandy Griffith (vocals).
Steffen mesmerizes the audience with his mute trumpet on the magic and melancholic Trumpop. The lead trumpet is accompanied by a horn section and additionally by Peter Horvath's keyboards. This title song was a theme in the Miramax movie ‘Birthday Girl’, starring Nicole Kidman and Ben Chaplin.
We are waiting for the spring in Germany. It's snowing in March and Spring Ain't Here. This song was originally recorded and written by Pat Metheney for his popular album Letter From Home (1989). This formidable album is packed with accessible tunes often played by smooth jazz radio stations. Steffen delivers a superb cover with a high appeal. Peter Horvath masters Lyle's part perfectly.
On Above The Fold Norbert Stachel (alto sax) and Jeff Cressman (trombone) join forces and create together with Steffen an excellent horn arrangement, sounds like Greg Adams' Tower Of Power or Tom Scott's Smoking Section. Peter's piano performance is the icing on the cake. Through The Fire was a major hit of Chaka Khan taken from her album I Feel For You in 1984. This song is ideal for Steffen because Chaka extensively uses horn-powered funk and keyboard tapestry on her albums. Steffen's cover is featuring singer Kenny Washington melting with Steffen's trumpet to a fantastic sound in the attitude of EWF.
Utopia underlines this impression. Friends of EWF and Herb Alpert will love this song, there are definitely reminiscences and influences. Norbert Stachel (alto sax) and Jeff Cressman (trombone) are a strong backbone of this horn formation.
The romantic ballade For All The Things is featuring songstress Carla Helmbrecht, who also wrote the lyrics. Carla is best known for her warm vocal styling in the tradition of Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan and Nancy Wilson. Her album Be Cool Be Kind (2001) received three Grammy nominations, two for Carla and one for Peter Horvath.
Blue In Green was recorded by Miles Davis for his ground-breaking album Kind of Blue (1959). Miles's elegant sometimes sustained style is predestined for an easy and appealing listening. Enticing for Steffen's sultry cover.
The Bossa Nova ballade Sleepless Nights is featuring singer Claudia Villela. Claudia was born in Rio de Janeiro and is performing in the Bay Area since 1984. Her album Inverse Universe received high acclaims. Her warm vocals create the ideal ground for Steffen Kuehn brilliant trumpet solo.
The title The Sky Is The Limit suggest the endlessness of open air. And that is the way Steffen's melody line goes. Steffen's homage to New York City NYC mirrors not a city of traffic and pulsing life as many other musicians interpret their impressions. No, there is a solid melancholy in the air. This mood reminds of the film noir of the 50's. I especially like the background of the horn-section. Superb Peter's solo in the style of Gary Burton.
Steffen Kuehn approach to record a smooth jazz album convinces. Steffen and the other musicians of this album are high-professional and the intention to entertain is fulfilled. Nevertheless Steffen doesn't deny his jazz roots and so this album has a quality other musicians have to strive for.
- By: Hans Bernd Huelsmann


Right from the beginning, the smooth and mellow sounds of this trumpeter--unknown to me before listening to this release--emitted a powerful call for my undivided attention. With such a refreshingly serene yet moving piece of smooth jazz with that slight head-bopping edge that only a trumpet player into this subgenre can muster and muster well, Kuehn will soon be a household name.
Steffen Kuehn was born and raised in Germany and began playing the trumpet at the age of eight. Through the years, he has studied with such jazz greats Tim Hagans, Brian Lynch, and Claudio Roditi. In Europe, he played as a sideman for the Dusko Gojkovich Big Band, Al Porcino Big Band, Conexion Latina, and others. His other credits include Broadway musical productions like “Annie,” “Damn Yankees,” “Phantom of the Opera,” and “Evita,” among others. He has also performed for and worked with The Platters, Marilyn McCoo, Bob Hope, Ray Obiedo (who also appears on this release), The Temptations, Evelyn “Champagne” King, The 4 Tops, and Ray Sepulveda, among countless others.
On Trumpop, Kuehn seeks to unleash the silkiness that a well-played trumpet can offer on pillow-soft, jazzy melodies. Among the tantalizing and beckoning tunes include the title and opening track, a rousing cover of Chaka Khan’s “Through the Fire,” the smooth groovin’ “Utopia,” and the seductive “For All the Things,” which features the creamy vocals of Carla Helmbrecht. As if that’s not enough, his humble tribute to Miles Davis’s “Blue in Green” is class with a capital “C,” and the island taste of “Sleepless Nights,” enhanced by the bedroom vocals of Brazilian star Claudia Villela, is truly delightful.
Kuehn has a clear winner here and, by his playing, you can tell he knows it. I suspect that this release is only the beginning of a warm relationship between Kuehn and smooth jazzers everywhere.
- By: Ronald Jackson


"Thanks for sending us TRUMPOP. Great project! I like "Trumpop", the Pat Metheny tune and your other original, "The Sky is the Limit" for Radio."

"Steffen, I didnt want to write to you until I listened to your's killen.... I really dig your writing and playing....killen grooves etc....nice sounds..." (JD Walter,

"We've added 4 tracks from the new CD to our station rotation. Awesome CD. Previewed Trumpop on our live show as well." (Dick Fairchild/City Sounds Radio,

"Mr. Kuehn,
Your CD is excellent I love it!!!!!! This is Jazz contemporary I personally enjoy CD’s like this smooth is just the tip of the iceberg for this CD. I will add this immediately!!!!!!!!!
Sincerely, Norvell Molex Jr. (

"Thanks for the fantastic CD. We put 3 songs into our 24/7 rotation" (Harry Melchior,

"I am adding two songs into a gold rotation on Jazz Café.
I'll add "Trumpop", which has a nice funky feel, and your Miles Davis cover, which I thought was very good!!"
(Carol Ann Murray, Music Director, Calgary,Canada)

"Steffen has that warm trumpet sound that listeners can relate to. The CD sounds great!"
(Pete Escovedo)

"Steffen, I liked your CD! Beautiful playing." (Adolfo Acosta, Trumpeter with Tower Of Power)

"Good stuff, Stef!" (Jamie Brewer, bassist with The Whispers)

"The music of trumpeter Steffen Kuehn’s new CD,’trumpop’, is so cool that it’s already been targeted by Hollywood….(Jerry Karp,

- Miscellaneous


CD releases on stefrecords:
Steffen Kuehn Nonet - 'Now or Later' (2002)
Staight Ahead 9-piece Jazz Ensemble
Louie Romero Y Su Grupo Mazacote' - 'Timbalero' (2006) Latin Jazz/Salsa
Steffen Kuehn - 'trumpop' (2008)
Smooth/Contemporary Jazz

Original song 'Trumpop' placed in Miramax movie 'Birthday Girl', starring Nicole Kidman & Ben Chaplin.
Original song 'One for Louie' placed in USA Cable Network series 'Burn Notice'
7 original song co-publishing contracts with LA music publisher 'Wild Pink Music'



Steffen Kuehn must be considered as one of the rising stars in today’s popular Jazz music with a unique voice that has and will appeal to many music lovers around the globe!

Steffen Kuehn was born and raised in Germany and began playing the trumpet at the age of eight. Twenty years later he received his Bachelor of Music from the prestigious University of North Texas in 1993, majoring in Jazz Trumpet and Jazz Studies.
While at North Texas, he received two DownBeat awards as a member of the "Two O’clock Lab" Band was voted
"Best College/University Band" in 1991 and 1993.

After working on cruise ships and a three-year stint back in Munich, Germany, he decided to make the San Francisco Bay Area his permanent home. Concentrating on his playing and songwriting, the move proved to have been the perfect decision.
Soon after his arrival in the Bay Area he hooked up with LA publisher Monica Benson, who started signing Steffen’s music to her company "Wild Pink Music".
The first big breakthrough came with placing the original composition "Trumpop" in the Miramax movie "Birthday Girl," starring Nicole Kidman and Ben Chaplin.

Being interested in Straight-Ahead Jazz, Smooth Jazz as well as in Latin Jazz and Salsa, Steffen scored big in 2002 with his Jazz Nonet CD release "Now or Later," that featured 2001 Grammy Nominee Tim Hagans. That year also marked the inception of his own record label "Stefrecords."

Fast forward to 2005: Having joined the Latin Jazz orchestra of legendary timbalero Louie Romero, the band recorded its first album "Timbalero" and released it on "Stefrecords" in 2006 to rave reviews.

In the meantime, Steffen kept writing and recording for his second release, entitled "Trumpop."
Having secured the producing/engineering skills of Peter Horvath (keyboardist with Victor Bailey) and guitarist Ray Obiedo (Herbie Hancock, George Duke, Pete Escovedo), this record shaped up to make some big waves.

Since its release in March 2008, the CD “Trumpop” has been in the Top 50 Indie Radio Charts for 23 weeks and has received thousands of spins and airplay nationally and worldwide (February 2009). “Trumpop” was in the running for a 2009 Grammy nomination for “Best Contemporary Jazz Album.”

Furthermore, Steffen’s song "One for Louie" (from the "Timbalero" CD) was placed in the USA Cable Network summer blockbuster series "Burn Notice," airing in January 2009. It also charted at No. 2 in "Latinbeat Magazine" in 2007. Five more songs off the "Trumpop" release have been signed to Monica Benson’s "Wild Pink Music" company.

He has performed for, recorded and/or worked with (selection):
The Platters, Marilyn McCoo, John Handy,
Mark Levine, Chico Freeman, Tim Hagans
Ray Obiedo, Hector Martignon,Kenny Werner
Ray DeLa Paz, The Temptations, The 4 Tops
Ray Sepulveda,Lydia Pense & Cold Blood,
Brian Culbertson and many more.

Steffen has headlined and/or performed at many festivals and major clubs internationally and nationally such as:
San Jose Jazz Festival, San Francisco Jazz Festival @ Stanford, Bayerischer Hof (Munich/Germany), The Knitting Factory (Boise), Staatsoper Wien (Vienna/Austria), Jazz & Blues By The Bay (Sausalito), Yoshi’s San Francisco, Zeltmusikfestival Freiburg (Freiburg/Germany), Azucar Cancun (Cancun/Mexico), Kuumbwa Jazz, MusikFestival Dresden (Dresden/Germany),Oakland City Center Fall Music Jazz Series, Yoshi’s Oakland, Jazz at Pearl’s San Francisco, Quasimodo Berlin and many others…..