Steve Blanco
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Steve Blanco

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Freshness; This is what Steve Blanco brings us with Contact. The album evokes a blend of Chick Corea, Bill Evans or Keith Jarrett depending on the moment. Each instrument's part is clearly defined giving the trio all its force ("Northbound Image"). Without plunging too deep or being heavy-handed, Blanco articulates and draws from classic bop with excellent support of Roberts and nicely punctuated sentences from drummer Jain ("Cigarettes").

Resuming with "Nardis" the trio is at an advantage ornamenting to dissociate from the original, while respecting the environment. "Woods" evokes the tragedy. The double bass plays an essential role in creating this particular atmosphere. The leader brings his key by shingling interventions, which amplify this feeling.

Between lightness, excitement and emotion, Contact does not leave the listener indifferent and it is what one awaits for from a musician.

-Michael Maestracci, Jazz Hot Magazine - Jazz Hot Magazine


Steve Blanco and his two co-musicians -- Adam Roberts on bass and Sunny Jain on drums -- are a great musical phenomenon. Listening to their debut CD Contact takes you on a journey through so many different styles of music that it leaves you speechless.
Blanco himself is a multitalented man, as he has also directed a number of movies. Music on this CD is an expression of the real world with its positive and negative sides.
Most of the tunes are original compositions. However, there is one by Sergei Prokofiev called "Vision Fugitive, Op. 22 No. 2" and the legendary Miles Davis's "Nardis." Putting those two musical giants together is definitely a creative step, but it also characterizes the wide scope of Blanco's influences.
The thing that makes this record great is the interplay between all three musicians. Certainly there are similarities to Bill Evans Trio, but the synergy might be compared to fusion giant Weather Report -- and of course the very popular jazz-rock trio The Bad Plus. The thing that makes Blanco's trio and The Bad Plus alike is the important role played by bass and drums. It just isn't the regular jazz trio where piano rules and rest of the instruments are left to do the dirty work.
Blanco's musical handwriting is mostly characteristic of modern jazz. His piano style isn't that of easy listening where one can just sit back and enjoy the music -- you really have to pay attention to it to get the point. However, maybe he should be even more aggressive and passionate at some spots.
The trio's music isn't essentially happy but not completely depressive either. As mentioned above, it is an expression of the real world so for that purpose there has to be a little bit of this and that.
Talking about specific tunes, the opening composition "Northbound Image" does have a slight northbound taste to it, though maybe there should be even more. "Urban Descension" and "Life Modes" both contain a fair dosage of free jazz. The latter, as the final tune of the album, ends with a symbolic almost-a-minute of silence, during which one can hear only a little something in the background. The title tune "Contact" is one of the most energetic compositions. Here Blanco's modern handwriting is really let loose; however, the tune itself is quite complex and has a sudden ending.
Considering the fact that Contact is only the trio's debut album and it already leaves a lasting impression on the listener, one can imagine what kind of musical journeys might there be in store. Of course, there are always things to nag about -- like the mood changes are too sudden at some points -- but the positive sides completely overpower the negative.
–Rambles Magazine - Rambles.net


Do you like your music white hot and intense, even during quieter passages? Do you value individual interplay that creates a total group sound? Do you pine for compositions and interpretations that change the very space around you when you listen? Then Steve Blanco's Contact is for you.

This trio, however, is not really a piano trio, in the sense of a piano lead with a rhythm section. Bassist Adam Roberts and drummer Sunny Jain are Blanco's equals in this endeavor, and they provide not a mere backing for the piano, but a mesh that surrounds and envelops it. Imagine if you will, any Bill Evans trio at its tightest, combined with the rambling, unpredictable theatricality of Ahmad Jamal at his best, and then increase the intensity quotient five notches by adding the driving, non-stop flow of Jean-Michel Pilc.

Blanco's compositions are full of emotion and create large, intense musico-visual images. His style is hard to pin down, but he has the usual list of favorite players ranging from Tatum, Monk and Powell to Evans, Tyner, Jarrett, Corea and Pilc. The arrangements reinforce the latent drama in the music, but it all would not work without the extraordinary interplay provided by Roberts and Jain.
Roberts is new to me, but he is one of the most melodic and forceful players you will encounter. Many times you will hear him reinforcing Blanco's left hand, only to switch to a contrapuntal bass line or ooze into a walking bass which has the power of a freight train. Every second, however, he is also listening and responding to what Jain is doing.

Jain is everywhere and provides constant feedback to Roberts. If you have heard him previously only within his South Asian milieu, as in his recent Avaaz, you might be shocked at first listen to this record. However, links to the “ethnic” style based on updated traditional rhythms are apparent immediately at the beginning of “Northbound Image” and more faintly thereafter.

Thus, Roberts and Jain feed off of each other's energy, and then feed it back to Blanco, who starts the loop again. All three players are so alive and aware that the music literally jumps out of the speakers as they give to and take from each other.
Blanco has also created more than one film, and written the music for them. Blanco's home page is nothing more than an entrance into Insomnia Creations, a company he co-founded as a means to bring artists together and foster a community feeling where ideas and energy can be shared.

–Budd Kopman, All About Jazz - All About Jazz


Pianist Steve Blanco should conceivably be making his mark on the global jazz scene via this exceptional piano trio effort. Here, diversity in scope, solidified by the mergence of power, restraint and richly melodic content exists as an axis for Blanco’s complex harmonic developments. Blanco fuses muscle (think of McCoy Tyner) with fluidity and grace. And with the crack rhythm section of bassist Adam Rogers and drummer Sunny Jain, the trio engages in knotty time signature and multihued accents.

Blanco’s linear phrasings are constructed upon a vibrantly articulated approach, where given melodies are revitalized and improvised upon. On the piece simply titled “Cigarettes,” Blanco flickers his piano strings for a bit of dazzle, to colorize this light-hearted mid-tempo swing vamp. In spots, they skirt the free-zone, but this is progressive jazz at its finest. It’s thoroughly hip, captivating and irrefutably entertaining. Blanco is one to watch… – Glenn Astarita - Ejazz News


The melodies are full of lyricism and impressionistic tones and coupled with Blanco's deep sentimental performance they create an atmosphere and highlight each separate piece.. Beyond that, what we are listening to is a result of pure team work, where each member’s contribution and continuous interaction lead to constant changes in the pace, volume and rhythm. Piano, bass and drums share melodic, harmonious and rhythmic parts and, by abstractly alternating shapes, they tell tales and describe moods, thoughts and scenery. The two arrangements are indicative of Blanco's preferences: "Prokofieff's “Vision Fugitive Op. 22 No 2” on the one hand and "Nardis” on the other clearly show his love for Bill Evans; they also provide an opportunity for both him and Sunny Jain to express their eastern heritage and for Roberts to explore Scott LaFaro's melodic lines. - Jazz & Tzaz Magazine


Discography

Steve Blanco Trio - Contact
Steve Blanco/Jeremy Wilms - Semblance
Steve Blanco Trio - Piano Warrior(Feb '09)

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Bio

JAZZ PIANIST, COMPOSER and FILMMAKER Steve Blanco has been forging ahead with self-made creative works for over a decade. The son of a French-speaking Moroccan belly dancer (mother) and film editor with a love of music and art (father), Blanco was exposed to artistic expressions from many different cultures. Growing up he learned the trumpet then drums and didn't arrive at the piano until age 23.

Blanco was recently selected to serve as a music composition grant panelist for the prestigious New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA).

Blanco has released three critically acclaimed CDs, produced a music video (directed by Blanco) and currently leads a piano trio with Adam Roberts and Sunny Jain, but performs regularly in solo and duo settings. The trio has performed in many venues including: Domaine, Detour Jazz Club, Williamsburg Jazz Festival, Rockwood Music Hall, Watercolor Cafe, Caffe Vivaldi, The Museum of American Folk Art, The Pierre Hotel, World Yacht, Bimhuis in Amsterdam and a multitude of other establishments.

The trio will be releasing their new album for Art Of Life Records in early Feb 2009.

Blanco contributes to the Munich-based Orkaan Orkestra led by composer and bassist Juergen Reiter.

In addition to performing music on a professional level, Blanco has directed several short films including: Missing You, 140 Decibels, Autumn, The Masterpiece (official selection New York International Film Festival), The Filth (official selection San Francisco Short Film Festival), ETR, and most recently, Bicycle (official selection Harlem International Film Festival). Blanco has also written the complete score for several of these films. He has served as writer, editor and cinematographer either altogether or in combinations on each of these films. He has been producer on all.

Blanco accredits his father as a major influence in bringing to the surface an array of emotional experiences stemming from creative masterpieces in music, cinema, art, writings, and philosophy that he would have otherwise not been exposed to as a young child.

From his childhood music has always been a driving force and ever present in his existence. After teaching himself for a few years Blanco privately studied piano before receiving a B.F.A. from Purchase Conservatory in New York. Blanco is the CoFounder of Insomnia Creations with Louis Cuffari and James Bartolozzi, and a contributing editor for ic magazine.

Blanco resides in New York City.