Steve Blanco Trio
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Steve Blanco Trio

Long Island City, New York, United States | INDIE

Long Island City, New York, United States | INDIE
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"Piano Warrior"

A true piano warrior in every sense, Steve Blanco's second solo release offers an expansion to applications previously encountered via Contact, his independent 2006 trio debut. He offers the antidote to the customary trio format with an abundance of jazz-based thematic forays that project a contrasting spell to the typical ballad-bop-swing concepts.
Blanco combats any semblance of piano trio listening fatigue with explosive themes, subtle nuances and unanticipated shifts in tempo. The crack rhythm section abets the leader's cause as they mix it up with off kilter hooks, and avant-garde breakdowns amid transformations of jazz stylizations into hard-hitting grooves. Blanco also renders massive block chords against snappy rock pulses while injecting mesmeric crescendos into various regions of sound.

It's a divergent set, evidenced by the trio's rather sanctified reading of Pink Floyd's "Us and Them" and other pieces, marked by the pianist's fluent reengineered maneuvers. Blanco also fuses swift bop and swing vamps into climactic opuses, all topped off by eloquence and powerful coiling diversions. Another album highlight is steeped within the band's literal reading of Led Zeppelin's "Black Dog." Here, drummer Sunny Jain strokes the bell of his ride cymbal in the same manner as Led Zep drummer John Bonham, yet the trio sojourn's into a raucous jazz meltdown during the bridge.

Blanco veers from the norm but doesn't necessarily stray too far from conventional jazz-centric mechanisms. He straddles the best of many musical worlds, and uncannily merges them into a persuasive vernacular, riding high with striking dynamism and highly entertaining attributes. Here's hoping that Blanco records more often. - Glenn Astarita/ALL ABOUT JAZZ



Semblance, from the duo of pianist Steve Blanco and guitarist Jeremy Wilms, is an intriguing, multifaceted and ambitious work. Of the fourteen tracks, fully half are improvised, demonstrating lightning-sharp musical reflexes. Blanco and Wilms share the compositional credits on six tracks, with the remaining track being Marvin Gaye's “What's Goin' On.”

In any duo, regardless of instrumentation, the interaction between the players is especially critical to the success of the music. There is literally no place to hide from the other player or from oneself. While it is true that a duo with a piano has a bit more room to maneuver, any weakness
or hesitation is still easily heard.

One of the most famous piano/guitar duos was that of Bill Evans and Jim Hall, whose remarkable album Undercurrent (Blue Note, 1962) is still to this day ranked as one of the most outstanding recordings ever. Each man had an immediately identifiable style and attitude based on elliptical rather than direct musical statements which blended perfectly.

Blanco acknowledges Evans' influence, but says that any reference in Semblance to the earlier duo was “subconsciously purposeful.” For his part, Wilms, who plays in many different styles, at times not only sounds like Hall, but also gets inside his style. Neither man slavishly copies the Evans/Hall approach, and the allusion to it, while strong—as demonstrated in the broken octaves at the end of “Elemental”—mark the beginning of their personal expressiveness, rather than the end.

This effort, however, goes way beyond an attempt to recreate Undercurrent or even extend upon it, and it is in the improvisations that Blanco and Wilms really let go and explore wider musical territory. The pieces draw from many musical styles, including both modern and romantic classical, pop and rock, and techniques such as electronics and prepared piano. Dissonance and controlled chaos evolve into sections of beauty and mystery, with a logic that sounds both spontaneous and preformed. Each piece has its own identity and its own logic.

The Marvin Gaye track can hardly be called a cover. If one did not know the title, it would be easy to miss the oblique references to the themes of this culturally iconic tune. However, knowing the title perks up the ears and the mind as they struggle to make the connection to the original song.

Blanco's Contact (Self Published, 2006) was a very hot and concentrated trio effort. With Semblance he shows, with his able partner Wilms, another side of his musicianship. The music is well worth the effort needed for its exploration as it stretches the boundaries of the piano/g - ALL ABOUT JAZZ



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.NET MAGAZINE

"Contact review, March 2008 issue of Jazz Magazine"


A nice little two page feature from the March 2008 issue of Jazz Magazine, Italy...and a track from Contact on their compilation CD.


Freshness: That's what Steve Blanco brings to our senses with Contact. The album evokes a blend of Chick Corea, Bill Evans or even Keith Jarrett in certain moments. Each instrument's part is clearly defined giving the trio all its force (ex. "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 tragedy. The bass plays an essential role in creating this particular atmosphere. The leader brings his own touch to it with some biting 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 - Michael Maestracci, JAZZ MAGAZINE ITALY

"CONTACT review"


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 - Budd Kopman, All About Jazz



One thing you can say about Steve Blanco’s Piano Warrior is that it doesn’t all sound the same. Steve Blanco is one of the younger generation of Jazz pianists who thinks nothing about pulling inspiration from Rock and other sources. His trio even changes direction several times within the same piece. For example “Sadness & The Madness” moves from pulsing midtempo Jazz through percussive abstraction into creeping Blues Rock. It sounds somewhat similar to Brad Mehldau’s take on Radiohead’s “Paranoid Android.” Two Rock standards are actually covered here also. Pink Floyd’s “Us And Them” hovers quietly along the basic theme before morphing into tricky Blues piano and Led Zeppelin’s “Black Dog” retains a surprising amount of its thumping original form in the piano trio arrangement here.

As for the other Blanco originals, “535” and “Piano Warrior” both have tricky progressive Rock melodies alternating with a mel- lower Jazz flow, “Brother Song II” sounds like a French Folk song powered by slow Rock rhythms, and “Underground” is a dark cin- ematic waltz where bassist Adam Roberts gets to take a lyrical solo and Blanco breaks into violent, delirious playing. Most of the music on this CD seems based on a Rock foundation but there’s a fluid Jazzy lilt to the rhythms that provide this trio with its own identity in the increasingly crowded field of Rock influenced piano trios.

-Jerome Wilson, Cadence Magazine - Jerome Wilson, Cadence Magazine


PIANO WARRIOR - Donald Elfman, All About Jazz NY

Steve Blanco is another adventurer. He writes smart new tunes but also tries his hand at a couple of numbers from the rock 'n' roll repertoire. The music on Piano Warrior is a complex blend of traditional jazz piano trio, with its sense of mystery and familiar colors, and a whirling taste of chaotic yet controlled exploration. We're never quite prepared for what's coming next as is boldly evinced by a freeform take on Pink Floyd's “Us and Them”. The tune seems to emerge from out of some primal eddy as a hymn to the unknown. Blanco is ably assisted by bassist Adam Roberts and drummer Sunny Jain and the three are like gentle Zen warriors who achieve their aims through more subtle means. Led Zeppelin's “Black Dog” is dark and funky but the way it's approached--with the pianist's ominous low notes and the rhythm section's insistent pulse--makes the tune seem like some minimalist workout.

”Final Voyage” is a gorgeous, rich ethereal ballad that moves very, very slowly and makes its points in simple statements, helped by Roberts' lush dark bass notes and the quiet punctuation of Jain. The melodies here don't smash a listener in the face but rather work deliberately and subtly, taking several listens before getting a sense of where things are going. “A.V.S.” comes in single notes and phrases that mask their beginnings and endings. It develops as a full-formed piece but without ever being obvious. The title tune is found coming towards us after an opening 'festival' of African-style drumming. It moves like the warrior of its title--ferociously and in an ever-changing terrain. And “Laughing Planet” seems to suggest the birth of a sense of wonder and joy in creating a tune, a metaphor for the way all of the music here is created. - Donald Elfman, All About Jazz NY


Contact, 2006
Semblance, 2007
Piano Warrior, 2009

Video release:



MUSICIAN, COMPOSER and FILMMAKER Steve Blanco has been forging ahead with self-made creative works for over a decade. Born in Nyack, New York to 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’s music has been called “Progressive Jazz at its finest” and his acoustic trio's album Piano Warrior (Art Of Life Records) is said to “Move like the warrior of its title - FEROCIOUSLY and in an ever-changing terrain.”

Blanco was selected to serve as a music composition grant panelist for the prestigious New York Foundation for the Arts. He 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.

Steve also 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 eight short films (many of which have been official selections at festivals), written two feature – length scripts, and scored several of these films. He has served as writer, editor and cinematographer either altogether or in combinations on each of these films.

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.

TEACHING is an important part of Blanco's musical life. Just as he remembers those certain teachers that left a lasting impression filled with positive energy and a passion for music, he enjoys sharing his enthusiasm and knowledge of music and art with his students. Because of the nature of his diverse career Blanco is able to teach all levels and styles in music performance, composition, and music theory.

Blanco resides in New York City.