"Mr. Elson composes pieces that combine his studio skills-precise articulation and machine-tooled ensemble riffing-with forays into extended harmony, shifty rhythms and wry humor. In some pieces it sounded like the missing link between the Philip Glass Ensemble and James Brown's JB's, dispensing crisp minimalistic riffs in staggered patterns."
Peter Watrous of the New York Times
"Mr. Elson brought a real passion for melody to his pieces. Where a lesser composer might have used a style in quotes, Mr. Elson used the styles from the outside, knowing well their implications. And he used them from within as well, manipulating the melodies and the harmonies to elicit all sorts of emotionally sophisticated work"
David Yearsley in Counterpunch.org
"To get me the hour from the small roads to the big ones, Handel and I have brought along saxophonist Steve Elson's new release Mott & Broome. I say saxophonist, but Elson is not only a multi-threat reed player (he's heard on the disc on baritone, tenor, and soprano saxes, as well a Bb and Eb clarinets), but also a composer of great imagination and fluency, whose music delights through its warmth and humor and through a temperament that favors subtlety as against exhibitionist bluster. All of the disc's thirteen tracks are Elson originals. These survey many familiar styles-Ellingtonian swing, sundry Latin grooves, exotic Mozarabicisms-but always with a flair that nudges the genre he's exploring in and towards unexpected places.
The opening track, like several others on the CD, finds Elson in a Gilberto/Getz mood, but with an urban, northern edge. "Remember This" begins with a unison motto, repeated insistently by guitar and saxophone. This invocation to dance is then pushed aside by a rush of humid breeze and music of exhilarating warmth, like that first sip of a Mojito sluicing away all the troubles in the world. Within two minutes this tune, with its unexpected inflections of melody, piquant harmonic turns, and hip counterpoint between saxophone and guitar, lets us know we've got a great album stretching ahead of you like a long tropical night. The pressing unison figures between guitar and saxophone return to introduce Elson's short but sweet solo, which remains mostly near the upper register, bluesy and suggesting urgency. His improvising is of a piece with his composing.
Elson's quartet is filled out by Scott Latzky on drums, Yasushi Nakamura on bass, and Pete Smith on nine-string guitar and is joined by singer Jennifer Griffith on four tunes with smart and often very funny lyrics by CounterPunch contributor Daniel Wolff. Griffith has a pure, yet expressive voice, and a sure sense of pitch that allows her to follow Elson's melodies to unexpected destinations, at several lovely moments even to a tone a lower than the place to which more conventional musical syntax might have sent them. The disarming quality of Griffith's voice heard in counterpoint with the knowing sensuality of Elson's saxophone compound and enrich some of Wolff's brilliantly ironic lines, as in the title track's evocation of his neighborhood in Lower Manhattan at "Mott and Broome": "From the murder at the sweat shop / To the murder at the drug drop"-again heard against a laid-back Latin rhythm. This is music you want to listen to again because it delivers on all its promises, because Elson's is a warm and welcoming originality, and because there are more than few hidden shoals."
Living Blues review of the Johnny Otis Show at the El Mocambo, Toronto
"Elson was remarkable, doing a solo in every song that was fresh vibrant and rocking. One had to say he was the backbone of the show; a true delight."
Drew Featherston of New York Newsday
"Elson's music takes many chances, ranging widely over traditional and unconventional forms, and the quality throughout is remarkably high."
Crispin Cioe in High Fidelity (UK)
"Steve Elson plays with a thick, edgy command and swings smoothly between wild multiphonics and more conventional staccato rhythm-and-blues runs."
Choreographer and film maker Pooh Kaye
"I've enjoyed your CD. It's had me dancing around the house."
Jazzweekly.com Steve Elson_Mott & Broome_Lips and Fingers Music_ By George W. Harris
"Steve Elson is a reedman who's played with a ton of guys, lending his horn to cats ranging from Hall and Oats to David Bowie to Joe Jackson to even Johnny Otis. He's put out a couple of releases before, but this one takes the cake. He's got a warm tenor sound, and a Mediterranean tone on the clarinet that is irresistible. On most of these tunes the melodies are as relaxed as the accompaniment. Intimate, patient, the sounds float like smoke from burning incense. The empathetic support by Scott Latzky/dr, Yasushi Nakamura/b and Pete Smith/9 string guitar, is augmented by Jennifer Griffith's warm voice. But the hero here is the mood created by Elson; "Remember This" is as laid back a tenor as you want, and "Sevilla" sounds like something from the Greek Isles. "Bowery Bossa Nova" sways like the summer breeze through the linen shades. It's going to be hard to beat this one for sax and clarinet fans. Take a chance on this babe."
Dick Metcalf, aka Rotcod Zzaj Steve Elson - MOTT & BROOME:
"Jennifer Griffith joins Steve's soprano, tenor & baritone sax & clarinet originals along with drums/percussion from Scott Latzky, bass from Yasushi Nakamura and guitar/background vocals by Pete Smith in this totally jazzy CD release (28 April, 2009); very pleasant music that will bring you up from whatever low you may have descended to. "Bowery Bossa Nova " seemed the best example (for my ears, anyway) of the substance Elson & crew are able to paint for your aural adventures. Steve has been "around", playing with some of the big ones... Joe Henderson, Johnny Otis, Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson, as well as pop musicians like David Bowie & Laurie Anderson. That rich and varied musical background is reflected in his compositions and will reward the listener with hours of listening pleasure, especially on cuts like (my favorite), "Woolgathering", which features Elson's solid clarinet mastery. The keyword for tunes composed by Steve is "imaginative"... a surprise at every change, and absolutely no clichés! I rate this as HIGHLY RECOMMENDED & advise those who love superior reed talent to visit www.steveelson.com."
By Susan Frances Steve Elson Mott & Broome
"Steve Elson takes audiences virtually around the world in his latest CD, Mott & Broome, from the samba-driven rhythms of Brazil in "Remember This" to the Yiddish-rimmed, klezmer-inspired shimmies of Israel in "Sevilla." As a saxophonist, bandleader and composer, Elson juggles all three roles with the aptitude of an erudite and the stamina of a tri-athletic. Produced by Elson with lyrics by Daniel Wolff, the songs display different traits of jazz from one to the next keeping audiences on their toes.
The dreamy swing jazz vocals of Jennifer Griffith in "I Haven't Got Time To Dream" are flanked by reclining passages, while the Latin flavored "Into The Blue" kicks up her vocal tempo a few notches as the clarinets twitter jubilantly around her. The lo-fi burning of Elson's saxophone in "Bowery Bossa Nova" is stoked by the smooth conga beats, and the upbeat swing phrasing of "A Day At The Beach" is hyphenated with expressive punctuations in the saxophone trills and glistening-tint of the guitar chords played by Pete Smith. The soft atmospherics of "Woolgathering" are adorned with ringlets of swishing clarinets and relaxing guitar riffs, while the dreamy texture of "Wisteria" is speckled in sinuous saxophone and guitar patterns that feel like the evening breezes grazing across the hills of Spain's Pyrenees mountaintops. The island-tinged swiveling of the saxophone in "Rara Avis" have Rio de Janeiro sway, and the coquettish jiggles along "Try And Catch Me" induce a flirtatious mood.
Elson studied with the jazz great, Joe Henderson, and has toured with the renowned Johnny Otis Rhythm And Blues Revue. He moved from California to New York City in the mid-'70s, and went on to perform and record with a diverse assortment of creative and commercial artists including David Bowie, Laurie Anderson, Scott Johnson, and the Klezmatics. He is also a featured member of the internationally acclaimed Hazmat Modine. His latest CD, Mott & Broome is a montage of Latin, swing, blues, bossa nova, Yiddish-klezmer, Caribbean, and samba-driven melodies, fusing cultures together and underscoring their similarities. It's a multi-textured album that makes connections where others never wandered into or thought about, creating a fluency that seems all new."
Jazz On The Rocks/ CFBX: Kamloops, BC, Canada
"When I first listen to a cd, I don't read any print material on the artist beforehand. I listen first, then twice. After that I will read a bio etc. When I listened to Steve Elson: Mott and Broome my first impression was this sounds like a "melting pot". It has a bit the retro feel of bygone days. It could be a soundtrack to the life of so many people who live in a "melting pot" of cultures in so many cities. I was thrilled to find out, after reading, this is what the music was trying to convey. I love it when the message and the messenger are on the same page. The mix of vocal and instrumental tracks really make the CD interesting to listen to as does the different feels. What ties it all together is the wonderful playing of Steve Elson. His musicianship is masterful, but not pretentious. He plays all those instruments with such an easy smooth grace. The drummer/percussionist is no slouch either. Another thing I like about this album, is it's not over done. Everything has room to settle and compliments one another. I'll be going back to time and again."
"When you've got Cleanhead Vinson and David Bowie on your resume, if you want to dabble in some jazz/art later in your career, we're ones to give you a pass. The super sax man delivers a view of the Big Apple's lower east side and let's the tapestry of the area lead the music into a spiritual travelogue. Working out some ideas that had to pop into his head while scoring a docu about the aftermath of Katrina, Elson is still spry artist enough to want to take you to new places. Solid work that's challenging listening without being hard work.
O's Place Jazz Newsletter D. Oscar Groomes Steve Elson - Mott & Broome
"Elson leads a quintet through thirteen new original compositions. They open with "Remember This", a bouncy tune with subtle Latin beats. Jennifer Griffin adds vocals to the mix on "I Haven't Got Time To Dream" with Steve playing a warm tenor sax. This is the first of several vocal selections. "Heaven in Your Eyes" really swings with Pete Smith playing 9-String guitar and Elson on soprano sax. He returns to the big bold tenor for the title track setting the stage for dancing with a little calypso. This is an enjoyable and well-recorded session effort. They finish with one of our favorites "Try and Catch Me" leaning towards Steve's R&B roots."