Steve Elson At Play

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  • Steve Elson - baritone, tenor and alto saxophones, piccolo, duduk, contra alto clarinet, accordion and percussion
  • Pete Smith – guitars
  • Tim Luntzel - acoustic & electric bass
  • Tony Mason - drums
  • Danny Louis - B3 organ, Wurlitzer electric piano, Fender Rhodes electric piano
  • Clifford Carter - B3 organ
    Wade Schuman - harmonicas (track 2)
    Irving Louis Lattin - vocals (track 5)
    Rachelle Garniez -vocals (track 11)
    The Borneo Horns (tracks 1, 5 and 10)
    Lenny Pickett - tenor saxophone and jaw harp
    Stan Harrison - alto and tenor saxophone

Album Notes

The new CD release, Steve Elson At Play captures the exhilaration, sharp intelligence and immediacy of the soul music scene that was his training ground in and around Oakland California, and weaves it with a working musician’s wit and subtlety perfected in the international and NYC music scenes. 

 The combination is electric and rich, an uncommon collection of tunes that rock and soothe and make you want to dance all at once.

Well known for his long-time association with David Bowie, (Elson’s iconic baritone sax solos on Modern Love and Let’s Dance are rights of passage) this saxophonist has been making distinctly beautiful music that swings for decades.

 Pitchfork magazine (on Bowie’s release “The Next Day”): “Bowie's best work; it's no coincidence that two of the album's best moments, on the skulking "Dirty Boys" and the taut "Boss of Me", feature glorious sax solos from longtime collaborator Steve Elson.”

Elson has a deep history: touring with R & B legends such as Johnny Otis Rhythm and Blues Revue, Fontella Bass, Sam and Dave, Diana Ross; joining forces with pop, experimental and new wave notables such as Hall and Oates, David Byrne, Peter Gabriel, Duran Duran, Radiohead, Stevie Ray Vaughn; collaborating with some of New York’s most innovative ensembles including the Slickaphonics (Ray Anderson), and Strange Party (Joey Arias and Klaus Nomi).

You’ve heard his solos featured on recent releases by Natalie Merchant, Gov’t Mule, David Johansen, Loudon Wainwright III among many others.

This knowledge uniquely positions Elson to take risks with the music while being confidently grounded in the groove.

Steve Elson at Play, his most recent output, has bite, snarl and authenticity. Elson departs from his earlier releases with a more in-your-face, funkier direction.

 Elson enlisted the best of the best R & B players in New York. The Borneo Horns, (Lenny Pickett, Stan Harrison and Elson) a sax trio that came together on David Bowie’s Serious Moonlight tour, are featured on three tunes.

Sensational singer/songwriter Rachelle Garniez wrote the lyrics and sings on Lazy Susan.

The outstanding Chicago-born blues singer Irving Louis Lattin, graces the song “I’m Coming Home".

Wade Schuman, leader of the internationally acclaimed Hazmat Modine, (in which Elson is a featured member), plays some great harmonica on Four Quarters.

Old friend, Danny Louis (from the band Gov’t Mule), alternates B-3 organ duties with NYC mainstay Clifford Carter.

The extraordinary rhythm section of Tim Luntzel (bass), Tony Mason (drums) and Pete Smith (guitar) anchor this remarkable set of tunes. 

 Elson played saxophone in “soul bands” in clubs in and around Oakland, California. “We’d play lots of James Brown, Billy Preston, Temptations, Sam and Dave, Tower of Power, Wilson Pickett…whoever was popular at the time. At the Lucky Thirteen we’d start at 9:00 pm and ended at 6:00 am. Nine 45 minute sets for dancing - only interrupted by the occasional dance floor-clearing brawl. You needed stamina - playing for dancing meant sticking with what was important: finding the pocket and staying there.”

 This music finds those pockets in new ways. And it knows how to stay there - with authority and conviction – and it grooves.