My name is not all that unusual, if Google is any indication. There’s me, then a Michael Steinman who’s a doctor, an authority on world government, an attorney, a provost, the deceased frontman for the band Inch, a realtor, an actor, a college dean, an author of a book on domestic abuse, a math teacher. I gave up on the fourth page of the search because the apartment seemed crowded with ectoplasmic figures who were insisting that they were real and I wasn’t.
But I was greatly amused and pleased to encounter the Michael Steinman who is an appealing jazz trombonist and singer. Born in Santa Clarita, California, this MS has lived and studied in Bloomington, Indiana, and now calls Six-Fours-les-Plage, France, home. I was delighted — after the initial shock of seeing “my” name in print attached to another person — to meet this other (and talented) Michael here.
And the pleasure continues with Michael’s new CD, appropriately called CURRENT RESIDENCE. It is an appealing blend: “traditional” repertoire with a charmingly quirky twist. The songs would lead you to believe that the approach would be firmly grounded in early-jazz conventions: STRUTTIN’ WITH SOME BARBECUE / DARKTOWN STRUTTERS BALL / IS YOU IS OR IS YOU AIN’T MY BABY? / AFTER YOU’VE GONE / ON THE SUNNY SIDE OF THE STREET / BIG BUTTER AND EGG MAN / I DIDDLE / JACK, YOU’RE DEAD / JUMPIN’ WITH SYMPHONY SID / JUST A GIGOLO — but there are no straw hats, striped blazers, or sleeve garters here. An unorthodox yet swinging instrumentation also helps the music be lively rather than formulaic.
What makes this CD special is a combination of a few things. First, Michael is a splendid trombonist. He doesn’t see the instrument as a way of spraying notes at a captive audience; he is a swinging melodist, a modern mainstreamer who doesn’t copy anyone. He is also a really fine — and not ordinary — singer, someone who seems like a distant cousin of Mose Allison and one of the Everly Brothers (you can pick) without ever losing a jazz feel. And the strolling players who accompany him (most often alto saxophone and a small quiet rhythm section) are on the same wavelength: thoughtful without being numb, enthusiastic without being raucous. Praise to his colleagues: Jonathan Soncasse, Willy Quiko, Lionel Pellister, Eric Merdiano, Gerard Murphy, Anne Carriere, Eric Fillou, Lorenzo Brignone, and Gabriel Charrier.
Here’s an auditory sample:
I would have a listener begin at the end — a fitting tribute to quirkiness with its own reward — with a deeply tender reading of JUST A GIGOLO that begins with a smoothed down Monkish piano solo, then moves to trombone / piano, alto saxophone / piano, and finally vocal / piano — sweetly and sadly, more Crosby than Prima. It’s one of those recorded musical performances that is shapely, quiet yet deep, and completely satisfying.
Here are more sound samples, and a way to make a purchase for the motivated among us.
The CD is also available through the usual sources — as a download on Amazon or iTunes, and at Michael’s website, here, where the essay that accompanies the CD cover is both charming and candid.
This other MS has a future: his music is lively and full of feeling, and his CD sounds as if he knows the past but is not condemned to repeat it. I recommend it highly, and would do so even if his name was not so melodious to my ears.
May your happiness increase!