Steve Sando isn’t “harmonically innovative.” He doesn’t show off his four-octave range, put lyrics to Eric Dolphy lines, or affect Sinatra-mannerisms. What he does is, I think, more difficult and more commendable: he shows his love for songs by offering them, one by one, with affection and understanding . . . putting the spotlight on the song rather than on himself. Hear for yourself:
Steve says, “My intention was always to present some songs that I loved in a manner that isn’t pop and it isn’t jazz but it’s influenced by both. I wasn’t expecting to love singing quite as much but the act of having an idea, trying, failing, and then succeeding is the best.”
Hence, his debut CD, INRODUCING STEVE SANDO, which is out on Bandcamp (digital and tangible versions). What appeals to me most is his approach — as I said before, without ego, but with a kind of relaxed candor. “These are songs that have stories: let me share a story with you,” each performance seems to say. And his low-key, consciously undramatic way is so appealing in these days of singers who feel compelled to wow us with special effects.
Steve is marvelously accompanied — in the true sense of that word — by veteran pianist / arranger Mike Greensill, string bassist Ruth Davies, drummer Mark Lee. You’ll know Mike for his own lovely playing (at times on this CD, reminiscent of Ellis Larkins) but for his partnership, musical and marital, with Wesla Whitfield.
One of the other pleasures of this disc, one I’ve returned to, is the repertoire. No MY FUNNY VALENTINE, or COME FLY WITH ME, or other well-chewed standards. Rather, Steve and Mike have chosen songs that stand on their own, that deliver small constant emotional gifts and surprises: WITH THE WIND AND THE RAIN IN YOUR HAIR / YOU’RE A LUCKY GUY / SAIL AWAY / WHERE ARE YOU? / I WISH I DIDN’T LOVE YOU SO / ONE NEVER KNOWS, DOES ONE? / MY SHINING HOUR / THE THRILL IS GONE / SILENZIOSO SLOW / I’M OLD FASHIONED / THAT’S FOR ME / HONG KONG BLUES / I’LL BE AROUND / SO FAR.
That closing song was new to me, and I’ve now added it to my mental jukebox:
About my title. Some readers may know “Steve Sando” for accomplishments beyond music: he is founder, inventor, and guiding genius of RANCHO GORDO, the place to go for heirloom beans — beans so good that they rebuke the ones in cans and in plastic bags in the supermarket. (My title was his whimsical idea.) I first met Steve more than a decade ago in his Napa, California culinary guise, and then learned of his deep love for music — passionate ballads, Jack Teagarden, Louise Massey, and more — so I am delighted that his immersion in this art has resulted in something so rewarding for us.
He’ll be around, I predict.
May your happiness increase!