Steve Eisen (1971) Saxophone, Flute, Oboe Biography

Ed. Note: Steve Eisen was a member of the New Trier West High School Recording Jazz Ensemble in 1970 and 1971. He participated in the Jazz Ensemble’s Tour of Mexico, the first group in the history of New Trier High School to Tour internationally. This Jazz Ensemble was the proud recipient of the Mexico Government’s Cultural Award for outstanding musical performance.

Steve Eisen is a national known Grammy winner. In 2012 he joined the band, Ides of March, on saxophone and percussion, marking the first full-time Sax Player in the Ides’ history. He has appeared with, and recorded with, the Chicago Afro Latin Jazz Ensemble.

Steve can be heard on many recordings. He has appeared with the Chicago Jazz Philharmonic and on one performance, according to a Chicago Classical Review (February 7, 2015) ‘offered a blazing take-no-prisoners solo.’

Chicago Tribune, Howard Reich, Arts Critic is quoted:

To anyone who has marveled at the work of Chicago bands such as Chevere or Chizil, multi-instrumentalist Steve Eisen is no stranger.

His contributions to these bands, and others, on tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone, flute, percussion and just about anything else he can get his hands on has made him a force, to be reckoned with, in Chicago music.

Yet Eisen’s remarkable versatility has been a mixed blessing: He has been in such great demand around town that he rarely has had a chance to step out front and lead his own group. Thursday night at The Chambers, an up- and-coming jazz room in Niles, Eisen rectified that situation to striking effect.

The dinner-hour setting may have required that Eisen play standards, but what he did with them was far from ordinary. In each work, and sometimes in each phrase, Eisen showed a different facet of his art, each as appealing and intriguing as the last.

Jazz fans who are most familiar with “Softly, As in a Morning Sunrise” from the signature recording by the Modern Jazz Quartet, for instance, would have been startled by Eisen’s reading of the tune. This was a most incendiary sunrise, with brilliant colors, aggressive rhythms, and white-hot tone.

Of course, anyone can play loud and fast, but Eisen did more than that. The sheer profusion of ideas to issue from his tenor saxophone and the fluidity with which he reworked and developed the theme were consistently impressive.

Eisen proved persuasive in ballads as well, nowhere more so than in “Georgia on My Mind,” which he dispatched with throaty tone and steeped-in-the-blues sensibility. Yet for all the passion of this reading, for all the intensity of his vibrato, Eisen never let the proceedings lurch out of control. Every line was carefully measured, every melodic embellishment meticulously stated.

Elsewhere in the set, Eisen played soprano saxophone with a more lush sound and vibrant tone than one typically hears on this instrument these days. And he spun exquisitely ornamented lines on flute, in the process virtually rewriting “Green Dolphin Street.”

With Scott Holman improvising rhapsodically on piano, Rusty Jones inventing fascinating counter-rhythms on drums and Nick Tountas providing a warm yet firm foundation on bass, this quartet acquitted itself handsomely.