Steve Elmer: Sister Joan


Sister Joan


Steve Elmer (piano)


Fire Down Below

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Steve Elmer (piano),

Hide Tanaka (bass), Shingo Okudaira (drums)


Composed by Steve Elmer


Recorded: New York, March 17-18, 2008


Rating: 90/100 (learn more)

Steve Elmer began his musical career as a drummer but at age 25 started taking piano lessons with the iconoclastic Lennie Tristano. His playing is a conglomeration of the percussive nature he learned from drumming and the various influences he absorbed from careful listening over the years. He is an accomplished technician who seems more at ease on hard-driving compositions. His phraseology slyly borrows from many sources without amounting to grand theft. At times his sound is reminiscent of Monk, but with a more fluid sense of swing. The clipped phrasing of his keyboard work is complemented nicely by a very tight, sympathetic rhythm section, which smoothly shaves off any burrs. Hide Tanaka's bass produces an especially full round tone that is particularly well suited in contrast to Elmer's sharp and at times steely sound.

On "Sister Joan," Elmer's lead-in line evokes Monk's "Well, You Needn't," but swings with a bit more intensity and direction than the master's original, which to me always seems to brilliantly keep you wondering where he was going. In contrast, Elmer's compositions have a comforting sense of direction, making his writing less groundbreaking, but he and his compatriots execute with such polished presence that the finished product is both enjoyable and passionate.

Steve Elmer has been called the most anonymous pianist in New York. With this offering, he may find himself at last discovered.

Reviewer: Ralph A. Miriello

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