Guitarist Steve Cardenas began his musical career in Kansas City and has been an integral part of the New York City jazz community since 1995.
Steve has performed and recorded with many well-known and highly esteemed musicians. Notably, he was a longstanding member of the Paul Motian Electric Bebop Band (which later became the Paul Motian Octet) as well as Joey Baron's band, Killer Joey. Steve is currently a member of the Charlie Haden Liberation Music Orchestra, Steve Swallow Quintet and the Ben Allison Band. He has toured extensively throughout Europe, North and South America and Asia, performing at countless international music festivals, theaters, opera houses and clubs. Steve also leads his own trio and has released four recordings as a leader. His most recent album, Melody in a Dream, was released on Sunnyside Records in March.
Steve is also a well-respected educator. He is on faculty at The New School For Jazz and Contemporary Music in New York City where he directs the Thelonious Monk Ensemble and the Guitar Duos class, as well as offering individual lessons. He has also been on faculty at the California Institute of the Arts, Siena Summer Jazz Workshop, Stanford Jazz Workshop and Banff International Workshop in Jazz and Creative Music. Additionally, Steve is co-author, along with editor Don Sickler, of the Thelonious Monk Fakebook, Hal Leonard Publishing. The Thelonious Monk Fakebook marks the first time all of Monk's compositions have appeared in one volume, many of them appearing for the first time.
What do you remember about the first and the last concert you played?
I'd just finished 9th grade and the band I was in, Time, planned a "concert" in the backyard of a friend's back patio. We anticipated hundreds and ended up with several audience members, not more than the number of band members. To this day, we all email each other on the anniversary, it was epic in our minds. The last concert I played was John Ellis & Andy Bragen's MOBRO at the Jazz Gallery, that was truly epic.
Why do you need music? Can we live without music?
There can be many answers or reasons, but basically... because I love it. I suppose physiologically humans could live without music, but it would almost impossible to avoid shy of being sealed off in a padded room. Music is in nature all the time, in the sounds that surround us... birds, rhythms of trains on tracks, someone humming or whistling.
48th Heineken Jazzaldia, Plaza de la Trinidad (Trinity Square), Donostia - July 25th 2013
Steve Swallow - Bass, Carla Bley - Hammond Organ, Chris Cheek - Tenor sax, Steve Cardenas - Guitar, Jorge Rossy - Drums
Which is the main pleasure of the guitar?
For me, playing, practicing, it's sound, the feel of it... hard to have one answer.
What is its main limitation?
I don't think of the guitar as having limitations, especially given all the amazing players of the past and present that express so much. Just listen to Hendrix and tell me if you hear any limitations.
Which work of your own are you most surprised by?
I'm surprised if I can manage to play something that I might like. Just getting to that place is a major accomplishment for me.
Ben Allison Quartet - Live at the Haven
Ben Allison, bass, Allison Miller, drums, Brandon Seabrook, guitar, Steve Cardenas, guitar
Where are your roots? What are your influences?
These questions have pages of answers, but suffice it to say I've been influenced by a wide range of artists, whether in music or other areas. Influences have also come from people and things outside the arts, or events, that have made a profound impression at one time or another.
Tell me one musical work which has provoked a change in your music.
There isn't one musical work that did that, but more likely just listening to different music through time and having revelations large and small along the way.
Define the sound you're still looking for, or the sound you'd like to hear.
I'm more after a feeling within the music, then the sound and everything comes together from that.
How would you define the present time in musical terms?
Music often reflects the era it comes from, what was happening, events of the day. In the present, there are so many influences coming from all directions with access to about anything on an unprecedented level, it's difficult to define what represents that now. It somehow seems clearer to me when I think of previous eras.
Steve Cardenas Trio JazzinEden
Which was the first and the last record you bought with your own money?
First record was a 45 and was either Hanky Panky by Tommy James and the Shondells or Little Red Riding Hood by Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs. Last record was... I don't remember, how ironic is that?
What is some valuable advice that someone has given to you in the past?
There has been so much valuable advice, it's difficult find something that stands out from everything else.
What gear do you use?
I have an early '80s Gibson ES-335 dot neck re-issue, have had it since then. Also, recently acquired a Collings I-35L. A couple of acoustic guitars. Amps are a PANaramic (that's what it looks like on the face of the amp, I think it's from the Magnatone family of amps); a Fender Deluxe Reverb Amp re-issue with a Jensen speaker; a Fender Vibro Champ from the early '70s; a ZT Lunchbox amp. Also a Boss reverb pedal and an old Ibanez Tube Screamer.
What is the most recent musical concept that has attracted your attention?
Anyone playing from their heart.
Melody In A Dream- Sunnyside Records (new release)
West Of Middle- Sunnyside Records
Panoramic - Fresh Sound New Talent Records
Shebang - Fresh Sound New Talent Records
The Stars Look Very Different Today - Ben Allison, Sonic Camera Records
Dream Dictionary - Jim Campilongo, Blue Hen Records
Into The Woodwork - The Swallow Quintet, XtraWATT/ECM records
I Thought About You - Eliane Elias, Concordjazz Records
I Never Meta Guitar Too - various artists, Clean Feed Records
My Place - Monika Borzym, Sony Music
Seasons: Live At The Metropolitan Museum Of Art - Anthony Wilson, Goat Hill Recordings
Action-Refraction - Ben Allison, Palmetto Records
Milestone - Adam Cruz, Sunnyside Records
Girl Talk - Monika Borzym, Sony Music
Think Free - Ben Allison, Palmetto Records
Orange - Jim Campilongo, Blue Hen Records
Offering - Matt Marantz, (independent release)
Quake - Mike Holober & The Gotham Jazz Orchestra, Sunnyside Records
Little Things Run The World - Ben Allison & Man Size Safe, Palmetto Records
No Way Out - David Brandom, Blujazz Records
Song For Anyone - Chris Potter 10, Sunnyside Records
Cowboy Justice - Ben Allison, Palmetto Records
Give and Go - Donny McCaslin, Criss Cross Jazz
Slow New York - Richard Julian, Manhattan Records
Music For An Imaginary Play - Sarah Wilson, Evander Music
Garden Of Eden - Paul Motian Band, ECM Records
Traveller - Arthur Kell Quartet, Fresh Sound New Talent Records
Mercy Streets - Kate McGarry, Palmetto Records
Visual - Alexis Cuadrado Sextet, Fresh Sound New Talent Records
Not In Our Name - Charlie Haden Liberation Music Orchestra, Verve Records
People Behave Like Ballads - Rebecca Martin, Maxjazz
Show Me - Kate McGarry, Palmetto Records
Holiday For Strings - The Paul Motian E.B.B.B., Winter & Winter Records
Close Your Eyes And Listen - Mike Fahn, Sparky1 Productions
Metro - Alexis Cuadrado, Fresh Sound New Talent Records
Europe - The Paul Motian E.B.B.B., Winter & Winter Records
See You In Zanzibar - Arthur Kell, (independent release)
Killer Joey - Joey Baron, (independent release)
Who Loves You: A Tribute To Jaco Pastorius - various artists, JVC Records
Miles Remembered: The Silent Way Project - Mark Isham, Columbia Records
From The Street - Tom Coster, JVC Records
Raising The Standard - New York Guitar Trio, Midi Inc. Records
Brandon Fields - Brandon Fields, Positive Music Records
Contemplations - Jeff Beal, Triloka Records
The Last Romantics - Paul Hanson, Midi Inc. Records
Three Graces - Jeff Beal, Triloka Records
Premonition - Paul McCandless, Windham Hill Records