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  • Writer's pictureJAM

“What I Meant to Say” Steve Million Origin Records – REVIEW


In the 1980s, Pianist Steve Million lived in a modest neighborhood that is now home to the beautiful Kauffman Gardens in Kansas City. Guitarist Steve Cardenas and pianist Steve Million were half of the Ida McBeth band of the era, along with drummer Jon Cushion and bassist Forrest Stewart.

The new Origin release, “What I Meant to Say” is a testament to Steve Million’s talent as a songwriter. The November 2019 recording session in Paramus, NJ seems more like a reunion for 3 friends who have walked divergent musical paths, than an effort to make some lofty musical statement.

The songs on “What I Meant to Say” have been written throughout Steve Million’s life. The trio has remained connected off stage all these years. This album is a comfortable set of beautifully crafted songs, performed by veteran recording artists. With songwriting this good the sound is fresh and cohesive.

This music sounds Midwestern like the music of Pat Metheny or drummer Matt Wilson. Clean-lined and airy it makes you want to roll down the windows and turn up the volume so that the wind whips by you as cruse on out of town.

Having heard these friends perform on several occasions, in various settings, the good memories flood my head, in as many ways as there are songs on the disc. From that aspect, this is music that happens to be jazz, rather than jazz that must be taken as serious music. There’s a humanity to it. An honesty that gets inside your head and says, “listen again, pal”.

Steve Million moved to Chicago in the 1990s. Iconic Chicago jazz writer Neil Tesser says in the liner notes, “Million doesn’t rely on fireworks or flash; the impact of his work comes in the steady accretion of ideas over the course of an improvisation and the gorgeous details of his interaction with the rhythm section.”

Drummer Ron Vincent spent several years with baritone saxophonist Gerry Mulligan. Steve Cardenas is well-known as the guitarist for Kandace Springs and others, and for his long-time collaboration with bassist Ben Allison. John Sims is just right in allowing the friends tell their well-worn stories. This is finely crafted music that is a joy to listen to.

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