TRIBUTE: Steve Grossman (1951-2020) by Damon Brown

” I feel personally blessed and grateful to have shared the stage and the road with Steve and to have counted him as a friend.” Trumpeter Damon Brown pays tribute to saxophonist Steve Grossman who passed away at the age of 69 last Thursday 13 August 2020.

Steve Grossman. Inntoene Jazz Festival, Austria, 2015. Photo Credit: Maurizio Zorzi

  RIP Steve Grossman. A true giant of the music has left us. Like so many other musicians around the world, I feel personally blessed and grateful to have shared the stage and the road with Steve and to have counted him as a friend. My overwhelming memory and sense of him will always be one of his deep generosity. This generosity of spirit, whether in the sharing of his incredible musical mind or his life’s incredible journey (*), was ever present. His love of jazz and enthusiasm for playing was with him in every second of every day. It never wavered. I met Steve around 13 years ago on a gig in Naples. As soon as he blew his horn his sound and lines mesmerised me. And from the first nervous notes I played I felt immediately he had my back. His positivity and encouragement gave me a confidence I had never had. It changed me. I’m sure he has done that for so many other people. Playing with him felt like being in touch with a bridge to a golden age of Jazz. After I’d see him I just wanted to practice things he’d shown me….licks over chords, lesser known intros to his favourite be-bop tunes or his unique compositions. I wanted to be a better musician and repay him. Of course Steve was not always an angel on stage or off. Stories abound and I have so many of my own. Every gig or day on the road had its own adventure. Often chaotic, often funny, beautiful, sometimes infuriating and beneath everything always his special and cheeky love for life and music shone through. Steve played trumpet when he was young . Every time there was a Freddie Hubbard or Clifford Brown solo – or whoever –  in the car he would tell me the pitches of the notes as he fingered them. He could hear and feel the timbre after years of not playing. And then “Daaaamon I need another Red Bull!!” Which replaced beer completely on the later tours we played together. If we had a run of gigs his playing would go from beautiful Rollins-like language to this incredible mix of styles that was uniquely Grossman. He could just be truly jaw dropping in his energy and inventiveness, frightening and inspiring to everyone on stage.. Especially the drummers who he so loved so much to lock musical horns with. His larger than life persona and musical magic could infect audiences and fill the room. He always talked about the greatness of other players. Famous or otherwise. When we played at the Pizza Express with Peter King guesting Steve would be so happy and exited to hear him. Like a kid ! Sometimes when Steve wasn’t working I’d worry about him and his well being. His health and his addictions etc., but I think he always had people around him that looked after him and loved him. Steve told me many times he had no regrets about his life. That he was so happy to have done what he’d done and be still be playing. He was revered and adored by so many, and did the thing he was meant to do on this planet. Blow us all away with his talent !!! His music will never stop inspiring people. Thanks for everything Steve Grossman !!
Steve Grossman, Born Brooklyn 18 January 18, 1951. Died 13 August, 2020.  LINKS: NPR obituary by Nate Chinen “He was the best of all of us.” 2012 Interview about Steve Grossman by Dave Liebman (*) France-Musique give details of that “incredible journey” HERE  and Nate Chinen wrote an bir Joyspring – on video –  with Peter King – Pizza Express 2013

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