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The Steve Elmer Trio | I Used To Be Anonymous

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I Used To Be Anonymous

by The Steve Elmer Trio

Classic Jazz: play the melody, improvise, tell a story, and make it swing.
Genre: Jazz: Bebop
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. Peter The Painter
6:12 album only
2. Dance Of The Drackots
4:45 album only
3. Blues For Bobby T
8:13 album only
4. Wounded Heart
7:06 album only
5. Keep Your Eye On The Ball
4:53 album only
6. Easy Mr. B
6:36 album only
7. Monk's Slow Drag
7:10 album only
8. Steppin' Out With Wynton K
9:28 album only
9. Tyner Time
5:56 album only
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
“I Used To Be Anonymous”

Steve Elmer, Piano/Composer, Hide Tanaka, Bass, Shingo Okudaira, Drums


1 : not named or identified
2 : of unknown authorship or origin
3 : lacking individuality, distinction, or recognizability

Steve Elmer, Piano/Composer

The title for this CD came about as follows. A well-known jazz piano player liked the way I played but couldn’t understand why nobody knew who I was. He shared this thought with a mutual friend and said to her: “Steve Elmer is the most anonymous piano player in New York.” Well, I used to be anonymous.

I started off as a drummer. I also taught music. That was a long time ago. Then I did many other things that had nothing to do with music. Now I devote as much time as I can to playing the piano, composing, and making music that satisfies my soul.

Hide Tanaka, Bass

I’ve been playing with Hide for many years. We have played all kinds of gigs together: duo, trio, quartet, sextet, big band, and with many singers. He has a beautiful sound and his time feeling is as solid as bronze. Hide is always willing to play, whatever the circumstances. He never holds back. He shares whatever he has to give. I am fortunate to know him and to play with him. (Hide's name is pronounced "hee-day".)

Shingo Okudaira, Drums

I played with Shingo for the first time in 2005. After the first tune I knew he was a great drummer. He swings all the time, no matter what the tempo, including ballads. Sticks, brushes, mallets: it doesn’t matter. His drums sound beautiful and his cymbals sing. His solos are imaginative and complex. Shingo is a complete musician. He proved this by playing a Wynton Kelly solo for me (yes, he played it on the piano) note for note the way Wynton played it, swinging just as hard and with as much enthusiasm. What a gift.

My Compositions

I like to write tunes dedicated to people who have inspired me or had an impact on my life. “Peter the Painter” is written for Peter Salvatore, a guy who paints houses and apartments for a living. He does great work, is an honest person, and is someone who understands quality. “Dance of the Drackots” is for Bud Powell and my wife, Olivia Stockard. A “Drackots” is a feisty mythical creature who is independent and determined to match the highest standards. “Blues For Bobby T” is for Bobby Timmons, the great piano player and composer. “Wounded Heart” is for anyone who has been hurt in life. “Keep Your Eye On the Ball” is some kind of reminder to myself. “Easy Mr. B” is for the wonderful singer Billy Eckstein. “Monk’s Slow Drag” is for you know who. “Stepping Out With Wynton K” is for Mr. Kelly and “Tyner Time” is for McCoy.

Classic Jazz

There are many definitions of “classic.” But the ones that mean the most to me are:

a : serving as a standard of excellence : of recognized value b : traditional, enduring c : characterized by simple tailored lines in fashion year after year

My idea of classic jazz is simple: play the original song, improvise on the melody, the harmony, and the form. Tell a story and make it swing one way or another.

Notes by Steve Elmer



to write a review

© Cadence Magazine 2006

It’s really got the feel of a ‘50s Red Garland session, or something of similar
The STEVE ELMER Trio (Elmer, p;, Hide Tanaka, b; Shingo Okudaira, d) is a very pleasant group, whose I USED TO BE ANONYMOUS (Steveelmertrio, no #) turns in a number of catchy and melodic originals (Peter the Painter/ Dance of the Drackots/ Blues for Bobby T/ Wounded Heart/ Keep Your Eye on the Ball/ Easy Mr. B/ Monk’s Slow Drag/ Steppin’ Our with Wynton K/ Tyner Time. 60:25., February 7 & 8, 2006, NYC, NY) that serve as platforms for amiable swing. It’s really got the feel of a ‘50s Red Garland session, or something of similar stylistic vintage, and it’s the kind of thing you’d be delighted to hear at your local club. Elmer’s a likeable player, favoring bright melodies but investing these with a rhythmic snap and sensibility that—owing partly to his mates’ energetic playing—is nicely varied (especially on “Dance of the Drackots” and “Keep Your Eye”). They sound particularly energized on “Blues for Bobby T” and the fine ballad “Wounded Heart.” If you happen to spot this one, and you’re a fan of this genre of Jazz, do give it a shot. © Cadence Magazine 2006

Jazz Page (Japan)

This CD is a wonderful piece of work.
Nowadays, many young jazz pianists start out trying to play like contemporary musicians Chick Corea or Herbie Hancock. But this pianist, Steve Elmer, has a repertoire ranging from Dixieland to Swing to Contemporary Jazz, not to mention Bud Powell. All the tunes of this CD are Steve Elmer hard bop originals and are dedicated to the musicians in the 50’s and 60’s whom he respects and has been influenced by. The other two members of the trio are Hide Tanaka (b) and Shingo Okudaira (ds). Originally from Japan, both musicians now live in New York. Tanaka plays his bass with precise time and a strong sense of swing. His consistent support throughout this album will help him become recognized by many other musicians. Okudaira plays the drums with great technique, delicacy, and dynamism. He really drives the group. This CD is a wonderful piece of work and is also a good showcase for the talent of Japanese musicians.

(Translated from the original Japanese.)

O's Place Jazz Newsletter

We think this one is a quiet killer, a must have.
This trio presents a program that can be used for deep listening, background music or anything in between. The pace varies from burners – “Keep Your Eye On The Ball” to ballads – “Wounded Heart”. Steve’s work on piano is delightful and Hide Tanaka (b) and Shingo Okudaira (d) are accomplished players that beg you to follow their notes on any of the songs. Elmer composed all of the music. We think this one is a quiet killer, a must have.

D. Oscar Groomes
O's Place Jazz Newsletter


There is plenty said by the other reviewers above. When I select music to play for others I go by ear. In other words I go with my gut. If it is pleasing to me, I will see about buying a copy. Look to the other reviews up above for the technical...Me...It just sounds great!

Steve Elmer wrote ten excellent compositions, and plays them with a tight authority, but never grasps this authority too stringently, and this allows his colleagues room to breathe, providing him with excellent support.
I find myself focusing on different tunes at different times. Mr. Elmer's ability to evoke a number of different players without losing his originality is probably one of the most important successes of the music. Mr. Tyner is alive and well, but who has lately thought of Bobby Timmons(who was well thought of by no less than Thelonious himself)? That Moanin' sound is really felt. There is also the thought of Wynton Kelly, who to me made the most significant contribution to Kind Of Blue on his one appearance on that recording(Freddie Freeloader). Although it is Monk's Slow Drag, I think that it is shared by Mr. Ellington. Eye on the Ball brings to mind the impression of Herbie Nichols without his oblique directions. Drackots made me listen to both versions of Parisienne Thorughfare again, and I got more of it after listening to Mr. Elmer's song. Not many can really keep a ballad going, but Mr. Elmer does this on Wounded Heart. Peter is a great opener, but my current favorite, one that I return to over and over, and still have to return to is Easy Mr. B. This tune has a highly happy and optimistic sound, and Steve does a few things on his solos that are unique in the history of recorded Jazz piano.
The recording is terrific-the Piano Trio is alive and well-and if this is where Steve Elmer is musically now, it is a great place to be.

Bob Stein

This is the real thing.
This is the real thing, straight ahead swinging classic jazz. There are very few players who can invent like Steve Elmer, play long lines that make total sense, and swing like mad. The rapport in the rhythm section is a thing of beauty. This is jazz, just as it should be. Listen!!!

Kirpal Gordon, UnlikelyStories.org

In a word, the cat is real jazz musician.
Elmer is a composer who writes gorgeous stuff and the trio really breaks out, but every song is connected by Elmer’s definition of classic jazz, the only words in the CD’s jewel case except for the names of the band and times of the tunes: “Play the original song, improvise on the melody, the harmony and the form. Keep it swinging one way or another.”

The thing with a piano trio is chops, empathy for what the other two are doing and timing. These three have been playing together for quite awhile is what I mean; once the line-up’s solid, the sky is the limit. And when they are all original compositions they’re playing, watch out.

The first track, “Peter the Painter,” reveals this with such great delight and swing. Really, they’ve opened the door wide and let the ancestors in, as they say. See, what Elmer has managed to do---five of the nine tunes remind and refer you to pianists Bud Powell, Bobby Timmons, Thelonious Monk, Wynton Kelly and McCoy Tyner; another one, “Easy Mr. B,” remembers Billy Eckstein, the black Orpheus who had the gals fainting in the aisles (this before Sinatra), a baritone crooner who developed the first bebop band---is create an element of evocation with an eye toward those who have historically “changed our ears.” However, he is signifyin’ on their contributions, making it his and “making it new,” rather than parading them down Memory Lane or parodying their styles or merely posturing about their genius.

My god, man, “Tyner Time” is a mountain of joy! Word to your mother: you have to smile at the “Giant Steps” reference and his treatment of McCoy and how Tanaka and Okudaira swing underneath. Sure, it’s a tribute, but the biggest tribute of all is adding your gift to their gift. And that’s what Elmer has done on each tune. “Dance of the Drackots” sends out in semaphore a taste of “Parisian Thoroughfare” and Powell’s speed and wit, but it’s got more Elmer in it than anything else. “Blues for Bobby T” is heaven bound and never quits! Now that’s what a trio who knew each other well can do.

“Wounded Heart” is a ballad of such depth of feeling, and it’s followed by the nutty, bop-ish “Keep Your Eye on the Ball.” I don’t know how Elmer does it, but I feel the way that tune sounds a lot of the time. Shingo shows what the drums are for and really plays Pac Man on Steve and Hide. The trio certainly can get arrested, weird and wonderful, too; they start out free and morph into an unhurried 4/4 in “Monk’s Slow Drag,” taking us to Japan via Shingo’s cymbals and landing us deep in the blues via Thelonious and a surprise ending. “Steppin’ Out with Wynton K” is just a little more than you could imagine: there’s mystery meeting mastery, but then there’s that little something extra that Elmer adds that makes the tune spooky yet happily upbeat. This is his greatest quality. In a word, the cat is real jazz musician.

rick bogart

very good music-- it can be listened to many times and still be interesting
the music plays in a good intelligent fashion--it is from a good place.

Scott Ballin, © Jazz Improv Magazine

This trio swings at all tempos. Their joy is palpable.
I USED TO BE ANONYMOUS - stockelm@pipeline.com Peter the Painter, Dance of the Drackots, Blues for Bobby, Wounded Heart, Keep Your Eye On the Ball, Easy Mr. B, Monk¹s Slow Drag, Steppin¹ Out with Mr. K, Tyner Time.
PERSONNEL: Steve Elmer, piano, composer ; Hide Tanaka, bass ; Shingo Okudaira, drums.

By Scott Ballin

Steve Elmer as the title suggests is not a well known name in jazz , at least until recently. He is, however, a solid pianist and a fine composer (all tracks are Elmer’s originals). This is his third CD, the first two were quartets with saxophonist, Chris Potter.
The first track titled “Peter the Painter” is a medium swinger with Elmer and bassist Hide Tanaka stretching out for some tasty- melodic soloing. Drummer Shingo Okudaira is also featured on some trading, as he is on many of the tunes. The second tune “Dance of the Drackots” is a salute to bebop great Bud Powell and his “Parisian Thoroughfare.” The tempo is up and the trio is cooking from the first measure. The recording is crisp and well balanced.
They continue with another tribute to one of the greats of jazz piano. The medium tempo “Blues for Bobby T” for the soulful Bobby Timmons is a minor blues. Elmer draws from a variety of influences to construct a well developed solo which builds in intensity before yielding to Tanaka’s short, but effective solo statement. Okudaira seem to be digging-in harder than on the other tracks. Perhaps Elmer’s aggressive playing inspired Okudaira’s Art Blakey approach. Whatever the case, “Blues for Bobby T” is a track that will appeal to lovers of hard bop piano and likely elicit repeated listening.
Elmer’s lyrical side is brought on his tender ballad “Wounded Heart.” This well oiled trio plays with a sense of space. This is refreshing in light of the overplaying that dominates some groups I’ve heard. Okudaira’s brushwork add just the right touch of rhythm and color. Elmer and Tanaka engage in a sensitive dialogue before the final statement of the melody. The tempo is way up for “Keep Your Eye On The Ball.” This trio swings at all tempos. Their joy is palpable. Elmer manages a clever “Here Comes The Bride” quote toward the end of his solo providing a brief comic gesture. An up-tempo burner like this is where one would expect a drum solo, and it is delivered in impressive style by Okudaira who keeps it short and swinging.
Proceeding in a more relaxed tempo “Easy Mr. B” is a boppish line for vocalist extraordinaire Billy Eckstein. Elmer builds tension in his solo with two handed cross rhythms. The next nod to the jazz piano legend Thelonious Monk, with “Monk’s Slow Drag.” It begins with some free form bass and drums setting an ominous mood. Elmer comes in with the theme out of tempo, with Okudaira’s providing subtle coloration on cymbals. The tempo is a slow funky bluesy romp evoking the essence of Monk without being a direct copy. The last two tunes are also tributes to piano greats. “Steppin’ Out with Wynton K” sounds more Tynerish than Kellyish with its percussive left hand and angular soloing. The last tune “Tyner Time” is a nice salute to one of the most revered pianists in jazz, McCoy Tyner. Again , Elmer salutes the greats and communicates their style and influence while keeping his individuality.
This is an excellent trio and I look forward to their next recording. Throughout the disc Elmer remains true to his mantra printed on the cover, which is highlighted in red: Classic Jazz: Play the original song, improvise on the melody, the harmony, and the form. Tell a story and make it swing one way or another.

Jersey Jazz

Elmer has swing in his blood, and his compatriots are cut from the same cloth.
"I Used to Be Anonymous" by the Steve Elmer Trio is well-played and well-titled. Before Elmer sent this disc for review, he was certainly anonymous to me. I am usually wary of albums of originals, especially by players that I do not know. Well, here is a collection of originals by pianist Elmer, accompanied by Hide Tanaka on bass and Shingo Okudaira on drums, that is wonderfully ear-catching. He uses the pianists Bud Powell, Bobby Timmons, Thelonious Monk, Wynton Kelly and McCoy Tyner as the inspirations for five of the nine tunes on the album.. In each case, Elmer effectively captures the feeling that each of them brought to his music. "Easy Mr. B" is a successful attempt to evoke the ambience created by the vocalizing of Billy Eckstein. Elmer has swing in his blood, and his compatriots are cut from the same cloth. It is always nice to find a new artist to enjoy, and such is the case with Steve Elmer.”

Joe Lang, Jersey Jazz,
New Jersey Jazz Society
July/August, 2006