Steve Elson | Mott and Broome

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Jazz: Soul-Jazz Latin: Latin Jazz Moods: Featuring Saxophone
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Mott and Broome

by Steve Elson

Soulful, compelling, and melodic new music from saxophonist/clarinetist/composer Steve Elson drawing from his experience playing with such greats as David Bowie, Johnny Otis, the Borneo Horns, and many others in the R&B, Jazz and creative music fields.
Genre: Jazz: Soul-Jazz
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. Remember This
4:20 album only
2. Sevilla
5:15 album only
3. I Haven't Got Time to Dream
3:52 album only
4. Into the Blue
3:02 album only
5. Bowery Bossa Nova
3:53 album only
6. A Day At the Beach
3:16 album only
7. Woolgathering
2:45 album only
8. Heaven in Your Eyes
4:02 album only
9. Cartoon Love
4:10 album only
10. Wisteria
4:48 album only
11. Rara Avis
4:25 album only
12. Mott and Broome
4:40 album only
13. Try and Catch Me
5:39 album only


Album Notes
Think of this cd as an excavation.
The dig is in musician/composer Steve Elson’s neighborhood: starting on the sidewalk, say, off the Bowery in New York City’s Lower East Side.
The first job is to break through the hard contemporary surface, and, if you look around, people are doing that all over. There’s the constant rumble of affordable housing being torn down, bodegas giving way to condos, high rises shadowing tenements.
But this music is interested in honoring, not erasing, the past. In the first layer of top soil are some artifacts from when Steve first moved here from the Oakland area. Maybe one of his kufi caps, a horn chart from his time with Johnny Otis or David Bowie, that scrap of the New York Times that called Steve’s early compositions “the missing link between the Phillip Glass Ensemble and James Brown’s JBs.”
Dig deeper, and you can trace his ancestry: Steve’s parents raised him in California, but his grandfather grew up a few blocks away in the back of a storefront ladies tailor shop. And his great-grandfather immigrated to the Lower East Side from Russia --where, to complete the circle, Steve’s son was born. Those connections might help explain some of the resonance to be heard on “Mott and Broome:” the sense of place and of history, the easy and remarkable shifting through different eras.
But what this excavation also reveals are the other cultures that have made this city: a sensual mix of Latin rhythms and Duke Ellington horns, the cry of Arabic flutes coupling with the soft swing of the bossa nova. This is the substrata, the loam, that these compositions travel through and grow from.
Whether the old world “Sevilla” or the new world “Mott and Broome,” many of these songs sound vaguely familiar, as if someone was gently lifting up and examining pieces of the past. But they’re also discoveries: brand new, surprising. And throughout is a kind of pervasive questioning. What have we done? What are we doing?
Picture this cd as an exploration of time, an excavation: the treasure that Steve Elson and friends have found in the dark – and brought to light.


Q and A with Daniel Wolff

You have a new cd, Mott and Broome, your first in ten years. How does it differ from your earlier music?

It feels more straight ahead. It has more blowing on it, more playing. I’ve made a smaller ensemble and kept the palette a lot smaller. I think I’m trusting myself more as a player on this record.

Why the decade gap till Mott and Broome?

I was trying to figure things out! I like so many different kinds of music that I sometimes zip back and forth between things. Then [you and I] started to come up with songs, and it started to feel of a kind. Plus, I’ve lightened up in the last ten years: I’ve had my son and kind of slowed down a little bit.

Out of high school in California, you started playing with the great Johnny Otis r&b band; does Mott and Broome seem connected to that?

I hear that stuff in my playing. Which I’m really proud of and pleased about. The thing is I came from so many different places. I liked the downtown thing, but it always felt kind of ironic to me. David Bowie, Sam And Dave, Joe Jackson: I’ve made a living since I was very young playing with all these great musicians. What they all had in common, I think, was that they were about dancing – and I always wanted to play music that made people want to move.
As a player, all those different experiences have given me a certain moodiness. Or a depth. All my great heroes, when they were my age – well, they were mostly dead! -- but they’d done so much and been around so much, and it was evident in a simple song. So this cd is simpler in a way because I trusted … what do you call it? The dust. Or the depth. The history of it. Less dense but deeper.

A lot of us start off rebelling at our parents and their values, but I know your father and mother have heard Mott and Broome and like it. What’s your reaction to that?

He’s 83. And that’s great [that he likes it]. When he was young, he liked swing music, Glen Miller, the big bands. He hears that on this record, and I like that. All of us were influenced by that stuff. Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Johnny Hodges: you can’t deny that sound.

On the other end of the spectrum, your son?

He’s ten years old. He’s into Hannah Montana. But he likes “Cartoon Love” on this record. And the last cut: “Try and Catch Me.” Having a son means you’re really living in a way you haven’t before and that adds a whole patina. You look inward more. If you listen carefully to this cd, I think you’ll hear who I am, what I’ve done.

How about the nuts and bolts of the recording?

I had lots of ideas, and then I sent some [melodies] to you, and you were able to set them to lyrics so compatible and right-on that I can’t think of these pieces now without the words. The same way I don't think it’s easy to find an exact era or location for these songs, your lyrics defy easy placement.
Then we did a gig at the Bowery Poetry Club. Ideally, it would be great to go on the road and do thirty or forty gigs and then go into the studio, but that’s a luxury I don’t have right now. Maybe the next cd?
Then I took it to a good friend named Scott Lehrer. A lovely little studio about a block and a half from my house: Second Story Sound. We mixed the record [there] as well. It was basically a live mix: no overdubs on this recording at all.
Pete Smith, the guitar player, I met several years ago when I started playing with Hazmat Modine: beautiful nine-string acoustic guitar sound, helped me harmonize some of the things. The drummer’s Scott Latzky: just plays his butt off! On bass is a young player, Yasushi Nakamura: great sound, easy swing. This is actually hard music to sing: there are some big leaps, some passages with a lot of words. Jennifer Griffith [the vocalist] is a composer; she knows about jazz and Latin music. I just love the sound of her voice: beautiful, clear.

So it’s a Lower East Side production?

That is my community. Sometimes my father comes to town, and we look out the window together and think this is where his great-grandfather was. It’s very moving. And great to have the cd titled Mott and Broome. I’ve been here for thirty-one years. And in some ways, for a hundred years before that! So I would hope that can be heard. My son’s public school is down the street; the community garden we’re involved in is a block-and-a-half away. This is home.

Who would you like to hear your new music?

I think this is very easy to like. It doesn’t require a lot of concentration; it really comes at you. It makes you want to move. I feel good that Mott and Broome is going to be heard by a bunch of people. I wish I hadn’t waited so long.



to write a review

Jeff Hensley

Mott and Broome
Marvelous music making at every turn, intriguing explorations of mood from pensive to frivolous, and a wonderful weaving of textures, from the instrumentation to the wonderful vocals of Jennifer Griffith, it was for me compelling on first listen. It's fun, and it made me think, wonder is more like it, the way a rainy afternoon in spring makes you wonder. This album is highly recommended, by me, and I'm sure by many more who will come to know the smart playing, and soulful sentiments.

Stan Harrison

Soul reigns
Whether he's playing tenor, soprano, bari or clarinet, whether it be instrumental or vocal, Steve Elson's soulful personality shines through. Not a note too many, no superfluous affactations, just the facts of life as experienced by a musician with deep roots on a musical and cultural level. Listen to the CD and take a ride.


Mott & Broome
This is great music

Margo A.

Loved Mott and Broome
Love listening to this CD! Touches my heart. Everyone we gave it to also loves it!!

Bowery Denizen

Music for these Times
It’s New York City and everywhere. You recognize it, a memory, and you try to follow, but it has already gone on to the next moment. All this richness, all these textures and tones and nuance. Emphatic playing. Saxophone insinuates itself into your mind; angry, screaming or joyful or sorrowful or just plain beautiful. It resonates, it’s physical. The lyrics join forces with the music: fresh, forceful, tender. You have to listen. Heartache, joy, the details of lives fully lived. There is no hiding out here. The music is pure, full. It’s sexy out loud.
“I haven’t got time to Dream”, romantic and truthful. No irony. Listen to that “Bowery Bossa Nova”- swoon. “Cartoon Love”, “A Day at the Beach”: quirky, happy, sweet, and honest. And the hushed plea of “Mott and Broome”. It’s about us, about trying as hard as you can, as openly, as fully as you can. With no apologies. Everything matters in these songs. They overpower you with what’s possible while keeping your feet planted (though tapping) on the rock solid earth.