Steve Kuhn

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Steve Kuhn
Kuhn at the Oslo Jazz Festival in 2017
Kuhn at the Oslo Jazz Festival in 2017
Background information
Born (1938-03-24) March 24, 1938 (age 85)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Occupation(s)Musician, composer, arranger, bandleader, educator
Years active1963–present
LabelsImpulse!, Buddha, ECM, Concord, Blue Note, Sunnyside, New World, Venus, MPS, Prestige

Steve Kuhn (born March 24, 1938) is an American jazz pianist, composer, arranger, bandleader, and educator.[1]


Kuhn was born in New York City, New York, to Carl and Stella Kuhn (née Kaufman), and was raised in Newton, Massachusetts.[2] His parents were Hungarian-Jewish immigrants.[3] At the age of five, he began studying piano under Boston piano teacher Margaret Chaloff, mother of jazz baritone saxophonist Serge Chaloff,[1] who taught him the "Russian style" of piano playing. At an early age he began improvising classical music. As a teenager, he appeared in jazz clubs in the Boston area with Chet Baker, Coleman Hawkins, Vic Dickenson, and Serge Chaloff.

After graduating from Harvard, he attended the Lenox School of Music where he was associated with Ornette Coleman, Don Cherry, and Gary McFarland.[4] The school's faculty included Bill Evans, George Russell, Gunther Schuller, and the members of the Modern Jazz Quartet. This allowed Kuhn to play, study, and create with some of the most forward-thinking innovators of jazz improvisation and composition; it culminated with his joining trumpeter Kenny Dorham's group for an extended time and (briefly) John Coltrane's quartet at New York's Jazz Gallery club.[1]

Kuhn also has appeared with Stan Getz, Art Farmer, Oliver Nelson, Gary McFarland, Ron Carter, Scott LaFaro, Harvie Swartz, vocalist Sheila Jordan, Billy Drummond, David Finck, and Miroslav Vitous. From 1967 to 1971 Kuhn moved to Stockholm, Sweden where he worked with his own trio throughout Europe. In 1971 Kuhn moved back to New York City and formed a quartet but continued doing European gigs and appearing at the Newport Jazz Festival.

In his early years, Kuhn was known as an avant-garde jazz pianist. He was associated with bassist Steve Swallow and drummer Pete La Roca during the 1960s on several notable recordings: Three Waves, under Kuhn's leadership; Basra, under La Roca's leadership, which also featured Joe Henderson; and Sing Me Softly of the Blues under flugelhornist Art Farmer's leadership. Also notable was Kuhn's inclusion in the quartet on the landmark recording Sound Pieces led by saxophonist, composer, and arranger Oliver Nelson and including Ron Carter on bass and Grady Tate on drums. Among other critically acclaimed recordings there was The October Suite composed by Gary McFarland for Kuhn and an ensemble which included strings, woodwinds, and reeds. The Promises Kept album features Kuhn's compositions, piano, and strings.

For decades, Steve Kuhn has led all-star trios that have included such players as bassists Ron Carter and David Finck, and drummers Al Foster, Jack DeJohnette, and Joey Baron. He has had several live recordings made in some of New York's leading jazz clubs. Kuhn is also the composer of the jazz standard "The Saga of Harrison Crabfeathers".

In late 2022, Kuhn announced that he had retired from touring.[citation needed]


As leader/co-leader[edit]

Year recorded Title Label Year released Notes
1960 1960 PJL 2005 Trio, with Scott LaFaro (bass), Pete La Roca (drums)
1963 The Country and Western Sound of Jazz Pianos Dauntless 1963 With Toshiko Akiyoshi (piano, cello), Barry Galbraith (guitar), David Izenzon and John Neves (bass), Pete La Roca (drums)[5]
1966 Three Waves Contact 1966 Trio, with Steve Swallow (bass), Pete La Roca (drums)[5]
1966 The October Suite Impulse! 1967 Co-led with Gary McFarland (conductor); with Isadore Cohen and Matthew Raimondi (violin), Alfred Brown (viola), Charles McCracken (violincello), Ron Carter (bass), Marty Morell (drums)[5]
1968 Watch What Happens! MPS 1968 Trio, with Palle Danielsson (bass), Jon Christensen (drums); also released as Steve Kuhn in Europe by Prestige[5]
1969 Childhood Is Forever BYG 1969 Trio, with Steve Swallow (bass), Aldo Romano (drums)[5]
1971 Steve Kuhn Buddah 1971 With Ron Carter (bass), Billy Cobham (drums), Airto Moreira (percussion), string quartet[5]
1972 Steve Kuhn Live in New York Cobblestone 1972 Quartet, with George Mraz (bass), Bruce Ditmas (drums), Sue Evans (percussion); in concert; also released as Raindrops by Muse[5]
1974 Ecstasy ECM 1975 Solo piano[5]
1974 Trance ECM 1975 Quartet, with Steve Swallow (electric bass), Jack DeJohnette (drums), Sue Evans (percussion)[5]
1977 Motility ECM 1977 Quartet, with Steve Slagle (flute, soprano sax, alto sax), Harvie Swartz (bass), Michael Smith (drums)[5]
1978 NonFiction ECM 1978 Quartet, with Steve Slagle (flute, soprano sax, alto sax, percussion), Harvie Swartz (bass), Bob Moses (drums)[5]
1979 Playground ECM 1980 Quartet, with Harvie Swartz (bass), Bob Moses (drums), Sheila Jordan (vocals)[5]
1981 Last Year's Waltz ECM 1982 Quartet, with Harvie Swartz (bass), Bob Moses (drums), Sheila Jordan (vocals); in concert[5]
1984 Mostly Ballads Polydor 1986 Duo, with Harvie Swartz (bass)
1986 The Vanguard Date Owl 1991 Trio, with Ron Carter (bass), Al Foster (drums); in concert[6]
1986 Life's Magic Black Hawk 1986 Trio, with Ron Carter (bass), Al Foster (drums); in concert[5]
1988 Porgy Jazz City 1989 Most tracks trio, with Eddie Gómez and Buster Williams (bass; separately), Al Foster (drums); some tracks quartet, with Laura Anne Taylor (vocals) added[5]
1989 Oceans in the Sky Owl 1990 Trio, with Miroslav Vitouš (bass), Aldo Romano (drums)[5]
1990 Looking Back Concord 1990 Trio, with David Finck (bass), Lewis Nash (drums)[5]
1990 Live at Maybeck Recital Hall, Volume Thirteen Concord 1990 Solo piano; in concert[5]
1992 Years Later Concord 1992 Trio, with David Finck (bass), Lewis Nash (drums)[5]
1993-96 In Cafe Tokuma 1997 Solo piano
1994 Live in Japan Vol.1 & Vol.2 PJL 2004 Co-leader duo with Steve Swallow (electric bass)
1994? In the Shadows Owl 1994 Co-leader with Carol Fredette (vocals)
1995 Remembering Tomorrow ECM 1996 Trio, with David Finck (bass), Joey Baron (drums)[5]
1995 Two by 2 Owl 1996 Co-leader duo with Steve Swallow (bass)
1995 Seasons of Romance Postcards 1995 With Bob Mintzer (tenor sax), Tom Harrell (trumpet), George Mraz (bass), Al Foster (drums)[5]
1997 Dedication Reservoir 1998 Trio, with David Finck (bass), Billy Drummond (drums)[5]
1997 Sing Me Softly of the Blues Venus 1997 Trio, with George Mraz (bass), Pete La Roca (drums)
1998 Love Walked In Venus 1998 Trio, with Buster Williams (bass), Bill Stewart (drums)[5]
1998 Countdown Reservoir 1999 Trio, with David Finck (bass), Billy Drummond (drums)[5]
1999 The Best Things Reservoir 2000 Most tracks trio, with David Finck (bass), Billy Drummond (drums); one track quartet, with Luciana Souza (vocals)[5]
2000 Quiereme Mucho Venus 2000 Trio, with David Finck (bass), Al Foster (drums)
2000 Promises Kept ECM 2004 Trio, with David Finck (bass), strings[5]
2001 Temptation Venus 2001 Trio, with Buster Williams (bass), Billy Drummond (drums)
2002 Waltz - Blue Side Venus 2002 Trio, with Gary Peacock (bass), Billy Drummond (drums)
2002 Waltz - Red Side Venus 2002 Trio, with Eddie Gomez (bass), Billy Drummond (drums)
2004 Easy to Love Venus 2004 Trio, with David Finck (bass), Billy Drummond (drums)
2005 Pavane for a Dead Princess Venus 2006 Trio, with David Finck (bass), Billy Drummond (drums)
2006 Live at Birdland Blue Note 2007 Trio, with Ron Carter (bass), Al Foster (drums); in concert[5]
2006 Plays Standards Venus 2007 Trio, with Buster Williams (bass), Al Foster (drums)
2007 Baubles, Bangles And Beads Venus 2008 Trio, with David Finck (bass), Billy Drummond (drums)
2008 Mostly Coltrane ECM 2009 Quartet, with Joe Lovano (tenor sax, tárogató), David Finck (bass), Joey Baron (drums)[5]
2010 I Will Wait for You: The Music of Michel Legrand Venus 2010 Trio, with George Mraz (bass), Billy Drummond (drums)
2011 Wisteria ECM 2012 Trio, with Steve Swallow (electric bass), Joey Baron (drums)[5]
2013 Break of Day Meantime 2014 Co-leader with Karin Krog (vocals)
2015 At This Time... Sunnyside 2016 Trio, with Steve Swallow (electric bass), Joey Baron (drums)
2017 To and From the Heart Sunnyside 2018 Trio, with Steve Swallow (electric bass), Joey Baron (drums)


  • Life's Backward Glances (ECM, 2009) – Solo Piano, Trios, and Quartets with Steve Slagle or Sheila Jordan
  • Essential Best (Venus, 2011)[7]

As sideman[edit]

With Stan Getz

With Steve Swallow

With others


  1. ^ a b c Colin Larkin, ed. (1992). The Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music (First ed.). Guinness Publishing. p. 1410. ISBN 0-85112-939-0.
  2. ^ Ullman, Michael (November 2018). "The Jazz Column". Fanfare. p. 582. ProQuest 2120136582. I went from Lonnie Smith's alternatively mellow and raucous set, powered by a bashing drummer, to something quite different: pianist Steve Kuhn's trio. Raised in Newton, Massachusetts, Kuhn was grimly celebrating his 80th birthday.
  3. ^ ‘’ Steve Kuhn, Fresh Sound Records
  4. ^ Derradji, Jerome (January 30, 2014). "Forgotten Classics: Steve Kuhn's Trance". Fact Magazine. Retrieved May 17, 2023.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac Fitzgerald, Michael (May 13, 2013). "Steve Kuhn Discography". Retrieved February 8, 2019.
  6. ^ Collar, Matt. "Steve Kuhn: The Vanguard Date". AllMusic. Retrieved February 10, 2019.
  7. ^ "Essential Best". Venus Records (in Japanese).

External links[edit]