Steve Kuhn

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

Steve Kuhn
Kuhn at the 2017 Oslo Jazz Festival
Background information
BornMarch 24, 1938 (March 24, 1938)
Brooklyn, New York
Occupation(s)Musician, composer, arranger, bandleader, educator
Years active1963–present
LabelsImpulse!, Buddha, ECM, Concord, Blue Note, Sunnyside, New World, Venus, MPS, Prestige


Kuhn was born on March 24, 1938, in Brooklyn, New York City. He began studying piano at the age of five and studied under Boston piano teacher Margaret Chaloff, mother of jazz baritone saxophonist Serge Chaloff, 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 Coleman Hawkins, Vic Dickenson, Chet Baker, 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.[1] 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.

Kuhn also has appeared with Stan Getz, Art Farmer, Oliver Nelson, Gary McFarland, Ron Carter, Scott LaFaro, Harvie Swartz, vocalist Shelia 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".

On June 25, 2019, The New York Times Magazine listed Steve Kuhn among hundreds of artists whose material was reportedly destroyed in the 2008 Universal fire.[2]


As leader/co-leader

Year recorded Title Label Notes
1963? The Country and Western Sound of Jazz Pianos Dauntless With Toshiko Akiyoshi (piano, cello), Barry Galbraith (guitar), David Izenzon and John Neves (bass), Pete La Roca (drums)[3]
1966? Three Waves Contact Trio, with Steve Swallow (bass), Pete La Roca (drums)[3]
1966 The October Suite Impulse! 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)[3]
1968 Watch What Happens! MPS Trio, with Palle Danielsson (bass), Jon Christensen (drums); also released as Steve Kuhn in Europe by Prestige[3]
1969 Childhood Is Forever BYG Trio, with Steve Swallow (bass), Aldo Romano (drums)[3]
1971 Steve Kuhn Buddah With Ron Carter (bass), Billy Cobham (drums), Airto Moreira (percussion), string quartet[3]
1972 Steve Kuhn Live in New York Cobblestone Quartet, with George Mraz (bass), Bruce Ditmas (drums), Sue Evans (percussion); in concert; also released as Raindrops by Muse[3]
1974 Ecstasy ECM Solo piano[3]
1974 Trance ECM Quartet, with Steve Swallow (electric bass), Jack DeJohnette (drums), Sue Evans (percussion)[3]
1977 Motility ECM Quartet, with Steve Slagle (flute, soprano sax, alto sax), Harvie Swartz (bass), Michael Smith (drums)[3]
1978 NonFiction ECM Quartet, with Steve Slagle (flute, soprano sax, alto sax, percussion), Harvie Swartz (bass), Bob Moses (drums)[3]
1979 Playground ECM Quartet, with Harvie Swartz (bass), Bob Moses (drums), Sheila Jordan (vocals)[3]
1981 Last Year's Waltz ECM Quartet, with Harvie Swartz (bass), Bob Moses (drums), Sheila Jordan (vocals); in concert[3]
1984 Mostly Ballads New World Duo, with Harvie Swartz (bass)[3]
1986 The Vanguard Date Owl Trio, with Ron Carter (bass), Al Foster (drums); in concert[4]
1986 Life's Magic Black Hawk Trio, with Ron Carter (bass), Al Foster (drums); in concert[3]
1988 Porgy Jazz City Most tracks trio, with Eddie Gómez and Buster Williams (bass; separately), Al Foster (drums); some tracks quartet, with Laura Anne Taylor (vocals) added[3]
1989 Oceans in the Sky Owl Trio, with Miroslav Vitouš (bass), Aldo Romano (drums)[3]
1990 Looking Back Concord Trio, with David Finck (bass), Lewis Nash (drums)[3]
1990 Live at Maybeck Recital Hall, Volume Thirteen Concord Solo piano; in concert[3]
1992 Years Later Concord Trio, with David Finck (bass), Lewis Nash (drums)[3]
1995 Remembering Tomorrow ECM Trio, with David Finck (bass), Joey Baron (drums)[3]
1995 Seasons of Romance Postcards With Bob Mintzer (tenor sax), Tom Harrell (trumpet), George Mraz (bass), Al Foster (drums)[3]
1997 Dedication Reservoir Trio, with David Finck (bass), Billy Drummond (drums)[3]
1998 Love Walked In Venus Trio, with Buster Williams (bass), Bill Stewart (drums)[3]
1998 Countdown Reservoir Trio, with David Finck (bass), Billy Drummond (drums)[3]
1999 The Best Things Reservoir Most tracks trio, with David Finck (bass), Billy Drummond (drums); one track quartet, with Luciana Souza (vocals)[3]
2000? Promises Kept ECM With David Finck (bass), strings[3]
2006 Live at Birdland Blue Note Trio, with Ron Carter (bass), Al Foster (drums); in concert[3]
2008 Mostly Coltrane ECM Quartet, with Joe Lovano (tenor sax, tárogató), David Finck (bass), Joey Baron (drums)[3]
2011 Wisteria ECM Trio, with Steve Swallow (electric bass), Joey Baron (drums)[3]
2016? At This Time... Sunnyside Trio, with Steve Swallow (electric bass), Joey Baron (drums)[5]


  • 2009 Life's Backward Glances (ECM): Solo Piano, Trios, and Quartets with Steve Slagle or Sheila Jordan

As sideman


  2. Rosen, Jody (25 June 2019). "Here Are Hundreds More Artists Whose Tapes Were Destroyed in the UMG Fire". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 June 2019.
  3. Fitzgerald, Michael (May 13, 2013). "Steve Kuhn Discography". Retrieved February 8, 2019.
  4. Collar, Matt. "Steve Kuhn: The Vanguard Date". AllMusic. Retrieved February 10, 2019.
  5. Chinen, Nate (March 16, 2016). "Review: The Steve Kuhn Trio's New Album Offers Heat and Intimacy". The New York Times.
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