Born: September 4 Primary Instrument: Piano
ADEGOKE STEVE COLSON, pianist and composer, has performed internationally as a leader of jazz ensembles ranging from trios to orchestras. Born in Newark and raised in East Orange, NJ, he received his degree from Northwestern University School of Music and lived in Chicago for a decade before returning to the East Coast where he now resides. November 13, 1989 was proclaimed Adegoke Steve Colson Day by the City of Newark in honor of the premiere of his multi-media work, Greens, Rice, and a Rope, at Newark Symphony Hall during the national celebration of New Music America.
A critically acclaimed figure in modern jazz, Steve’s compositions are finding their way into the “jazz standard” repertoire and are being performed and recorded by some of today’s jazz greats as well as by his own group. He became a member of The Association for Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) in the early 70s, a musicians’ collective that has influenced music internationally in the 20th and 21st Century. Steve’s music has been compared to that of Monk, Mingus, and Ellington as well as Ives, Berio, and Stravinsky. He has received several commissions and awards for composition from organizations with interests in the arts, and has traveled throughout the world performing with many talented artists. Those with whom he has worked or featured in his presentations include Muhal Richard Abrams, Pheeroan AkLaff, Ed Blackwell, John Blake, Hamiet Bluiett, T.K. Blue, Andrew Cyrille, Baikida Carroll, Anthony Davis, Richard Davis, Kahil El’ Zabar, Douglas Ewart, Rachelle Farrell, Malachi Favors, Joe Ford, Rafael Donald Garrett, Benny Golson, Michael Gregory, Craig Harris, Fred Hopkins, Joseph Jarman, Leroy Jenkins, Oliver Lake, George Lewis, Branford Marsalis, Steve McCall, Andy McCloud, Makanda Ken McIntyre, Rene McLean, T.S. Monk, Butch Morris, Dushun Mosley, David Murray, Hannibal Peterson, Rufus Reid, Max Roach, Marlena Shaw, Dakota Staton, Henry Threadgill, Steve Turre, Chris White, Ed Wilkerson, Reggie Workman, Rev. Frank Wright, and many other gifted artists. He regularly appeared with the Spirit of Life Ensemble, and Amiri and Amina Baraka’s Blue Ark.
Steve arranged and conducted the music of Willie “The Lion” Smith for the national Lost Jazz Shrines project, which was an outgrowth of a United States Congressional Resolution declaring Jazz a “national treasure.” Tributes were presented in 11 major cities; “The Lion’s” music represented the City of Newark, N.J., and the concert was aired on PBS. Steve also worked as Music Director for the play, Adventures of a Black Girl in Search of God, by Canadian playwright Djanet Sears, with a cast that included the legendary Carmen de Lavallade. He worked with Amiri Baraka and Max Roach on their bopera, The Life and Life of Bumpy Johnson, and was commissioned to collaborate with Amiri Baraka and Richard Wesley by The New Jersey Chamber Music Society. The second book of their series, “...as in a Cultural Reminiscence…,” was the first world premiere to be presented in New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) during the opening season.
Steve, an educator throughout his career, was one of 23 jazz artists selected nationwide to pilot the Jazz Artists in the Schools Program when the Artists in Residence program was conceived by The National Endowment for the Arts (1981). He has given workshops in the U.S. and abroad, and as a faculty member at The Cali School of Music at Montclair State University and at Bloomfield College (NJ) he has taught World Music, History of African American Music, Intro to Music Technology, and Piano. He is married to Iqua Colson - singer, lyricist and arts administrator. They live approx. 12 miles from New York City, in Montclair, NJ. They have two grown sons.
Steve and his orchestra enjoyed standing ovations in Lille and Paris, France, at popular music festivals L’Aeroneuf and Sons d’hiver, respectively, the latter performance filmed for airing on Mezzo Cultural Cable channel. As a pianist and composer, Steve’s work is found on American, European and Japanese record labels including Columbia/Sony, Evidence, and Black Saint. On his latest CD as a leader, The Untarnished Dream, he leads a trio featuring jazz masters Andrew Cyrille and Reggie Workman, with wife Iqua on several vocals; it is on their own Silver Sphinx label. The last CD on their label, Hope for Love, was nominated for a Grammy.
Steve’s work has been discussed in countless magazines, newspapers, periodicals, and in several recently published books.
- The Freedom Principle: Jazz After 1958 - John Litweiler, William Morrow & Co, NY
- Uptown Conversation, The New Jazz Studies - edit. O’Meally, Edwards, Griffin, Columbia U Press, 2004
- Black Women & Music, More than the Blues - Anthology of Essays/Interviews -edit. Hayes, Unv. N. Texas, 2007
- A Power Stronger Than Itself, The AACM and American Experimental Music - George Lewis, U. Chicago, 2008
- Freedom, Rhythm and Sound Book / CD, Soul Jazz Records, London, U.K. - 2009