Spring, 2023 – Steve DeDoes is now in his sixties. In recent years, his many album releases have covered a broad range of styles, presenting new work while also pulling from prior recording projects.
However, in his latest offering, entitled “Intimate Notebooks“, DeDoes focuses in on his jazz- and piano-based roots. This collection of poignant expressions points to many primary influences and foundations that forged Steve’s career – as a composer, producer, arranger, music director, and more – across a wide and diverse range of musical productions and projects.
In constructing the artistic parameters of “Intimate Notebooks,” DeDoes also reached for some personal “touchstones” in collaboration: most notably, vocal artist April Arabian-Tini and the late Matt Michaels. Michaels, a Detroit piano legend and teacher to countless renowned musicians, passed away in 2011.
Steve began years of study with his beloved mentor in 1982, and enjoyed a relationship that evolved on so many levels throughout Matt’s life. (click here to read Steve’s thoughts upon Matt’s death in 2011)
The track entitled “The Bell Curve” (track #10 on the album) is an update from a 1996 recording which features Michaels’ piano driving a 4-piece ensemble in a DeDoes original tune. Vibraphonist Cary Kocher is a key part of that original group, with prominent Detroit veterans Dan Jordan on bass and David Taylor on drums. In pulling this recording forward from his production archives, Steve was able to complement this quartet with a strategic alto sax solo by Mattie DeDoes, Steve’s son – and himself a noteworthy recording artist (now living in Cleveland). An additional dimension to “The Bell Curve” is presented on track #8, titled “Creative Frenzy.” This short bop ditty is actually a 30-second improv romp on the same chord changes of “Curve”, played by the same Michaels-led 4-piece rhythm section – but here with a sax lead by longtime SE Michigan jazzer Pete Kahn.
Steve DeDoes’ relationship with longtime vocalist April Tini (and her husband, renowned pianist and educator Dennis Tini) originated through Michaels.
Tini’s vocals have been featured in a number of DeDoes productions over the years. Track #2 on the new album is a song DeDoes penned in 2022, titled “A World Unknown;” after composing the tune, DeDoes begged Tini’s collaboration on the piece. “I just kept hearing the sound of April’s voice on this melody,” he says, adding that he also knew that this song would require a singer with some “musical chops” because of its intracacies. Tini, for her part, was somewhat reticent about tackling the vocal part. ” ‘A World Unknown’ isn’t an easy tune to sing, even though it’s based upon some simple lines,” she opines. “I ended up considering this as kind of a ‘comeback’ to the challenges and standards of recording a truly original song.” Indeed, “A World Unknown” has been described by some listeners as “not quite jazz,” but also “not quite pop.” To DeDoes, this is where April Tini enters the equation. “She has, to me, always existed on a plane that’s somewhere above those genres,” he qualifies (click here to access some previous DeDoes-Tini collaborations). He’s justifiably proud of “A World Unknown,” adding, “I hope that people enjoy hearing once again what is still a unique and distinctive voice.”