ADEGOKE STEVE COLSON, pianist and composer, performs 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.
Steve is a critically acclaimed figure in modern jazz; his compositions are
entering the “jazz standard” repertoire and are being performed/recorded by some of today’s jazz greats as well as by his own group. He joined 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. He served as Chairman in 1976. 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.
With his wife, vocalist/lyricist Iqua Colson, he has traveled extensively and has headlined the biggest Jazz festivals in the world, including The Red Sea Jazz Festival, The Chicago Jazz Festival, and NorthSea Jazz Festival. As a
band leader he has shared billing with the most famous musicians, i.e., Dizzy Gillespie, Ray Charles, Tito Puente, Betty Carter, Joe Henderson, Oscar
Peterson, Pharoah Saunders, and Dr. Billy Taylor, to name but a few.
Greats with whom Steve has worked or featured in his own presentations
include Muhal Richard Abrams, Pheeroan AkLaff, Fred Anderson, Kelvyn
Bell, Big Black, Ed Blackwell, John Blake, Hamiet Bluiett, T.K. Blue, Ted
Curson, Andrew Cyrille, Baikida Carroll, Anthony Davis, Richard Davis, Kahil
El’ Zabar, Douglas Ewart, Rachelle Farrell, Malachi Favors, Joe Ford, Chico
Freeman, Rafael Donald Garrett, Benny Golson, Michael Gregory, Henry
Grimes, Craig Harris, Billy Hart, Graham Haynes, Mark Helias, Fred Hopkins,
Joseph Jarman, Leroy Jenkins, Oliver Lake, George Lewis, Steve McCall,
Andy McCloud, Makanda Ken McIntyre, Rene McLean, Roscoe Mitchell, T.S.
Monk, Butch Morris, Dushun Mosley, David Murray, J.D. Parran, Hannibal
Peterson, Rufus Reid, Max Roach, Marlena Shaw, Wadada Leo Smith,
Tyshawn Sorey, Dakota Staton, Henry Threadgill, Steve Turre, James
“Blood” Ulmer, Chris White, Ed Wilkerson, Joe Lee Wilson, Reggie
Workman, Rev. Frank Wright, and many others. He often appeared with
Spirit of Life Ensemble and is currently with Amiri and Amina Baraka.
Steve has been an educator throughout his career. He was one of 23 jazz
artists who piloted the Jazz Artists in the Schools Program for the National Endowment for the Arts (1981); colleagues included such renowned
educators as Alvin Batiste of New Orleans and Arnie Lawrence – co-founder
(w/Chico Hamilton) of the New School For Jazz and Contemporary Music
(NY). The pilot’s success led to federal funding of residency programs.
Steve has been a Panelist for NJSCA (1986, 1990), Lila Wallace-Reader’s
Digest National Jazz Network (1993), CEC/ArtsLink (1994), Star-Ledger
Scholarships for the Performing Arts (1999-03), Arts International (2002-
03); and he has been an Educational Consultant for the Chicago Council on Fine Arts (1979), NEA (1981), New Jersey Chamber Music Society (2002), The African American Museum (2005), and NJPAC (1998-present).
Steve arranged and conducted the music of Willie “The Lion” Smith for the national Lost Jazz Shrines project, the outgrowth of a United States
Congressional Resolution declaring Jazz a “national treasure.” The Lion’s
music represented the City of Newark, N.J., (one of the eleven “Shrine” cities) and the concert was aired on PBS. This is one of several television
presentations of Steve’s work in the U.S and abroad. Steve worked as Music
Director for Adventures of a Black Girl in Search of God, by Canadian
playwright Djanet Sears, with a cast that included the legendary Carmen de
Lavallade, and he performed in Amiri Baraka and Max Roach’s bopera, The
Life and Life of Bumpy Johnson. Steve was also 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…”) premiered as the first jazz orchestra work at New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) during its opening season, 1997-98.
Steve has given workshops in the U.S. and abroad, and teaches at
Bloomfield College and The Cali School of Music at Montclair State Univesity (both in NJ) where his courses include World Music, Music in the
U.S./The African American Influence, Intro to Jazz, and Piano. He is the
“listening and history” instructor for Wells Fargo Jazz for Teens Program
at NJPAC. Steve and Iqua live in Montclair, NJ, and have two grown sons.
Steve’s work is on American, European and Japanese record labels including Columbia/Sony, Venus, Evidence, and Black Saint. His most recent CD as a leader, The Untarnished Dream, is a trio featuring jazz masters Andrew Cyrille and Reggie Workman, with Iqua on several vocal tracks. This CD, on the Colsons’ own Silver Sphinx label, was ranked by the International Jazz Journalists as one of the best Jazz CDs of 2010. The Colson’s prior Silver Sphinx CD, Hope for Love, was nominated for a Grammy. In November 2011 their 1979 Colson Unity Troupe LP “Triumph!” was re-released out of London, U.K., as a part of Soul Jazz Records Freedom Rhythm & Sound collection: the book, CD compilation, and re-issue series. Steve has been discussed in countless blogs, newspapers, periodicals, and in several books including:
* The Freedom Principle – Music after 1958 – John Litweiler, Morrow & Co
* Uptown Conversation –The New Jazz Studies – edit. O’Meally, Edwards, Griffin, Columbia Univ. Press, 2004
* Black Women & Music, More than the Blues (w/wife & music partner Iqua Colson) – 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 (*American Book Award, 2009)
* Freedom, Rhythm and Sound – Book/ CD/ LP compilation – Soul Jazz
Records, London, U.K., 2009