| Warren Cooper |
Among the jewels to be found in the ground of the Philly Music Scene would be bassist Steve Green. Born in Alameda, CA Steve was transplanted to Philadelphia in the 1960s, at the age of 3. His family moved into the racially charged neighborhood of Kensington, where he was exposed at an early age to the hateful unrest of that era. After a short stint in a neighborhood elementary school Steve transferred to Conwell Magnet, a school in an equally racially charged area, and began to study music and the bass guitar. “I had to run home from school every day. I can remember being confused as to why they didn’t like me, but as I became older it became clear.”
Along with those challenges though came the blessing of friendship. “I made friends with one of the white kids named Leo. He was a drummer and as a bass player that was the first time I began to appreciate the connected affinity between the bass and the drums. Leo and I used to sneak out of school to go to his house and listen to music…we were listening to Blood, Sweat and Tears and other pop music of that era. Leo was in my first band – I forget how, but in the 6th grade we went to New York to play for President Nixon.” His friendship with Leo had him experience hatred and love in equal portions.
In the 1970s Steve moved to the West Oak Lane section of the city and continued his musical growth. By the age of 14 he was playing with a band called Santa Fe, which was a Latin band of older kids that played the music of Carlos Santana. Eventually he was connected with local keyboard legend Alfie Pollitt, who exposed him to jazz and the music of John Coltrane. “John Coltrane changed my life because I couldn’t believe that something could be so beautiful and so spiritual. He turned a lot of people off because they didn’t understand what he was doing, but if you listen to his solos they’re like a Pentecostal gospel sermon…building to a preacher’s frenzied intensity and then bringing it back down. He influenced my playing because his music taught me that it was o.k. to fly.”
From there he began to play with The Change of the Century Orchestra, an avant-garde jazz orchestra that included Sonny Murray, Philly Joe Jones, Monette Sudler and musicians from the Sun Ra Arkhestra. His heart and soul began to migrate to fusion jazz, and through a series of associations Steve ended up in New York where he began to play with the Tony Williams Lifetime Band. “We would hang out on the weekends at Jan Hammer’s farm and just play. It was a time period that opened my head to new rhythms and new sounds.” It was during this time that he connected with the group Breakwater (known for hits like Say You Love Me Girl and Splashdown). After the recording of Breakwater’s first album he returned to Philadelphia to await its release. Hanging out at the weekly jam sessions at Grendel’s Lair he met another legendary keyboard player Dexter Wansel, who was an artist and producer at Philadelphia International Records.
“After a stint on the road with Dexter he connected me to the Philly International family…” The rest is history, as Steve became the House Bass Player, recording with artists like The Jones Girls, Patti Labelle, Phyllis Hyman, Teddy Pendergrass and Lou Rawls to name just a few. After touring with Lou Rawls for two years he needed a break from that grind and returned home to Philadelphia. Through a connection tendered by an old band member, he applied for and was offered a job at Bryn Mawr College. “They gave me an office and a computer and told me that they hoped my music would remain as important as my position with the college…that was 27 years ago.”
His music did indeed remain important, as he founded the group Steve Green and the Elevators – a band with a sound that is a unique mixture of Funk, Afro-Cuban, Jazz, Rock and Gospel. “Over the years that band was filled with some awesome musicians – Jeff Lee Johnson, Pablo Batista, Steve Wolf, Tommy Campbell, Louis Taylor… we were, and still are, on a mission…to elevate the heart and soul of everyone in the audience with the spiritual message of uplifting music.”
In his search for spiritual freedom Steve recognized “…that a path has two components – obedience to the scriptural Word of God, and full involvement in a church ministry.” For the past 12 years he has been involved with the Cedar Park Presbyterian Church, serving as a Deacon, an Elder and playing the drums for each Sunday morning service. “The bass is my instrument, but the drums are my passion, and playing in church is one of the ways I give my talent back to God.” Steve is the founder of The Musician’s Fellowship, which meets at the Cedar Park Church on the third Monday of every week and just celebrated its second anniversary. “The Musician’s Fellowship is not a gig, it is a place for musicians to worship and fellowship together with good food and a fierce jam session. We encourage one another, and find strength in our gathering.”
In the tradition of John Coltrane, Steve continues to discover and display the Spiritual aspect of playing music. The band Breakwater is now back in the studio recording and releasing new material, and the power driven sound of Steve Green and the Elevators can be heard regularly throughout the Philadelphia music circuit and beyond. In association with producer Oscar Payne of Inside Out TV, Steve stars in and produces The Steve Green Show – Playing and Praying, a television show that airs in Philadelphia on Sundays at 5:00p. You can catch the show on Comcast channels 66 and 966, and on Verizon channels 23 and 30, or at www.SteveGreenShow.com.
Steve is an alumni of the University of Rochester, and a student of the bible and the music. “The driving motivation in my life is my love for Jesus Christ, my wife Rose and my daughters Jade and Cinnamon. I’m just looking to make a positive difference in the Kingdom, with my life and with my music.” – Steve Green.