Steve Heckman was born in Brooklyn, NY, near the neighborhoods where saxophonists Dave Liebman, Steve Grossman, Bob Berg, and Eddie Daniels all came up. Steve was exposed to the best jazz in the world during one of jazz’s most creative periods, the mid-1960’s. He began clarinet at 12, and alto and tenor sax at 15, ultimately choosing tenor as his favorite. Over the years he has also added soprano and baritone sax, bass clarinet, and flutes (C, alto, and bass flute). He has written over 125 original jazz compositions. He is self-taught in improvisation, but thanks teachers Allen Fields, Ray Musiker and Carmine Caruso for assistance in the theoretical and technical grounding necessary to play decent jazz.
The most significant spark to set his spirit on fire with love and enthusiasm for jazz was when, at age 15, he first heard the music of John Coltrane: Worlds split open, and he was propelled into a realm of unparalleled richness and dimension which has profoundly influenced his approach to both playing, as well as composition. Listening to ‘Trane’s “A Love Supreme” from start to finish every day after school through 11th and 12th grades became his daily ritual; he also absorbed as much as possible, listening to everything he could find by Coltrane.
Other significant influences include: Bird, Sonny Rollins, Wayne Shorter, Joe Henderson, Charles Lloyd, Yusef Lateef, Dexter Gordon, George Coleman, Pharoah Sanders, Lee Konitz, Eric Dolphy, Jackie McLean, Sonny Stitt, Charlie Rouse, Jimmy Giuffre, Michael Brecker, Steve Grossman, Bob Berg, Jan Garbarek, Billy Harper, Jerry Bergonzi, and many others too numerous to mention.
Steve has performed with a variety of jazz greats, ranging in styles from traditional to bebop to “avant-garde”. At age 17 he was fortunate to play with veteran bebop trumpeter Howard McGhee, as well as perform with pioneering trombonist Roswell Rudd’s Blues for Planet Earth Orchestra (with such greats as Charles Davis, Roland Alexander, Mike Mantler, Mike Lawrence, Lewis Worrell, and Beaver Harris). At college in upstate New York Steve played with such notables as bassist Slam Stewart, trombonists Si Zentner and Urbie Green, and at the University of Illinois with the Jimmy and Tommy Dorsey bands (led by Lee Castle and Warren Covington, respectively). Over the years he has kept good company with the likes of guitarists Howard Alden, Cal Collins, Bruce Foreman, Barry Finnerty, and Mimi Fox; pianists Bennie Green, George Cables, Andrew Hill, Jessica Williams, Jim McNeely, Larry Vuckovich, Ed Kelly, and Weber Iago; drummers Jimmy Cobb, Billy Higgins, Donald Bailey, Eddie Moore, Pete Escovedo, and Helcio Melito; trumpeters Eddie Henderson and Tom Harrell; vocalists Jamie Davis (of the Count Basie orchestra), Jackie Ryan, Judy Wexler, Madeline Eastman, Kellye Gray, Alvon Johnson (formerly of the Drifters, Coasters, and Shirelles), Frankye Kelley, Buddy Connor, and the Modernaires. Steve was a regular member of trumpeter Eddie Henderson’s quintet featuring then rising piano star Benny Green; he was also privileged to play loft sessions with both guitarist John Abercrombie as well as trumpeter Chet Baker. Steve has been interviewed on a number of San Francisco Bay Area jazz radio shows, including: KCSM (by Alisa Clancy; Chris Cortez; and Lee Thomas); KJAZ, KPFA; KSJS; and KPOO. He has also been interviewed by Jon Greenspan of KSFR, Santa Fe, NM; John Norton of WGLT, Bloomington, IL; Chet Williamson of WICN, Worcester, MA; Joe Dimino of Neon Jazz; and Pete Fallico of the podcast www.doodlinlounge.com.