PRESS!

From Sam Andrews, of Big Brother and the Holding Company:

"I did a lot of gigs with Steve Stefanowicz in Gig Harbor, Washington,
which always reminded me a little of Sausalito. Steve might be the most
inspired guitar player that I have ever played with. He gets going and he
just never stops. The passion and drive are amazing. Steve is blind and I
always enjoyed watching him change strings, fascinated with his grasp,
literally, of their millimeterness. His grasp of other things in life, like
relationships, is equally discerning and he gave me a lot of good advice
when I needed it."

Steve with Sam Andrews

Santa Stefanowicz’s gift

The Weekly Volcano

Nov 21, 2007 by Angela Jossy

Steve Stefanowicz releases new album, Midlife Christmas

A Midlife Christmas never sounded so cool.
 
A Midlife Christmas never sounded so cool.

I wasn’t quite ready for the holiday season this year. It seems impossible that it could be time for Christmas shopping and Thanksgiving celebrations already. No matter how many commercials for diamond pendants and sport utility crossovers I saw on television; I just couldn’t seem to get into the holiday spirit at all. But then I received my first present of the year, a Christmas CD titled Midlife Christmas by Steve Stefanowicz.

I’ve been a fan of his music for many years so I was tickled to receive an advance.

Stefanowicz’s deft and seemingly effortless guitar skills and his clear and gentle vocals make his Christmas CD the perfect easy listening for this season.

The CD has 21 wonderful tracks, some traditional songs, some lesser known holiday songs, a couple of instrumentals and lots of personal touches and guest appearances by his friends and family. Lucky for us, his friends and family are a talented bunch.

The CD is full of both humor and poignancy. For instance on Track 4, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” Stefanowicz and guest vocalist Amanda Holbrook (pictured with Stefanowicz on the CD cover) break from song lyrics into some dialog where they discuss his new car (also featured on the CD cover).

“I plan on driving it too,” claims Stefanowicz, which is an inside joke for those who know him.
Sarah Thornton plays violin and Rich Wetzel plays trumpet on Track 7, “I Believe in Father Christmas.” 

Holbrook appears again on Track 9, “Ava Maria” showcasing her lovely lilting voice.

The title track, number 10, “Midlife Christmas” is a new original country-style Christmas song by Stefanowicz. It seems to be a very frank account of where he’s been, where he is and where he intends to go in his life. I think a lot of people will relate.

I love the way Stefanowicz twists and bends the old songs into something fresh and fun to hear. Track 11 is a fun, bluesy rendition of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” Track 12 is a scat-infused jazz version of “Silver Bells” full of air tight harmonies. This song is so catchy that I think it might be stuck in my head until well after New Years Day. After the toe-tapping fun of the last three songs, I wasn’t emotionally prepared for Track 13, “Christmas in the Trenches,” which Stefanowicz dedicated to Spec. Michael Holbrook. Thornton’s violin is also heard on this song.

When I heard it for the first time, I was driving my car wishing I had windshield wipers for my eyes. The song tells the true story of a temporary truce that occurred on a World War I battlefield because one German soldier started singing a Christmas song and pretty soon all the soldiers were singing along, which led to a respite from the war. The soldiers from both sides drank brandy together, played soccer and shared stories about their families making it nearly impossible to return to the business of war the following day. Sniff.

Stefanowicz rocks out on electric guitar during the solo of Track 18, “Winter Wonderland.” I also really enjoyed Stefanowicz’s twanged-out version of “Jingle Bells.” I never thought of “Jingle Bells” as a bad-ass cowboy song. I tell ya, the creativity on this album is incredible.

Stefanowicz’s son helps out with “Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer” — so cute. On the last track on the CD, James Holbrook joins Stefanowicz in a dramatic (and comical) reading of the poem “The Night Before Christmas.” Holbrook reads lines from the poem, and Stefanowicz attempts to recall from memory each following line. He doesn’t always get it right, but the commentary asides are hilarious.

If you’re feeling a little holiday resistant this year, I recommend you light some candles, pull out those boxes of Christmas decorations and listen to this CD while you deck the halls and trim the tree. You’ll be in the Christmas spirit in no time flat.

 

Link to article:  here

The Weekly Volcano

Published:  Thursday, September 6, 2007

By Angela Jossy

BLUES - Steve Stefanowicz

They call Steve Stefanowicz the "Human Jukebox" because he has memorized over 1,000 songs and is seldom stumped by audience requests.  He does, however, strictly enforce a $50 minimum tip jar donation for requests for "Freebird", "Stairway to Heaven" and "Hotel California."

He's usually a solo act, but has shared the stage with musical greats like Lou Rawls, Sam Andrews' Holding Company, Blue Spark, Junkyard Jane, The Groovin' Higher Jazz Orchestra, local jazz guitarist Michael Powers, Savoy Brown, Kansas and Elvin Bishop.

Sadly, he hasn't done many gigs in his hometown Tacoma this year.  He finds that the out of town gigs tend to pay better, and Stefanowicz is a full time musician earning his sole support through his music.

He's been busy recording, too.  He recently recorded two songs, "Georgia On My Mind" and "How Sweet It Is" with Groovin' Higher Jazz Orchestra for their new CD.  Later this year he will release a Christmas CD with traditional and contemporary holiday songs.  He has tentatively titled the CD Pass Out The Fruitcake.  If you haven't guessed it by now, Stefanowicz has a great sense of humor.

His Saturday show at Mandolin Cafe is a rare treat for a town that has been holding up lighters for him for almost two decades.

 

(Exerpt from) The Mayn Thing/Rich Wetzel

By Harvey Siders

(Emmy winning writer for television, a former editor of Downbeat Jazz Magazine, reviewer and feature article writer for numerous jazz magazines including Jazz Times.)

     While Rich Wetzel's third release strengthens the trumpeter's links with the big band legacies of Stan Kenton, Woody Herman and Don Ellis, it declares in no uncertain terms that his mayn  man is still the legendary screech king, Maynard Ferguson. ...
     Rich has wisely chosen some outstanding soloists, including two vocalists, to vary the well-balanced program. ...
     A Country Boy  provides a slow respite, plus a chance for trombonist Tim Schartz to capture the title most effectively. It also gives tenor player John Beach and the whole band a chance to prove that it's possible to swing with a nice loose feel. Even looser is vocalist Steve Stefanowicz, who puts his personal, heartfelt claim on Georgia On My Mind, serving notice that the song is not necessarily owned  by Ray Charles. Stefanowicz's second offering, How Sweet It Is,  reveals his strong boogaloo chops. ...     
Also unlimited is the future of Wetzel's latest Groovin' Higher edition. May it stay together until the future arrives. And may Rich more often explore the beauty of pure melody as he does in Tenderly.

The Everett Herald

Published: Friday, July 8, 2005

Stefanowicz covers more than covers

By Sharon Wootton
Special to The Herald

Steve Stefanowicz can cover more than 1,000 songs from James Taylor to Black Sabbath, the 1930s to 1990, but his emphasis lately has been on originals. His show is now half and half, and he'll take requests. He's light on the '90s because that's when he started doing more serious writing of his own.

"There are a lot of things I'd like to say that are easier to say with music than with words," he said.

So why all the covers at the start of his career?

"I didn't have any thing to say yet."

Stefanowicz performs Saturday in Everett.

He wasn't always a performer. "I was a social worker. One day I woke up and I didn't want to do it anymore. I went into music full-time," he said. Before that, music had been a hobby.

"I love being in front of people in that way. I don't want to be the center of attention but I like being part of the source of people having a good time," he said.

Stefanowicz has been blind since birth, but was mainstreamed in Tacoma public schools. He has been a full-time musician since 1991. He's performed with Lou Rawls, shared billing with Savoy Brown and Kansas, and was Bluesman of the Year at the 1998 Tacoma Blues Festival. He's made six albums, the most recent called "Time," which covers 20 years of his songs. The title track was written in 1984, with the help of a friend in high school. "He was having relationship issues with his girlfriend. That was the germination of the idea. I've been capitalizing on his misfortune ever since."

Stefanowicz, who lives in Tacoma with his 6-year-old son, Michael, wrote a couple of the CD's songs with his girlfriend Susan Scott, who also did the artwork and written material for the CD. Stefanowicz's next project is a one-man version of "Jesus Christ Superstar." "I'm doing all the music in the production myself. I'm trying to pull it off with one guitar and once voice. I may have to multitrack a little, but I'll keep it as stripped as I can," he said. "I've always loved it, ever since I was a kid. No one's done it (solo before). That's why I want to do it, but I don't know if can be done.

Victory Review - October 2004

by Alex Perlman

Blues/Roots/Americana

Steve Stefanowicz, Time

If you've heard Steve Stefanowicz play, whether solo, or as an opening act or supporting musician in a live venue, you'd buy this CD without hesitation.  Time is his first solo CD effort, recorded by the artist in his home studio.  The album is a compendium of old and new SteveTunes, with a couple of covers tossed in.  Songs include co-written efforts with friends old (John Messina, Sean Gaffney, Dan Coughlin, Ron Cook, Carol Dougherty) and new (Sue Scott and Katie Holbrook).  Performances on this CD are rendered on acoustic guitar, dobro, banjo, acoustic bass, mandolin and Nashville high-strung guitar - all played by the artist, with guest lead vocals and harmonies by Vicci Martinez and Katie Holbrook.  Stefanowicz's own vocal variety ranges from BB King to James Taylor to John Denver to America.

The opening track, Catch The Wind, is one of my favorites on the CD, but hey, I'm an old folkie who enjoys high clear vocals and a full Americana sound.  The vocal textures in his rendition of Lyle Lovett's Nobody Knows Me can only be described as tasty, and for a guy who claims he isn't a mandolin player - well, ...so much for modesty.  The Summer Song is a fine guitar instrumental that showcases Steve's ability to play across musical genres.  Time, the title track, reminds us that "good times last forever/bad times fade away" and rocks the listener, while Share The Rage, a balanced guitar and vocal piece, takes us to a place where "legend is as legend dies, and we lived way past then."

I Know You is a fun, lively blues tune with ripping lead licks - distinctively Stefanowicz - and a gutsy lead vocal that provides a vignette to an older style of SteveTunes.  His lead guitar and vocal work on Desiree shine brightly.  His slide guitar work on Poor White Trash Love and Fanny is reminiscent of David Lindley's work for Jackson Browne, circa 1997.

If you're a stickler for squeaky clean production values and expect a highly edited, transient-free recording - this one may not be for you.  Conversely, Time is an instrumental and vocal cornucopia that engenders forgiveness for minor production anomalies as a trade off for it's "live venue" sound.  For more info about this Pacific Northwest native son, blind singer/songwriter visit stevetunes.com.

 

Steve Stefanowicz
Blind Ambition no more – Steve Stefanowicz’s talent is in plain sight
by Angela Jossy for the Weekly Volcano

What would you do for a living if you couldn’t drive, read street signs, newspapers or telephone books because you were born without the ability to see? What if you also were the single parent of a small child? Would you say a successful career in music would be impossible for you to achieve and maintain? Maybe you would….if you had never met Steve Stefanowicz. 

Stefanowicz learned the hard way that supporting a child as a single parent is a tough job. But being without sight all his life and having chosen a career as a professional musician, he was already accustomed to taking on a challenge and kicking its ass.

Maintaining a living wage in the music business requires not only great musical skill but also a certain charisma, business sense and marketing savvy. Many people reaching adulthood are forced to give up on their musical aspirations because they find it too difficult to support themselves – let alone a family. Stefanowicz already knew that he was not like most people. As an already successful blues/rock singer and guitarist, he had already overcome this obstacle and has taken the challenge of parenthood in stride.

a tiny vision

Born three months pre-mature, Stefanowicz’s only glimpse of the world was seen through plastic incubator walls. When his underdeveloped retina was exposed to the oxygen inside the incubator it created a separation causing his blindness.  He doesn’t remember ever being able to see, but where someone who lost the ability to see later in life might see only darkness, Stefanowicz’s world is one full of music, love and possibility.

Like many of his peers, Stefanowicz grew up in a music filled home. Both of his parents were music lovers and both enjoyed singing. Also at the age of four he began working with mobility instructor Dave Maywalt who taught him how to walk with a cane and other important skills for navigating the world as a blind person. They became close friends through the years and Maywalt became another influence that steered him toward his passion for music. “He turned me on to a lot of good music” said Stefanowicz.

As a youngster he tried his hand at playing several instruments including violin and trumpet before settling at age 12 on the guitar when his friend Greg Percy (now a renown artist in his own right for his glass sculpture productions) lent him his. His early guitar lessons were guided by instructor Mark Swanburg. By age 16 he was collaborating with friends and writing songs. His early musical influences include Jimmy Page, Angus Young and Black Sabbath. Later his songwriting influences were James Taylor, Dan Fogelberg, and Lowell George of Little Feat. He also sited influences from Warren Haynes (of the Allman Brothers and currently with the group Government Mule). He learned finger picking and slide guitar from instruction videos from artists like the Allman Brothers.

When he studied music at Central Washington University it became apparent that playing guitar was more than a hobby. During this time his musical range was stretched even further when he studied classical guitar and jazz.  

a nimble start

Stefanowicz began what would become his career unknowingly at age 15 when he began performing solo at places like the Antique Sandwich Company. He also performed with his first band named (not-so-ironically) “Blind Ambition” at places like Tacoma Little Theater, local dances and hall parties.

Since then he has played solo or in other groups all over Western Washington and has come to be known by club owners and fans as the “Human Jukebox” because he has memorized over 1000 songs and he is seldom stumped by audience requests. Steve has also shared the stage with musical greats like Lou Rawls, Sam Andrews' Holding Company, Blue Spark, Junkyard Jane, The Groovin Higher Jazz Orchestra, local jazz guitarist Michael Powers, Savoy Brown, Kansas and Elvin Bishop.

Song memorization is only one way in which it’s apparent that Stefanowicz takes his music career very seriously. By 1991 he was making enough money from his live shows to be able to quit his day job and begin supporting himself solely with his music. People often refer to him as “the hardest working musician in Tacoma” because he has been known to gig 7 nights a week for extended periods of time.

a shift in priority

Now days Stefanowicz says he has slowed down a bit, gigging only 3 to 5 nights a week in order to spend more time with his 5 year old son. “My son needs a Dad.” He explained. “When it’s an all-ages show he comes along and hangs out” he added.  

Stefanowiczs’ comment “Being a single blind father isn’t easy” was only a hint at the challenges he has faced.  A little known fact is that he once suffered severe panic attacks but overcame it in his usual style – he did his homework. He studied books and videos on the subject and learned to use relaxation techniques to quell his anxiety. He even wrote and recorded song about it for his upcoming CD.

While he is no stranger to recording, this new CD entitled “Time” is his first completely original album. Because audience satisfaction is so important for creating fans and repeat bookings he concentrated on playing familiar songs by famous artists and this has been his bread and butter for years. These successes led him to record and sell several CD’s of cover songs.  Over the years he started adding original songs to his set lists and soon he was surprised by more and more requests from fans for his original material. Release of this new CD is set for sometime in July. Several CD release parties in the cities he plays most often are being planned now.

While his musical styles vary greatly depending on the venue and the audience, Stefanowicz was named "Blues Man of the Year" at the 1998 Tacoma Blues Festival. He was also on the nationally syndicated “Locals Only” on the WB Network in March of 2003.  Last month Walter Kelly featured Stefanowicz on the "Local Talent" portion of the May 12th edition of the Q-13 news. 

His current show calendar includes upcoming performances in Tacoma, Woodinville, Renton, Puyallup, Port Orchard, Shelton and Seattle. You can find him at 8:30 p.m. every Monday at Big Daddy’s in Woodinville. The Harmon in Tacoma features him every Thursday night at 8:30 p.m. and The Ale House in University Place has him on Sundays at 7 p.m. 

On June 19 and 20 Stefanowicz will perform with his band at Puyallup’s Meeker Days Festival. He has a full band performance scheduled that Saturday at 5:30 p.m. on the Main Street Main Stage. On Sunday he will appear on that same stage as a solo acoustic performer at 1:15 p.m. and again with the full band at 3:45 p.m.

In addition to live performances he also offers private music lessons. Students can receive his guidance on guitar, bass and voice techniques.

For more information on Steve Stefanowicz shows, CD’s or music lessons please visit www.stevetunes.com. 

 

Talented Steve Stefanowicz stays busy as music 'chameleon'

Rick Nelson; The News Tribune

Steve in a tux at Darren Motamedy's Valentine's Day show, Meydenbauer Center, Bellevue, 2004
Photo by Katie Holbrook

Steve Stefanowicz is a 36-year-old guitarist, singer, songwriter and single dad. The fact that he is blind doesn't keep him from being a professional musician or from having a clear sense of what's important in his life.

The Wilson High grad is a fixture on the South Sound club scene and a popular entertainer at wedding receptions and private parties. He also gives guitar lessons.

"I have to do what I have to do," he said. "I'm a single dad raising a 5-year-old son, Michael, and that comes first. Putting food on the table and making sure the bills are paid every month - that's what I do."

He'll help pay those bills on Sunday as part of a singer-songwriter showcase at Jazzbones' 6:30 p.m. all-ages event. Stefanowicz will perform on guitar and mandolin in a show with Garth Reeves of Seattle's Blue Spark band and Tacoma's Vicci Martinez. After individual sets, they will perform together to close out the show.

"Vicci and I just did a gig at Mickey O'Reilly's that was a lot of fun," Stefanowicz said. "I first worked with her when she was like 14."

The gifted guitarist has worked with a lot of South Sound musicians. Blind since birth, he's been playing professionally since he was 21, sometimes in bands but often as a solo act.

"Right now I'm doing more solo," he said, "just because it's easier to get work that way. If I go into a place and play and sing for three hours, I can make a lot more than I could with a band."

Which format does he prefer?

"I like them both," he said. "The solo stuff is fun, and I've been writing more acoustic stuff lately, but it's fun to play the blues and interact with other musicians. I like them both for different reasons."

Stefanowicz described himself as "kind of a chameleon" because he plays whatever a situation calls for.

"If I have a three-hour gig, I like to throw in an hour of my own stuff," he said. "But I know a million tunes, so somebody can just call out a song and I'll play it. Sometimes it's fun to see if I can pull it off, and that puts more money in my tip jar.

"If I had my druthers, I'd play more blues and jazz, but there aren't a lot of places that are receptive to that. They want to hear like James Taylor or Dan Fogelberg and other stuff."

For Sunday's show, he plans to play "some originals and some blues. And I'll play my mandolin some of the time."

In addition to gigs such as the Jazzbones show, Stefanowicz has regular dates every Monday at Big Dad's in Woodinville and every Thursday at the Harmon in Tacoma.

Working so much is putting a serious crimp in his reading.

"The problem is the calluses on my fingers make it tough," he said. "I don't have as much sensitivity in my left hand, my reading hand. I read music in Braille, too, so if I'm trying to read a jazz chart it's kind of hard. I can do it, but it just takes me longer. It's kind of like listening to music with an ear infection."

Fortunately, some recent technology helps him read.

"I've got a new computer, so I can find charts online," he said, "and I've got a speech access program which reads my screen. It reads the chords ... and for memorizing lyrics, it works great."

A lot of musicians dream of breaking into the big time. Stefanowicz dreams, too, but his top priority is still in preschool.

"I could travel if the price were right," he said, "but I've been to LA a couple times, and you get people promising you this and that. ... I wouldn't be opposed to being given opportunities in other markets, but right now the best thing for me and my son is to stay close to home."

The cover charge for Sunday's close-to-home show is $7.

 

Michael Frazier reviews Steve Stefanowicz

I listened to Share The Rage and Catch The Wind as you suggested. Both songs are great and I'm sticking them - and you - in my favorites. You have a nice steady and real approach to each song and the musicianship is on top. Well written lyrics both in the story telling and leaving room for listener interpretation. The lead guitar in Share the rage was very cool and I totally dug the mandolin in Catch The Wind. Man, I wish I could play like that. You have a solid vocal presence - mostly I get a country flavor from it but sense that it works with some other genres. The harmonies on Share The Rage were great - really filled it up. Recording quality is up there and the mixes were very well done. Both songs are very well constructed in terms of timing and changes. Great work Steve. This is among the best of what I've listened to here as a reviewer for several months. Thanks for submitting your request and I look forward to listening to more of your music. Michael
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"Almost all jazz has its roots in blues anyway," said Groovin' Higher bandleader Rich Wetzel, "and a lot of the tunes in our book have a blues emphasis or orientation. And we're going to bring Steve Stefanowicz in to sing 'Georgia' as kind of a Ray Charles thing.

"I'm trying to turn Steve into a jazz and big-band singer," Wetzel said with a laugh. "He did it at the Taste of Tacoma and just nailed it. ... It was unbelievable, and we'll have him do a few other tunes."

Tacoma News Tribune, July 9 2004
Tacoma Old Town Blues Festival article
"When it comes down to it, I close my eyes when I play anyways. In music we are both blind and we let our ears guide us instead of our eyes. That's how music should be anyways. Steve is a great musician because of this and it is a pleasure working with him." - Cliff Colon, Saxophone, The Players Club.

 

Review from TalentMatch.com

Review By T Money Overall Score: 9 
Steve Stefanowicz is Amazing 
Some things are hard to explain with mere words. Steve's talents are astounding. He can take any song and mold it into a beautiful work of art. His Vocals are "searing". His range seems endless. His guitar playing makes even the most talented guitarists sit down and take notice. You need to experience one of Steve many live shows. If you’re within 350 miles of one of his shows, you got to make it. It is worth the drive!

 

"This guy plays guitar like a lead trumpet player, very aggressive--balls-to-the-wall."  Rich Wetzel, Groovin' Higher Jazz Orchestra

 

A Meeting of Minds

April 24 , 2003

Harvey Siders ; The Tacoma Reporter


One of the most fascinating things to witness in the world of music is the first meeting of two strong-willed, extremely gifted performers – not in the “sitting-in” mode, but working together for the first time. The protagonists in this case were Steve Stefanowicz, the blind guitarist/singer, and Cliff Colon, the Godzilla of the tenor. It took place last week at Gig Harbor’s Jekyll and Hyde Pub, much to the delight of a full house that didn’t know what to expect from the two any more than Stefanowicz and Colon could have predicted what they’d play and how they’d play it.

Turns out it was like Jose Feliciano meeting Pete Christlieb. Of course each one cheated a bit in preparation for their musical summit: I was with Steve when he “caught” the tenor player working with Rich Wetzel’s Groovin Higher Orchestra at Red Kelly’s club; and moments before he headed for the stand at Jekyll & Hyde’s, Cliff told me he had listened intently to some of Stefanowicz’s albums. The quality players always do their homework.

That homework paid off handsomely. First they sparred – just tenor and guitar – on “Masquerade” and “Girl From Ipanema,” feeling each other harmonically, filling each other’s gaps. No talk was necessary; jazz is a self-contained language. They goosed each other to intense peaks, then released the tension. Not instinctively; they listened to each other, which is why Stefanowicz knew when to use a walking bass line on his guitar.

Then Steve’s rhythm section joined the front line: Kevin Dale, providing a strong underpinning on bass; Kurt Kolstad, fiercely swinging on drums, blurring the lines separating jazz, blues and rhythm and blues. The momentum was so well-controlled, one would think they had a library of written and well-rehearsed arrangements. I knew the evening would go like that, even if Cliff and Steve had no idea of the outcome. Individually, they will be taking part in the Tacoma Jazz Festival, May 23-24. It’s safe to say these two “young veterans” (oxymoronic, but acute) will break up whatever venues they happen to grace.

 

 

 

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