Spotlight of the Week: Steve Treseler

Steve Treseler is a saxophonist, teacher, composer and author based in Seattle. He is the founder of Infinite Improvisation, which offers creative musical experiences through workshops and instructional books and digital media. His latest album “Snow Line Suite” released in 2020.

ME: How did you get involved with Wisconsin Music Ventures?

STEVE: Yeah, so I connected with Allison online through seeing some of the projects she was involved with. We ended up chatting a bit and she invited me to some events; I’m one of the few non-Wisconsin people but I’ve got friends and family and colleagues in the Chicago area, so next time I’m out in the Midwest I plan to have a stop in Wisconsin.

ME: Nice! It’s a good resource, even though Seattle is quite a way away (laughs).

ME: So I was looking at your website; tell me more about Infinite Improvisation and what the whole premise is.

STEVE: Sure, so before I started working professionally in Seattle, I went to New England Conservatory in Boston. But I grew up in the Northwest and then I came back, and I was setting up my freelance career by starting with teaching private lessons and playing a bunch of gigs. I started recording and working with some jazz ensembles, and some people wanted me to teach their kids how to play a solo; like, kids who were trained on their instruments but didn’t really have the skills or confidence to improvise. I ended up finding a lot of work doing that stuff and I wrote a book on jazz improvisation and taught an online course; it became a whole series of projects that I wanted to put all under its own brand, separating it from my own personal brand. I recently started the Infinite Improvisation Podcast, which I co-host with Lauren Best, who’s just outside of Toronto. We’re working on putting together our own online community and doing in-person events. It’s really all about tapping into musicians’ creative voices and building a community around that.

ME: Right on, thank you for sharing all of that! Sounds like a good web of things.

STEVE: Thanks! We’re collaborating with an organization called the Institute for Creativity.

ME: Aptly named.

ME: Tell me about what went into your most recent album, “Snow Line Suite.”

STEVE: So that came out during the pandemic but it was recorded before then. It was a project I recorded with a pianist from Denver, Annie Booth. We met at a jazz workshop and we played original music together, and then we reconnected and she invited me to Denver to play a few gigs, and then I brought her out to Seattle. I had a good vibe with her band but I had some altitude sickness when I was in Denver, so we ended up finding a way to bring them out to Seattle to record some of the music we were playing together. “Snow Line Suite” is mountain-themed music and it’s a six-movement suite about multi-dimensional perspectives of mountain formations. Some of it’s groovy but some of it has more abstract jazz pieces. Greg Campbell joined us for some additional percussion, adding everything metallic from gongs to singing bowls to kitchen bowls and pipe fittings, so it just made for this tapestry of sounds. We recorded it in a studio that had a room with a cavernous natural echo. We’re all our own biggest critics but that project is one that I still enjoy listening and am proud of how it came together.

ME: Awesome! I feel you on the altitude sickness; I was in Peru last month and it hit us hard.

STEVE: I was fine until I started playing, and the back pressure in my head gave me a really bad headache within twenty minutes. It was still a really fun gig though.

ME: I saw that you were just in a concert for Juneteenth. How’d it go?

STEVE: It was incredible! It was a large project that had been in the works that I’d gotten plugged into pretty late in the game through an organization called One Seattle. There was a community gospel choir and they brought in some top-shelf vocal and instrumental gospel soloists from around the country, and there was a whole orchestra and rhythm section. The musical director Ramon Braxton leads church music on the East Coast and was great at putting the whole thing together and running the whole gambit of Black American music. There was blues, spirituals, gospel, R&B, a rapper – it was amazing. The crowd was electric and it was free to the public. It was at the McCaw Hall where the Seattle opera and ballet perform, so it was an amazing space with good energy.

ME: That’s wonderful and sounds like an amazing time!

ME: My last question is, what are you working on now?

STEVE: I’m currently self-producing a record at home; I’ve gotten to know my digital audio workstation, so I’ve been doing some collaborations with some folks. It’s a sonic meditations project so some things are a little more ambient. I’ve been learning how to do sound design and mix and master, so that’s slowly coming along. I’ve been focusing a lot on the podcast too; we’ve recorded our second season so you can find that streaming everywhere. I’m also getting busier with more in-person performance and teaching; next month I’m heading to Honolulu to teach at the Pacific Music Institute.

Visit Steve Treseler’s website here.

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