New Album Review: Steve Langemo
Updated: Sep 10
Artist: Steve Langemo
Album: Up From The Outside
Steve Langemo is a Colorado Springs based guitar virtuoso. His music is an eclectic blend of straight ahead jazz, modern funk and fusion. His playing uses absolutely every color in the box to create a soundscape that is a musical force to be reckoned with.
This eight song set of jazz and fusion is truly an ensemble effort with a monster guitar player assuming the band leader role. Although it is the vision of Langemo, the band contributes far more than a supporting role allows credit for. The interplay between the musicians at times is as seamless as melting ice.
The song Dark Matter is one of the cuts that leans into a more traditional approach, showcasing some serious jazz chops from the whole band. It evokes an image of a smoky Greenwich Village club with brick walls and great whiskey. One of the things that makes this record such a quality listen is tracks like this one that expose the depth the band possesses of all things jazz.
Another standout track Loud Apples takes the set to the other side of the spectrum. It is truly jazz fusion, in the sense that it still swings. Unlike so much fusion that is coming from a rock place, this feels like true jazz musicians stretching, as opposed to rock musicians flirting with dissonance. The playing is simply world class.
Scratch is one of my favorite tracks. It reminds me of Scofield in all the best ways. The band is playing dynamically while handing the ball back and forth so effortlessly that it makes the complex passages sound easy. The rhythm section is as funky as James Brown's and the solos are a roller coaster ride through virtuosity!
If you’re a fan of jazz that can move from the straight ahead into full blown fusion jams you’re going to love this record. The compositions are inspired and the production is top shelf. The musicianship across the entirety of the record is a testament to what can be achieved when all the gears are in sync. Give it a listen, you won’t be disappointed.
Steve Langemo- Guitars and additional keys
Stefan Flores- Drums
John Flores- Bass
Tony Szajowski- Keyboards
Heath Walton- Saxophone
Check out this interview with Steve Langemo!
Tell us the brief history of your band or musical career.
I started playing when I was twelve. I was always into creative stuff as a kid and before I got into music I was drawing, painting, and making super 8 claymation movies. I guess I figured that playing music was a creative thing I could do that was cool and would hopefully attract some girls. My mom found a great guitar teacher in the little North Dakota town we lived in and I got a pretty good start. I started getting paid to play in cover bands and to teach lessons around the time I graduated from high school and figured music was some sort viable career path. I kept on gigging and teaching and got a bachelor’s and master’s degree in music. Over the last twenty years I’ve been able to make a decent living as a gigging musician and as an instructor and occasional session musician.
Who are your musical and non-musical influences?
My initial guitar heroes were the 80’s guys I listened to as a kid. Eddie, Vai, Satriani, George Lynch, Randy Rhoads, etc... When I started college I discovered a lot of fusion guys and there was a very strong pull toward that sound. I listened to a ton of Holdsworth, Mike Stern, Scofield, Scott Henderson, Gambale, and Metheny. That was the gateway to more straight ahead jazz and I got way into working on that kind of vocabulary.
What album has had the greatest impact on your life as a musician?
I’m not sure I could nail down one particular album. I was pretty into the Shrapnel label shred stuff as a kid. Steely Dan became huge band for me. Of course all the jazz and fusion stuff that I listened to.
What song do you remember most from your childhood?
My parents had pretty terrible taste in music so I wasn’t really exposed to any good music at home despite the fact that I was born in the 70’s. I do remember listening to the Smokey and the Bandit soundtrack on 8-track. I think KISS Destroyer was the first record I bought with my own money. I thought God of Thunder off that was pretty cool.
What’s your favorite accomplishment as a musician thus far?
Probably just being able to create a life around music. I own a pretty successful little teaching studio in Colorado, do a lot of corporate sort of gigging that pays well, and do a fair amount of recording work. I consider being able to make a living with a guitar and do some interesting things with a bunch of other talented people to be a success. Musically I think playing with great musicians always feels like an accomplishment. I remember working really hard to understand music and my instrument and now being able to musically converse with other musicians is living the dream in a way.
Tell me about your favorite performance in your career.
I’ve played a ton of gigs but my favorites are always the most musical ones. I’ve played some really musically forgettable gigs in front of really big crowds and some really musical ones with great players in small places. I generally like the ones where the players are top notch and listening and interacting.
What's new in the recording of your music? How has your music changed over the years?
I’m utilizing a home studio a lot more in writing, doing demos, and tracking guitars and virtual instruments. For my new record I used both a great Denver studio for the full live band and then my home studio for additional tracking and editing. I think my writing has gotten better but my influences are still pretty clear at times. I probably still need to write and record a few more albums.
What inspires you to write the music you write? What made you want to play the instrument you play?
I just sort of write what is in my head. Definitely informed by some of my favorite musicians and a melding of jazz, funk, and rock influences. I recently did a lot of writing and arranging for a record by a young Denver based funk/soul singer and I really enjoyed that. If I’m writing for myself it is always instrumental music but I really like working on other things. As far as the instrument I chose to play, it was the 80’s and every band had a killer guitar player and guitar solos were all over hit songs. I was drawn to that but if I grew up in a different time or was exposed to different things early on I maybe would have played different instrument.
How does your latest album differ from any of your others in the past? Do you feel like you are continuing to grow musically?
I think this album is a better realized version of what I’m after as far as a compositional voice and a playing voice. It has more of the overall group sound that I hear in my head and I think I’m playing guitar better these days.
If you could play anywhere or with anyone in the world, where or with who would it be?
Maybe Virgil Donati, Evan Marien, Chris Potter, Scott Kinsey, Snarky Puppy. Or a pop gig like the new Anderson Paak/Bruno Mars record.
What are your biggest obstacles as a musician?
I think my biggest obstacle is actually time. I’m very busy with music and there is just not enough time to practice more, write more, make new connections, gig more, and other things.
What strengths do you have that you believe make you a great musician?
I think I’m a fairly smart dude who works pretty hard. I’ve got a great grasp on theory and getting it on my instrument. I’ve worked in a wide range of styles and sight-read well so all of that has allowed my to do a lot of things.
Do you have any weaknesses that you're actively working to improve on?
I wish I could keep hundreds of jazz standards solidly memorized all the time. Other than that I’m constantly working on being able to fluidly play tough changes, refining my technique, and my time feel. Another big one is aiming to always play with a unique vocabulary that is all me.
Describe your favorite and or least favorite part about being a musician.
I love that for better or worse the hobby is the profession. I generally look forward to every day. The downsides may be the same as other self-employed people in that there is always preparation and work to do.
Do you have any anxiety about performing live? Do you like to perform or do you prefer to record in a studio?
I’m back to playing at least 100 dates per year. Most of that is corporate event or wedding gigs with some jazz gigs and backing up a few regional artists. I generally don’t have any anxiety about performing live and most of the time I really enjoy it.
Describe your creative process when you write new music.
I’m pretty adept as far as the theory end of things and how to get out what I want to hear. What has changed is how I use technology and my workflow. I’m now usually doing the writing and demo at the same time and a lot of that initial demo turns into guide tracks or MIDI tracks in the studio or in a final mix.
Other than being a musician, what was your dream job growing up? Are you currently in that same field today?
I don’t think I had a dream job other than being a rock star. I never became a rock star but a life working in music on a local/regional level is just fine.
Give us some advice for new musicians just starting out in the industry.
I’m not sure if I’m qualified to give much in the way of advice about the broader music industry. I’ve been pretty successful as an instructor and ringer guitar player in the areas I’ve lived in but I’ve never toured with any bigger artists or been on any big records. If a young player wanted to do what I’m doing I’d say practice incessantly, learn music inside and out, and take every gig and opportunity when you are young . And, remember to have fun and be a good hang for everyone you work with.
What are your interests outside of music?
Outside of music I just like to hang with my girlfriend and friends of ours. I also enjoy traveling and hiking in the mountains.
What is the best way to stay updated on current news; gigs, releases, etc.?
Along with the release of this new record I’ve revamped my website and upped my social media presence so people can find me and keep up with me.
Are you available for private parties? If so, how would someone contact you about booking?
A lot of my gigs are private parties, weddings, and corporate events. That is where a lot of the great paying gigs seem to be. I can be contacted through my website at www.stevelangemo.com
What's next for your band?
I’d like to be playing some more gigs with my original jazz/fusion project and maybe attract some wider attention for my playing and get on some projects with more known musicians in the fusion and modern jazz world. I’ve got an album coming out soon with a young Denver-based singer and there will be a lot of live gigs and other activity around that. And on the vocational side there always seems to be as much teaching and corporate sort of gigging as I want to take on.