Steven Strauss Bio - Steven Strauss Music

Steven Strauss

We do things a bit differently, and that's the way we like it!

listen to the spaniard who blighted my life (800k mp3 file)

Hoagy Carmichael's Stardust. Performed by master of solo ukulele: Steven Strauss

Pretty close. Not sure I nailed all the voicings. I may have also left some of the rhythmic strumming between the melody lines out.

I don't know how Mr. Strauss manages to make the humble 4-string ukulele sound so lush and full. Amazing and humbling musicianship.

STEVEN STRAUSS was born in San Francisco to a Lancashire shop girl and a Portuguese jet engine mechanic from Lanai. Hi-Fi enthusiasm was a household rule every weekend, with Alfred Apaka and Martin Denney Group stacked on the changer next to Stan Kenton and Henry Mancini. (Steven had to go to his room when guests dropped in and the Kent Bowman pidgin comedy LPs came out, but this only encouraged him to sharpen his ear.)

At fourteen, after unhappy attempts at guitar and piano lessons, Steven started sneaking his father's ukulele down from the shelf and teaching himself how to accompany himself singing. (He had been checking a lot of Mills Brothers records out of the public library.)

At sixteen he bought a baritone ukulele and began a thorough self-instruction in chord structure and harmony. He spent more time in the public library than he did in his classes, because although bullies cut class, too, you never see them in the library.

At twenty he talked his way into sitting in with a somewhat anarchic folkie swing band at LaVal's Subterranean in Berkeley. He sang, strummed a four-string guitar, played some very flat viola solos on such songs as "I'll Be Glad When You're Dead, You Rascal, You," and hummed trombone solos into the microphone through bare lips. When it was over he was invited to join the band. A revolving door blurry with bass players inspired the band to acquire a string bass of its own, and various members of the band took turns laying down the bottom for the others. When Steven took his turn at bass, no one missed his old part at all, and another bass player was created by natural selection.

Before long Steven was picking up enough outside work as a bassist, mostly in traditional jazz, that he felt compelled to buy the string bass away from the band, which he was generously allowed to do in installments, as he earned money playing it. He and two other members of the band began meeting apart from the rest to play Hawaiian music as The Lei-Aways. For the next ten years they eschewed singing in English, nixed the floor show, worked up an overwhelming series of auditions, and narrowly escaped selling out.

Some of Steven's more successful long term positions include three years with the trio of the late blue balladeer Charles Brown, a decade of alternative folk rock with Penelope Houston, three years of authentic Tex Mex conjunto with Los Pinkys Originales, four non-contiguous years as a founding member of the Django-centric Hot Club of San Francisco, more than two years playing bass and singing relief for Lavay Smith and the Red Hot Skillet Lickers, in addition to casual ties to The Royal Society Jazz Orchestra, trad jazz pianist Ray Skjelbred, the Blue Room Boys, Eric and Suzy Thompson, The California Cajun Orchestra, and Don Burnham's western swing outfit Lost Weekend.

Steven's done session work for such recording artists as Bobby Black, Jeremy Cohen, Sonya Hunter, Jane Voss, Alice Stuart, Radim Zenkl, Stephen Yerkey, Pray For Rain, Tommy Carns, and a really nice looking gal who played a harp, brown hair, had a horse.

One of his passions is string arranging, and he's written twenty string charts for the recordings of such singer-songwriters as Hannah Marcus, Connie Champagne, Pat Johnson, CJ MacDuffie, and Anna Gurski, as well as for some of the bands he's been in.