Welcome to our weekly Sunday music section called
“Notable Canadian Jewish Musicians.”
By David Eisenstadt
TORONTO. Jan 2, 2022 – Friend Bobby Koven told me that “my baby brother Steve exemplifies the phrase – love what you do and do what you love.”
A talented jazz pianist, Steve Koven performs, composes, and produces. His plate is full “as an educator and documentary filmmaker. That pretty well sums it up”, Bobby says with pride.
Steve Allen Koven was born on November 11, 1963, to Dr. Irving and Florence (nee Epstein) Koven. “Dad Irv was a great pianist who had a huge influence” on Steve’s career as a pianist and performer. The Kovens moved from Atlantic Canada to Toronto in 1959. Parents and sibs Bobby, Laurie, and Jeff also played musical instruments.
A 1987 York University, Toronto, BFA grad, He received a Masters degree in Composition from York in 2012. His thesis – ‘Music Inspired By Visual Art’.
While continuing to play solo, he formed The Steve Koven Trio in 1993 achieving to date, 15 critically-acclaimed albums, including the most recent “Love Too” released in September 2021. The Trio’s premiere performance in 1997 was at The Senator, a well-known downtown Toronto jazz venue; their CD was aptly titled – “Live At The Senator”
“Growing up in a Jewish home, from the time I was five,” Steve explained, “exposed me to wonderful traditions. (Yet) Jewishness never really influenced my musical body of work.”
But there are two exceptions. “The Sound Of Songs” in 2008, was inspired by my late Father’s book about my Grandfather’s 1914 journey from White Russia to North America”, he said. That album was nominated for Best Jazz CD at the Toronto Independent Music Festival.
The Sound of Songs
>>> Click HERE to hear this video <<<
A second and instrumental tribute album to his Dad titled “Songs My Father Played” includes classics like “Ain’t She Sweet” “The Man I Love” and “Bei Mir Best du Schon”. The tune “Ain’t Misbehavin” features Irv, singing a short and poignant vocal.
Koven’s first international performance happened in 1998 when his Trio (with bassist Rob Clutton and drummer Anthony Michelli) opened for Nancy Wilson at the Barbados International Jazz Festival. For over two decades, the Steve Koven Trio has toured Canada and the world playing gigs in the Bahamas, China, Colombia, Dubai, Ecuador, England, Jamaica, Japan, and Mexico.
Many of Koven’s compositions have been licensed for national and international film and TV productions, including “Mr. Springer”, “Lolaland”, “Lifetime”, “My Sweet Lily”, “Blues For You”, “Mrs. Sarnicky”, “Une Nuit Dete”, “Valley Road”, among others.
>>> Click HERE to watch this video <<<
In 2003, Koven returned to his alma mater’s Faculty of Music, where he teaches Contemporary Improvisation and Jazz Piano Studies. He also teaches at Toronto’s Centennial College Music Department. As an educator, he presents masterclasses and clinics in Canada and various countries around the world.
An award-winning filmmaker, Koven has produced five documentaries and received the top prizes for two of them – titled “20”, which takes the viewer on the Trio’s 20-year journey awarded at the 2015 Toronto Independent Film Festival short doc award, and for “Improvisation” at the 2018 Toronto Short Film Festival.
Koven said that during the pandemic he has continued to focus his creative energy “on producing two albums remotely using musicians from around the world as well as continuing to practice and compose by spending lots of time in my home studio. My long-term plan is to get back to international touring with my Trio and to produce and release future albums. Since the advent of Covid in mid-2020, I have been teaching my York and Centennial College students remotely.
“In 2019, I started working with people suffering from dementia and/or memory loss at the Bitove Academy (part of the University Health Network in Toronto). I use my music to help connect and create an engaging environment. I call it ‘The Power Of Music’. In 2020, this program went online virtually and is now called The Bitove Method.”
In 2021, he brought his talent, knowledge, and his Bitove experience to Baycrest@home. Continuing to assist both organizations, Koven is excited about “this is very gratifying work.”
Credits: Steve Koven Photo Courtesy David Williams; CDBaby/YouTube; Steve Koven/YouTube
A complete list of David Eisenstadt’s articles can be viewed under Music Online in the Category section.
Do you have comments or questions about this article? Contact David Eisenstadt at firstname.lastname@example.org
David Eisenstadt is Founding Partner of tcgpr.com the Canadian Partner of IPREX Global Communication and a graduate of Carleton University’s School of Journalism and the University of Calgary.
-Thank you for including the article in the CJNonline! Happy New Year to all and may 2022 be a healthy, positive, creative, loving year! – SK, Toronto, Canada
-Steve Koven and his trio are a Canadian treasure. The Colgrass family have followed them for many years and became their friends. My late husband, composer Michael Colgrass, often said Steve is a class by himself, able to improvise from multiple styles, from Bach to bee-bop. Neal and I keep trailing and loving him. – UC, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
-Thanks for this great article. – R.K, Eugenia, Ontario, Canada
-Fabulous article. I met Steve one afternoon sitting outside Starbucks. I had no idea who he was. We started up a conversation and he invited me to a concert that he was giving that night. It was great. He is a lovely guy and a terrific musician. I’m glad to see that he’s on your roster. – SKL, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
-Steve Koven’s ability to move from one genre of the arts to another (music and documentaries with accompanying music) shows great flexibility. And his work with Bitove and Baycrest is quite terrific. Kudos to you David for writing about this talented Canadian Jewish musician. – AB, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
-What a delight to see this beautiful piece on Steve Koven! I’ve known Steve for many years and he is, truly, a fountain of creativity, and a mensch. Steve is most definitely one of those artists that deserves greater recognition— for sure, in our own country…and beyond! – BK, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
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