Bloomfield College CAT Professor to Premiere Composition Celebrating Newark at NJPAC

Adegoke Steve Colson, a 27-year adjunct member of the Creative Arts & Technology Division at Bloomfield College, has composed a jazz-flavored tribute, Here Is the Place, Our City, in honor of Newark’s 350th anniversary.

Here Is the Place, Our City, dedicated to Clement Price and Amiri Baraka, will premiere at NJPAC on Friday, April 7 at 8:00 p.m.

Colson was encouraged by Dr. Clement Price of Rutgers University to compose an original work for Newark's celebration. Commissioned by NJPAC, the Grammy-nominated pianist and composer has assembled an impressive combination of artists, including the North Jersey Philharmonic Glee Club; harpist Robbin Gordon-Cartier; pianist Philip Field; oboist Oscar Petty, a brilliant jazz lineup that includes Nabaté Isles (trumpet); Mark Helias (bass); Bradford Hayes (baritone sax); Pheeroan akLaff (drums); and Kelvyn Bell (guitar).

Colson joined the College in 1989 and has helped shape the CAT division to what it is today, even creating popular classes "Music in the US: the African American Influence" (CAT 224) and Beginning Piano (CAT 191).

Colson, who was born in Newark and raised in East Orange, has performed internationally as a leader of ensembles ranging from trios to orchestras. He received his degree from Northwestern University School of Music and lived in Chicago for a decade before returning to the East Coast where he now resides. While in Chicago he became an early member of The Association for Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) in the 70s, a Chicago based musicians’ collective that has influenced music internationally in the 20th and 21st Century.

Steve and his wife, Iqua, established their own record label in 1979. In November 2011, their earliest recording on their label, Triumph!, was included in the prestigious Freedom, Rhythm and Sound Book / CD-LP compilation from Soul Jazz Records, London, UK with music icons such as Maurice White, John Coltrane, Sun Ra, and Mary Lou Williams.

A few years after returning to the East Coast, he brought national attention to New Jersey when he premiered his multi-media work, Greens, Rice, and a Rope. The premiere was at Newark Symphony Hall during the national celebration of New Music America.  The City of Newark proclaimed November 13, 1989 “Adegoke Steve Colson Day” in honor of the premiere.

His work has been recorded on labels that include Columbia/Sony, Evidence, and Black Saint. His Solo Piano recording Tones For, reflecting on the lives and work of Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth and Frederick Douglass, was released November 2015 on his label, Silver Sphinx. Among the various accolades received internationally, the CD was picked as The Jazz Times Editor’s Choice for the March 2016 edition. Colson also received high praise for his prior recordings as leader including The Untarnished Dream - with Jazz Legends Andrew Cyrille and Reggie Workman, and wife and musical partner Iqua Colson - which was voted into the top 10 % of the Jazz Critics Poll.

His compositions have been performed and recorded by some of today’s jazz greats as well as by his own groups.  

Colson has received several commissions and awards for composition. He has performed on many of the world’s leading stages with artists that include Muhal Richard Abrams, Anthony Davis, Richard Davis, Rachelle Farrell, Benny Golson, Hannibal, Oliver Lake, Branford Marsalis, Andy McCLoud, David Murray, Max Roach, Tyshawn Sorey,  TS Monk, James “Blood” Ulmer, Reggie Workman, and recent Pulitzer Prize winner Henry Threadgill, a fellow member of the AACM.

As headliner, he has shared billing and stage with the greatest artists from Dizzy Gillespie, Dr. Billy Taylor, and Ray Charles, to Art Blakey, Oscar Peterson, and Freddie Hubbard.

Steve has taught and lectured in various locations around the world. Always involved in education, he was among the musicians chosen by the National Endowment for the Arts to construct and pilot the nationwide Jazz Artists in the Schools Artists-in-Residence program in the early 1980s. This initiative was the catalyst for the funding and growth of artist residencies at schools and institutions throughout the United States.

In addition to his tenure at Bloomfield College, he currently works for NJPAC’s Jazz for Teens program and serves as an Artist in Residence.

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