Right from the beginning, the smooth and mellow sounds of this trumpeter--unknown to me before listening to this release--emitted a powerful call for my undivided attention. With such a refreshingly serene yet moving piece of smooth jazz with that slight head-bopping edge that only a trumpet player into this subgenre can muster and muster well, Kuehn will soon be a household name.
Steffen Kuehn was born and raised in Germany and began playing the trumpet at the age of eight. Through the years, he has studied with such jazz greats Tim Hagans, Brian Lynch, and Claudio Roditi. In Europe, he played as a sideman for the Dusko Gojkovich Big Band, Al Porcino Big Band, Conexion Latina, and others. His other credits include Broadway musical productions like "Annie," "Damn Yankees," "Phantom of the Opera," and "Evita," among others. He has also performed for and worked with The Platters, Marilyn McCoo, Bob Hope, Ray Obiedo (who also appears on this release), The Temptations, Evelyn "Champagne" King, The 4 Tops, and Ray Sepulveda, among countless others.
On Trumpop, Kuehn seeks to unleash the silkiness that a well-played trumpet can offer on pillow-soft, jazzy melodies. Among the tantalizing and beckoning tunes include the title and opening track, a rousing cover of Chaka Khan’s "Through the Fire," the smooth groovin’ "Utopia," and the seductive "For All the Things," which features the creamy vocals of Carla Helmbrecht. As if that’s not enough, his humble tribute to Miles Davis’s "Blue in Green" is class with a capital "C," and the island taste of "Sleepless Nights," enhanced by the bedroom vocals of Brazilian star Claudia Villela, is truly delightful.
Kuehn has a clear winner here and, by his playing, you can tell he knows it. I suspect that this release is only the beginning of a warm relationship between Kuehn and smooth jazzers everywhere.