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Jazz, time travel harmonize for Steinel

Staff writer

Mike Steinel laughs when he recalls the name of one of his early bands: Susan and the Bachelors.

He was in seventh grade, and the band was made up of three boys and one girl whose name was — you guessed it — Susan.

Steinel has played in a lot of bands since then.

A jazz trumpeter and author, he is back in Marion this week for Old Settlers Day. He graduated in 1969 and has made a career in music.

Steinel, who also plays piano and composes and arranges music, has performed with Ella Fitzgerald, Clark Terry, Don Ellis, Bill Evans, Zoot Sims, and Jerry Bergonzi.

He spent time on the road as a rock musician and was in two bands inducted into the Kansas Music Hall of Fame — the Fabulous Flippers and Spider and the Crabs.

Steinel’s family came to Marion when he was in the sixth grade. Although he’s lived in other places, he’s always considered Marion to be home.

His father, Conrad, gave him a cornet when he was 6.

“He got it free from a music salesman,” he said. “My dad was the band director, and I grew up playing music.”

His father was his first trumpet teacher. Steinel played in youth symphony in Wichita and took lessons from a trumpet professor in Emporia.

The author of “Essential Elements for Jazz Ensemble” and “Building a Jazz Vocabulary,” he is considered an internationally recognized jazz educator. He was a professor of jazz studies at the University of North Texas, where he earned his master’s degree in music education, from 1987 to 2019.

In 2020, he started writing fiction “out of boredom more than anything,” he said. “I did have a new instructional book coming out and was lined up to do promotional things. That all went away with the pandemic. Playing gigs went away.”

His most recent book is “Saving Charlie Parker,” published by Dorrance Books. Steinel describes it as a “mashup between jazz history and time travel.”

There’s an audio book of it, and he wrote a suite of music to accompany the book.

Steinel, who performs with the Mike Steinel Quintet featuring Rosana Eckert, enjoys jazz for many reasons.

“I like the freedom of it more than anything,” he said. “It’s music that to be honest is more fun to play than to listen to. My music is fairly accessible. I’ve been writing songs with words for a long time.”

Steinel is working on a fourth novel, “Murder at Birdland.” It also features time travel.

“I wanted to write a book that my friends who do jazz would be interested enough to read it and my friends and family who don’t know anything about jazz would get a little bit of information,” he said.

Last modified Sept. 22, 2022

 

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