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San Jose Mercury News says of her most recent album,"Sojourn," "It floats, swings, and touches on samba, and each track has a gem-like solo by the leader." -Richard Scheinin "Strom demonstrates again, with her mesmerizing new album, "Intention," that she's among the finest contemporary sax players. Her stylings are rich in subtleties and nuance. - Paul Freeman, Palo Alto Daily News Entertainment Writer

"Kristen Strom's new CD, 'Intention' shows off Kristen's saxophone artistry in a variety of styles. The music and playing are thoughtful and deeply soulful. This is one of my favorite records of 2005." -Wayne Wallace

San Jose Mercury News, Posted on Fri, Oct. 14, 2005

Good ‘Intention’
By Andrew Gilbert
Special to the Mercury News

With a tone that’s lithe and lustrous, Kristen Strom embodies her musical philosophy in every note she plays.

The San Jose saxophonist has been a mainstay on the Bay Area music scene for nearly two decades, and her new album, “Intention” (Open Path Music), reveals an artist whose musical world is predicated upon the primacy of beautifully rendered melodies.

Opening with Nick Drake’s haunting theme “River Man,” the CD is a luxuriant exploration of songs, with Strom’s saxophone (mostly tenor, though also soprano and alto) serving as the lead vocal on tunes such as the Beatles’ “Blackbird,” Nat Adderley’s lament “The Old Country” and an almost jaunty version of the folk song “The Water is Wide.” The album closes with the soulful jazz singer Nate Pruitt joining the band for a wistful rendition of Henry Mancini’s “Two for the Road.”

“The project is melody-based,” says Strom, who celebrates the release of “Intention” on Saturday at Boas Club Elite in Cupertino. “I wanted the beauty of melody and tone, to capture all the instruments with the best sound possible.”

She performs with the group featured on the album, including her husband, guitarist Scott Sorkin, and Adam Shulman on keyboards, drummer Jason Lewis and bassist John Shifflett. A number of guest musicians will also be on hand, including Pruitt.

The album is the latest release from Open Path Music, a studio and label recently created by guitarist Tim Volpicella and bassist Gordon Stevens. Focusing on music by South Bay artists, the label’s other recent releases include “Departure” by Stevens and pianist Denny Berthiaume, Volpicella’s “Unspoken Words” and vocalist Catherine Seidel’s “Through the Trees.”

“Part of the thing at Open Path is to try to develop this community feeling in San Jose,” Strom says. “I’ve been thinking about this album for many years, hearing the music in my head, but the possibility of it coming to fruition happened when Scott joined Tim Volpicella and Gordon Stevens in partnership at Open Path.”

The key to the project was assembling a group of like-minded musicians. Strom and Sorkin have played together intensively over the years, often in a duo setting. She also has collaborated extensively with rhythm section maestros Shifflett and Lewis.

“With Jason there’s tremendous rhythmic communication,” Strom says. “He’ll always give me an idea when I'm looking for something. And Shifflett and I have a very strong connection in trying to reach that emotional point, though not necessarily with pyrotechnics or technical ferocity. I don’t really have that as one of my goals. We’re trying to find the essence of the melody.”

Besides leading her own band, Strom is a valued session musician who has backed pop acts such as the Temptations, Natalie Cole, the Four Tops, Roberta Flack and Johnny Mathis. She has performed with a number of jazz greats, including saxophonist-composer Jimmy Heath, trombonist Steve Turre, singer Kevin Mahogany and trumpeter Jon Faddis.

A supremely versatile player, she has worked with the San Jose Symphony and performed the role of Ginger the saxophone player in the San Jose Repertory Theater’s 1988 and 1994 productions of “The 1940s Radio Hour.” She also has toured and recorded widely with the Nuclear Whales Saxophone Orchestra since the early 90s.

“I joined the band to get a chance to play more alto and soprano,” Strom says. “All the ensemble work has certainly served me well. You rarely get that many hours of really working on getting an ensemble sound.”

Her most valuable contributions to the Bay Area’s lively music scene are through her work with musicians who have created distinctive ensembles, such as Volpicella, guitarist Ed Johnson’s Novo Tempo band, vocalist Jennifer Scott and the prodigious trumpeter John Worley’s band Worlview (which performs at Boas Club Elite on Nov. 5).

Worley, who is also a member of Johnson’s Novo Tempo, has come to rely on Strom’s finely honed melodic sensibility in his own band. They have worked together in numerous situations, often bringing jazz into grade-school classrooms through the San Jose Jazz Society’s education program.

“She’s totally musical, and she’s got her own sound,” Worley says. “She’s not one of those saxophonists who likes to play a million notes. She picks and chooses, and each one is a gem. Everything just comes together in this beautiful picture. It’s all about music to her and playing the melody.”

If Strom is a pillar of the South Bay Music scene, she’s also one of its products. Her family settled in Hayward when she was in the fourth grade, and she caught the jazz bug while attending Hayward High School. As a member of the jazz band, she rubbed shoulders with saxophonists Dan Zinn and Dean (now Guido) Fazio, whose beautiful sound had a lasting influence on her. Well versed on the alto and soprano, Strom identifies most closely with the tenor.

While often compared to Stan Getz and Zoot Sims early in her career, she hadn’t listened to either player much at the time. Rather, she cites big-toned tenor greats Dexter Gordon and Sonny Stitt as primary influences. Through her close attention to the fundamentals, Strom has built a reputation as a player who will elevate whatever situation she finds herself in.

“If you don’t play with a good tone and in tune, it seems to me you’re losing a main part of the music,” Strom says. “I really feel if you don’t have a good sound, why bother?”

Clef Notes

Kristen Strom

Intention (2005)

From the Bay area comes another debut of memorable instrumental potential with a crisp sound that touches the acute senses as Kristen Strom has the best intentions with “Intention”. Although the selections are not all of a jazz origin, as is not uncommon with debut issues with Lennon/McCartney and Mancini classics, they are all executed with the finest saxophone tradition in mind!

Notes are hit with precise execution and paved with the time-honored groove; Ms Strom has that domination over her craft that allows this inauguration performance to be a strong foundation. I like the command she performs with and the flexibility in her delivery.

Take close note to Scott Sorkin’s arrangement of “Blackbird” and wonderfully gentle piece that sets the stage for the Strom sax to weep with tenderness. A very nice piece with some special string resonance as a splendid addition!

Karl Stober -




Saxophonist KRISTEN STROM is in great demand these days.

In addition to leading her own ensemble, the Kristen Strom Quintet, she is an integral part of some of the San Francisco Bay Area's leading bands. She has performed with many well-known artists, including Manhattan Transfer, Roberta Flack, Johnny Mathis, Jimmy Heath, Steve Turre, Kevin Mahogany, Michel LeGrand, the San Jose Symphony, the Temptations, Natalie Cole, The Four Tops, and the San Francisco Production Beach Blanket Babylon. In addition to her solo albums, "Intention", and "Sojourn"she has recorded more than 30 CDs with various jazz and pop artists, including the international jazz group Crossing Borders, John Worley and Worlview, Ed Johnson and Novo Tempo, Wally Schnalle, Tammy L. Hall, The Jim Norton Collective and poet Paul Zarzyski and four albums with The Nuclear Whales Saxophone Orchestra. Her touring schedule has included performances across the U.S., Canada, Europe and Asia with the Nuclear Whales and others.

Kristen is saxophone and jazz combo instructor at Santa Clara University, is on the faculty of the Stanford Jazz Workshop and is the Director of South Bay Summer Jazz Intensive.

Kristen has a B.A. in Music from San Jose State University, as well as graduate studies in music education, and studied saxophone and woodwinds with Joe Henderson, Mel Martin and Victor Morosco.

Kristen is an endorsing artist and clinician for Selmer saxophones.

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