UW News

April 13, 2022

UW artist in residence adds to Grammy Award total

Sheet music resting on a piano keyboard

Steve Rodby, artist in residence at the University of Washington School of Music, has 14 Grammy Awards.Pixabay

There are many phases to recording music, and Steve Rodby has done them all.

He’s done them well, too.

Rodby, artist in residence at the University of Washington School of Music, has 14 Grammy Awards to show for his work. Most recently, he produced 2022 Best Latin Jazz Album winner “Mirror Mirror,” an album of duets by jazz pianist Eliane Elias with Chick Corea and Chucho Valdés.

“Making recordings of music is almost always a collaboration, and that’s really some of the best of it all,” Rodby said. “I’ve been lucky enough to work with artists who often know exactly what they want and want help in achieving that at the highest level of excellence.

“In that process, even the goals and shape of the music can organically change. So, for me, there’s always a sense of being artistically enfranchised and fulfilled. That said, it is their music, and they are truly the reason that these projects soar and enrich our lives.”

Rodby has been working with Elias for nearly 20 years. After Elias had the idea to record an album of piano duets, Rodby joined the team to complete post-production work and supervise the remainder of the project.

“Such cool music, I think,” Rodby said. “Since we alternated the tunes between the two duet partners in the sequencing, the listener gets to hear the differences between them. But you also hear the project’s shared aesthetic that comes from Eliane’s ability to think big picture in the moment, arranging the music on the spot as they improvised together.”

Rodby also co-produced the Best Instrumental Composition winner, an EP from late pianist Lyle Mays called “Eberhard.”

Because “Eberhard” was recognized for composition, Rodby won’t receive a statue. Still, he said the win was meaningful and bittersweet. Rodby and Mays were close friends and longtime bandmates in the Pat Metheny Group, a Grammy Award-winning American jazz band.

“Lyle moved away from music around 2010, for complicated reasons,” Rodby said. “In 2019, his health took a bad turn. At about that same time, he decided to try to get his composition ‘Eberhard’ recorded — a piece he had written a decade before and performed only once live.”

Despite his illness, Rodby said, Mays “returned to music with a heroic sense of personal mission.” The work was completed shortly before Mays died in February 2020, and he was able to hear the recording in his final days. Rodby contributed as a producer, bass player and editor.

Born in Illinois, Rodby started studying classical orchestral bass at age 10 and graduated from Northwestern University with a degree in classical bass performance. He moved to Seattle four years ago from the Chicago area. A few months after he arrived, he was offered a position as a jazz bass, guitar and ensemble instructor at the UW.

But halfway through his second year, the COVID-19 pandemic forced the department to reinvent itself. Rodby knew how to handle the technical aspects of remote learning because of his background in production, but teaching music over Zoom was a new experience.

“We all learned a lot, for sure,” he said. “There are things about it that will stay with me going forward, even in person. New perspectives, new strategies.”

Rodby is keeping busy after his Grammy win. He produced “Opalescent,” the latest record by the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet that was released this month. He also recently mixed a composition by Joël-François Durand, interim director of the UW School of Music. Then there’s a project with Pat Metheny that Rodby plans to return to periodically throughout the year.

And if that wasn’t enough …

“Hopefully collaborations,” Rodby said, “with some of the great musicians here in Seattle and at the UW.”

For more information, contact Rodby at srodby@uw.edu.