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Steve's Bio


Sacramento Jazz Ambassadors Take Flight
by Robert A. Bellezza



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At the top of their successful careers, recipients of the honor of US Department of State Jazz Ambassador titles, Joyce Diamond, Steve Homan, and Joe Gilman are following in the footsteps of the traditional jazz masters, including the legendary Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington. The Art of Jazz plays a steady rhythm and progressive evolution, intrinsically understood at its birthplace, as well as on a global scale through the language of art and culture. Sacramento’s dynamic personalities of jazz are moving forward with this explosive trio, having toured succeeding years in East and West Africa in 1998 and 2000.



Chosen for their exceptional ability to create jazz lines and vocal renditions on the spot, using popular melodies and themes heard throughout America, Steve, Joe, and Joyce truly represent American culture at home. The first 5-week, 6-nation tour began at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., on September, 15, 1998, with a live one-hour concert simultaneously broadcast on the Internet. (Highlights have been archived on the web site of www.kennedy-center.org) The State Department meticulously scheduled every move for the whirlwind trip when the Sacramento team departed on the following day from Washington for Abidjan, Cote d’lvoire, West Africa, 500 miles north of the equator in the Gulf of Guinea. Large and enthusiastic crowds of music lovers as well as government officials, businessmen, journalists, politicians and students were eagerly awaiting their arrival. Playing impeccable improv, their music demonstrated a link of goodwill while conveying Sacramento’s classic guitar-piano format with vocals and music based on the traditions of syncopated polyrhythmic jazz.

Experiencing the deeper depths of their journey, the group traveled into wild animal parks and jungle villages carrying their message. Ultimately, the jazz trio ventured on to various club dates, radio and TV spots, arranged in the local towns, often performing at U.S. ambassdors’ homes and embassies. Performing in Accera Ghana at “Groove” FM, located near the University of Ghana, the Jazz Ambassadors sat in on an early morning radio talk show for an interview. That same day, a second interview at “Joy” FM began the pace forward to a local workshop conducted for musicians and students at the Bassline Jazz Club. Later that same evening a meeting was arranged with Hugh Masekala, internationally known as Africa’s greatest Jazz trumpter and band leader. A driving session resulted with Steve noting, “ I enjoyed the way we could trade fours (four bars) between all the musicians on stage while keeping the flow of conversation going, always amazing to us. We played into many late hours for many appreciative audiences.” The Jazz Ambassdors also visited Benin, a small country bordered on its southern edge by the North Atlantic Ocean, between Nigeria and Toga. Inside Benin, the picturesque city of Ganvie is known as the Venice of West Africa, lying upstream from the Gulf of Guinea, where houses are elevated on piles, and boats are the main transportation. Allowing extra time from their rigorous schedule to instruct local musicians in these cities, the Sacramento Jazz Ambassdors succeeded with overwhelming acceptance both on and off stage. Further trips to Lome, Togo, Conakry, Guinea and a short stay in Paris were once-in-a-lifetime experiences set in a framework of art and music.

Joe Gilman heads the studies of jazz theory at American River College and during the last 20 years of partnerships, including Steve and Joyce, has become a consummate pianist of all styles expressing the sensitivity of a classical background combining modern jazz influences. Steve Homan and Joyce Diamond joined Joe early in their careers in Sacramento to create a lasting bond of friendship through their mutual engagements. “In the last few years things have really improved with many new possibilities for playing,” Steve relates, “and our performances have led to interesting smaller events such as concerts at the Crocker Art Gallery, in Sacramento. I have had numerous opportunities to work with my wife and vocalist, Francesca Gorre Homan, with our Brazilian rhythms, as well as having the pleasure of touring with the great Jimmy Smith, the world-renowned jazz organ player. The Heritage Festival and Sacramento Jazz Jubilee are keeping us all busy, but I am finding that being here in Sacramento has allowed me the experience to grow and to give back quality time to my students.”

In the Millennium year 2000, the U.S. State Department had beckoned Steve and Joe back to New York for the latest Jazz Ambassador competition with the addition of Joyce Diamond. Joyce had started her professional career as vocalist with the Chiffons and can be attributed to great classics including “One Fine Day” and “He’s So Fine.” This year’s theme, “A Tribute to Duke Ellington’s 100th Birthday”, included renditions of this master composer as they traveled throughout Eastern Africa. “It is not as likely to be chosen twice,” explains Steve, “and it is a rare opportunity for us, but we are ready to play and work as Jazz Ambassadors and enjoying meeting everyone. By being selected a second time, we will visit 9 countries and travel on 35 airplanes. All in a land of the indigenous rhythms.”

Steve and Joe, with Sacramento vocalist Joyce Diamond, have been honored in making the new tour in 2000 as the U.S. State Department musicial ambassadors. It is a rare opportunity to be represented by talent so well versed and closely indentified with California’s contemporary culture.



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