Words for Dayna

All of the groups performing for this Saturday’s fundraiser have at least one person who knows Dayna very well. We asked some of these people to share their thoughts:

Hitomi Oba, saxophonist and composer:

I met Dayna when I was 12. We were both starting our first summer session at the Young Musicians Program in Berkeley. Dayna, a high school student at the time, was already an awe-inspiring musician that I looked up to immensely. Over the years, participating in various educational music programs, I grew to admire him as a warm, open person as well. He was always encouraging in a most sincere and non-condescending kind of way, and even when I was but a middle school or high school student, he treated our musical encounters and conversations with a seriousness and honesty that was continuously inspiring. Growing up, he was one of the nicest and warmest “older brother” jazz musicians around, and I know that many other musicians around us feel the same way about him. Musically, I consider him one of the most sincere improvisers I know. I always get the feeling that there is a world of subtle sensitivities that arise out of him and are able to touch and connect with listeners and fellow musicians in a very beautiful way. I cherish those experiences listening to his playing, and aspire to create music in such a way.


Matt Cory, bassist for The Vulgar Mas:

I have known Dayna Stevens for a little over ten years. During this time, it has been a privilege and honor to know Dayna and watch him grow as a person and a musician. Dayna has one of the warmest personalities of any human being I have ever encountered on this planet. This is widely apparent in both his attitude towards people and music. As comfortable as it is hanging out with the guy at a BBQ, is the same comfort he brings to his eighth notes on his horn, as well as his quarter notes when he is playing the bass. On the sax, he has the uncanny ability to effortlessly fit into whatever musical situation he finds himself in. Listening to the melodic shape of his bass lines is the closest thing I know to hearing the great Israel Crosby. To continue to grow under the difficulties he faces is incredibly inspirational. The courage and tenacity Dayna displays in his personal situation is nothing short of miraculous.


Daniel Seeff, bassist for Dayna’s group, and West Coast Coordinator for the Monk Institute:

I met Dayna Stephens when he was a student in the Thelonious Monk Institute
of Jazz Performance in 2001, the program that I directed at the time and am
directing now. He was part of a Monk Institute class that was not only an
incredible band but also great people with whom I’ve stayed close throughout
the years. I consider that class one of my families. Along with a great
friendship, I’ve had some great musical experiences with Dayna. As many
people know, he is an incredible musician. His saxophone sound is so
charismatic and his writing has such compelling character. His music feels
like a natural extension of his personality. Dayna is such a kind and
thoughtful person who has a really good heart and also a great mind. We’ve
had many marathon conversations about life and music and I always feel like
I come out of them with new insights. As a person and a musician, I can’t
say enough about Dayna Stephens. Have I used the word great enough? Well,
here it is again. He is great!


Josh Nelson, pianist for Dayna’s group, and organizer of the fundraiser:

I’ve known Dayna since around 2000. We were introduced by a
mutual friend who said- ‘You gotta meet Dayna! You guys have the exact
same birthday, same year!’ And we’ve been friends ever since. We all
hung out at the Monterey Jazz Festival together in 2002, and that’s
when our friendship really blossomed. I got to really get to know
Dayna, both personally and musically, while he was in the Thelonious
Monk Institute around 2003-2004. Gosh, I really might be screwing
these dates up! sorry.

We played around town some , while LA was lucky to have him. We also
co-led a band (quartet) for a brief time , calling it ’78 Leos’, after
we discovered the synchronicity with our birthdays, as well as our
similar musical disposition.

I can’t say enough about Dayna. He’s a truly amazing human being, and
I feel incredibly lucky to have him in my life. He’s one of the most
deep-thinking people I know. He’s always searching, never
settling…whether it be ‘geeking’ out on late-night am radio (as I do
as well), or working on a complex new composition, he’s always
thinking. His mind never stops working, and he’s always challenging my
ears! Dayna’s records are always incredible, with some of the most
brilliant young cats on the scene supporting him.

And it’s not only me- anyone I bring his name up to can’t agree with
me more. Driven, passionate, creative, adventuresome are all words
that come to mind when I think of him. When I accompany him, every
note he produces seems to possess profound meaning and weight. I try
to anticipate him, but he always surprises me.


Joon Lee, singer and owner of Blue Whale, on why he decided to do this fundraiser (in typical Joon cryptology):

well,….hard to explain….but as you know, there are things you just feel that you have to do, right?


Leave a Reply