Three time Emmy-nominated composer/pianist Steve Sandberg plays original music that masterfully blends classical, world music and jazz with the excitement of virtuosic improvisation.
Sandberg was lead composer and musical director for Nickelodeon’s landmark children’s programs “Dora the Explorer” and “Go, Diego, Go!”. His scoring and songwriting was informed by a lifetime of immersion in the music of many cultures.
Sandberg grew up playing classical piano, then became part of New York’s vibrant Latin music scene. His mentor in the field of jazz and Latin music was multi-instrumentalist Mario Rivera, a key member of the Dizzie Gillespie, Tito Puente, and George Coleman ensembles. Sandberg was pianist, composer and arranger for Rivera’s legendary “Salsa Refugee” group, and also performed with Celia Cruz, Tito Puente and Ruben Blades. A highlight of this period was an appearance in Rio and São Paolo with João Gilberto in a duo with vocalist Bebel Gilberto. He also toured with David Byrne (“Rei Momo”) as keyboardist and vocalist.
Sandberg has studied North Indian raga singing with Ustad Mashkoor Ali Khan, and performs with Dr. L. Subramaniam, South India’s violin icon.
The Steve Sandberg Quartet made its debut in 2016 with a sold out concert at New York City’s DiMenna Center. The group grew out of Mr. Sandberg’s desire to merge his lifelong study of classical Western music with his passion for jazz, Latin, and world music.
The Quartet released its breakthrough recording, “Alaya”, on Artistshare Records in 2016. It has performed at Birdland, New York’s Symphony Space, Sidedoor Jazz, and will be featured next April at the Allentown Symphony Jazz series.
The concerts mix performances from the solo piano repertoire (Chopin, Ravel, Bartok, Liszt), with the quartet’s soaring improvisations on originals that are based on these pieces and also draw from Latin, African, Balkan, and East Indian traditions. One audience member describes the experience as listening to “music from a country I’ve never been to but always wanted to visit.” Sandberg also uses the concerts as an opportunity to educate and engage his audiences with accessible commentary that draws them into his musical world.
“Alaya” features Snarky Puppy’s Zach Brock, heralded as “the pre-eminent improvising violinist of his generation”; drummer Mauricio Zottarelli (Eliane Elias, Esperanza Spalding, Hiromi); and bassist Michael O’Brien (Harry Connick Jr., Dave Samuels, Ruben Blades).