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A look inside The Jazz Gallery

Photo by Billye Ninnemann

Dayna Stephens is “a must see,” according to The New York Times, anyway. His peers agree: “Dayna is one of the people who will move music to a new place. He drives the band as he drives himself. He puts us all to a different level,” says the pianist Taylor Eigsti. “He’s just magic,” adds the vocalist Gretchen Parlato.

Born in Brooklyn, NY, and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, Dayna showed promise from a young age. The saxophonist began his collegiate career at the Berklee College of Music, where he received a full scholarship, and was subsequently selected by Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, and Terence Blanchard to attend The Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz at USC. Since then, the saxophonist has performed internationally alongside Terence Blanchard, Kenny Barron, Albert “Tootie” Heath, Roy Hargrove, Carlos Santana, Stevie Wonder, and many others.

Dayna’s debut album, The Timeless Now (CTA), was released in 2007 to widespread critical acclaim. The guitarist John Scofield, the pianist Taylor Eigsti, the bassist Ben Street, the drummer Eric Harland, and the trombonist Nick Vayenas all make contributions to the recording, which received a four star review in DownBeat and was noted by NPR as one of the Top Ten Jazz Jewels of 2007. JazzTimes predicted that the “timely debut may signal the birth of a new cool.” Criss Cross recently released the saxophonist’s sophomore effort, Today Is Tomorrow, which features the pianist Aaron Parks, the guitarist Julian Lage, the trumpeter Michael Rodriguez, the bassist Kiyoshi Kitagawa, the drummer Donald Edwards, and fellow saxophonist Raffi Garabedian.

Dayna caught our attention early on, and has been performing at The Gallery as a leader since 2007. On Saturday, we will welcome him back in a quintet configuration featuring the pianist Josh Nelson, as well as three of the musicians from his last album: Julian Lage, Kiyoshi Kitagawa, and Donald Edwards.

Watch a video of Dayna interpreting and discussing the music of Eddie Harris, via our friends at SFJazz.