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Dayna Stephens: Jazz Saxophonist Extraordinaire

Did you know that Dayna Stephens is not only an accomplished jazz saxophonist, but also a survivor of a rare kidney disease? Despite this challenge, Stephens has risen to prominence in the jazz world, captivating audiences with his innovative albums and captivating performances. From his early days in the renowned Berkeley High School jazz program to his current position as a faculty member at the Manhattan School of Music, Stephens has honed his craft and established himself as a bandleader and collaborator of choice for acclaimed musicians such as Kenny Barron, Gerald Clayton, and Taylor Eigsti.

Stephens’ talent and dedication shine through in his discography, which includes nine albums showcasing his unique style and musicality. One of his standout releases is “Gratitude,” a critically acclaimed album that highlights Stephens’ sophisticated sound. Featuring a stellar lineup of Eric Harland, Julian Lage, Brad Mehldau, and Larry Grenadier, this album showcases the depth of Stephens’ artistry and earned him high praise from the New York Times and his fellow jazz musicians.

Recently, Stephens performed a memorable live show at Berklee College of Music, his alma mater. As part of the concert series “The Checkout: Live,” Stephens and his quartet mesmerized the audience with their renditions of his original compositions and jazz standards. The performance, recorded and broadcasted by WBGO and NPR Music, further cemented Stephens’ reputation as a captivating and melodic saxophonist.

One of Stephens’ notable collaborations has been with virtuoso pianist Gerald Clayton. Their performance at the Lawrence Memorial Chapel for Lawrence University’s Jazz Series showcased the incredible musical chemistry between the two musicians. Clayton, a highly respected figure in the jazz world, has played with legends like Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock, making this collaboration a testament to Stephens’ talent.

Stephens’ contributions to the jazz genre have been recognized with four Grammy Award nominations. His albums, including “Two Shades,” “Bond: The Paris Sessions,” and “Life Forum,” have garnered critical acclaim and highlighted his ability to craft intricate and compelling musical narratives.

Lawrence University’s Jazz series has provided a platform for artists like Dayna Stephens to showcase their talent to a wider audience. The series, held at the Lawrence Memorial Chapel, has featured jazz luminaries such as Diana Krall, Ambrose Akinmusire, Roy Hargrove, and Terry Lyne Carrington, making it a must-attend event for jazz enthusiasts.

Key Takeaways:

  • Dayna Stephens is a renowned jazz saxophonist known for his innovative albums and captivating performances.
  • He has battled a rare kidney disease while maintaining a successful career in music.
  • Stephens’ discography includes nine albums, with “Gratitude” being a standout release.
  • Collaborations with musicians like Gerald Clayton have further solidified Stephens’ position in the jazz community.
  • Stephens has been recognized with four Grammy Award nominations for his contributions to the jazz genre.
  • Lawrence University’s Jazz Series provides a platform for both established and emerging jazz artists to showcase their talent.

Gratitude: Dayna Stephens’ Ninth Album

“Gratitude” is Dayna Stephens’ ninth album, released in 2017. This highly anticipated record offers a compelling glimpse into Stephens’ unique personality and musicality. With tracks like “Clouds,” the album captures Stephens’ serene yet complex style, showcasing his mastery of the saxophone.

One of the standout aspects of “Gratitude” is the stellar lineup of musicians who contributed to the album. Stephens collaborated with esteemed artists such as Eric Harland on drums, Julian Lage on guitar, Brad Mehldau on piano, and Larry Grenadier on bass. Their collective artistry adds richness and depth to each composition, creating a cohesive and unforgettable musical experience.

The album has received critical acclaim, with the New York Times praising Stephens’ sophisticated and surprising sound. The combination of his breathtaking saxophone playing and the seamless synergy between the musicians on “Gratitude” has made it a standout addition to Stephens’ discography.

“Gratitude” exemplifies the brilliance of Dayna Stephens as a composer and performer. His ability to evoke emotion through his saxophone is truly unparalleled.” – Jazz Music Magazine

To fully appreciate the mastery of “Gratitude,” one must listen to tracks like “Dizzy’s Business,” where Stephens’ improvisation weaves intricate melodies, entrancing the listener. Each song on the album unfolds like a unique story, drawing in the audience with its rhythmic complexity and harmonious interplay.

Listeners will find themselves captivated by the sheer beauty and artistry of “Gratitude.” Dayna Stephens’ innovative approach to jazz shines through in every track, making this album a must-listen for jazz enthusiasts and newcomers alike.

Live Performance at Berklee College of Music

Dayna Stephens, renowned jazz saxophonist, had the honor of performing live at his alma mater, Berklee College of Music. The highly anticipated concert took place as part of the prestigious concert series “The Checkout: Live”.

Stephens was accompanied by a talented quartet comprised of Julian Lage on guitar, Kiyoshi Kitagawa on bass, and Jaimeo Brown on drums. Together, they delivered an unforgettable performance, showcasing Stephens’ exceptional compositions as well as captivating renditions of jazz standards.

The concert was recorded and broadcasted by WBGO and NPR Music, allowing jazz enthusiasts around the world to experience the magic of Stepens’ live performance. The setlist featured a dynamic mix of tracks, including “On the Trail,” “Contagious,” and “Loosy Goosy,” each highlighting Stephens’ melodic and mesmerizing playing.

“Dayna Stephens is a true master of his craft, and his live performance at Berklee College of Music was no exception. The energy and passion he exudes on stage is simply unparalleled.” –WBGO Jazz critic

Collaboration with Gerald Clayton

Dayna Stephens and Gerald Clayton, two celebrated jazz musicians, came together for a remarkable collaboration at the Lawrence Memorial Chapel as part of Lawrence University’s Jazz Series. Known for their exceptional abilities on their respective instruments, Stephens on saxophone and Clayton on piano, the duo delivered a performance that left audiences in awe.

Gerald Clayton, with his hard-swinging style and remarkable pedigree, has worked with legendary jazz figures such as Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock. His expertise on the piano perfectly complemented Stephens’ melodic and soulful tenor saxophone playing.

Their collaboration added another layer of depth to Lawrence University’s Jazz Series, enriching the program with their exceptional musical chemistry. The director of the jazz studies program praised their performance, recognizing the unique artistic contributions of both musicians.

Stephens and Clayton’s joint endeavor exemplified the synergy that can be achieved when two exceptional artists unite, resulting in an unforgettable musical experience for the audience.

Grammy Award Nominations and Discography

Dayna Stephens, the acclaimed jazz saxophonist, has been recognized for his exceptional musical talent with four Grammy Award nominations. His diverse discography showcases his ability to construct nuanced and compelling musical narratives through his playing.

In 2005, Stephens released his debut album, titled “Two Shades,” which immediately garnered attention and earned him a Grammy nomination for Best Improvised Jazz Solo. The nomination was specifically for his remarkable arrangement of Cole Porter’s timeless classic, “All of You.” This early recognition solidified Stephens’ position as a rising star in the jazz world.

Continuing his musical journey, Stephens released two more albums, “Bond: The Paris Sessions” and “Life Forum,” both of which received critical acclaim and further expanded his Grammy nominations. “Bond: The Paris Sessions” secured a nomination for Best Jazz Instrumental Album, showcasing Stephens’ captivating improvisations and musical collaboration with notable pianist Gerald Clayton.

“Life Forum,” Stephens’ most recent album at the time of writing, also received a Grammy nomination for Best Jazz Instrumental Album. This extraordinary record demonstrates Stephens’ extraordinary ability to blend various musical influences, creating a captivating and emotive listening experience.

Stephens’ Grammy nominations place him among the elite jazz musicians of his generation, showcasing his talent, dedication, and artistic vision. Through his discography and nominations, he has left an indelible mark on the jazz industry and continues to push the boundaries of the genre.

Lawrence University and Jazz Series

Dayna Stephens’ performance at Lawrence University’s Jazz Series showcases the university’s commitment to bringing acclaimed jazz musicians to its Lawrence Memorial Chapel. The Jazz Series aims to expose students and the community to a diverse range of jazz styles and talents.

Previous performers have included jazz icons such as Diana Krall, Ambrose Akinmusire, Roy Hargrove, and Terry Lyne Carrington. These renowned musicians have graced the stage of Lawrence Memorial Chapel, captivating the audience with their exceptional artistry and virtuosity.

“The Lawrence University Jazz Series is a platform for both established and emerging jazz artists,” said the program director. “We strive to create a space where the beauty and creativity of jazz can thrive, and where students and the community can experience the power of this genre.”

Whether it’s the soulful vocals of Diana Krall, the cutting-edge compositions of Ambrose Akinmusire, the dynamic trumpet playing of Roy Hargrove, or the masterful drumming of Terry Lyne Carrington, the Lawrence University Jazz Series promises an unforgettable musical experience.

These exceptional performances not only inspire aspiring jazz musicians at Lawrence University but also foster an appreciation for jazz among the wider community.

The Lawrence University Jazz Series continues to enrich the cultural landscape of the university and the surrounding area, solidifying Lawrence University’s reputation as a prominent hub for jazz education and performance.


Dayna Stephens, the renowned jazz saxophonist, is celebrated for his distinctive sound and artistic vision. With a background that includes the prestigious Berkeley High School jazz program and studies at the Manhattan School of Music, Stephens has honed his skills in both educational and professional settings. His innovative albums, such as “Gratitude,” showcase his unique approach to jazz composition and improvisation, earning him critical acclaim.

A testament to his versatility and talent, Stephens has collaborated with esteemed musicians like Gerald Clayton, further solidifying his reputation as a skilled saxophonist. His numerous Grammy Award nominations highlight his significant contributions to the jazz genre, underscoring his impact on the music industry.

Stephens’ captivating performances have graced esteemed venues like Lawrence University’s Jazz Series, where he continues to share his music with audiences worldwide. Through his dedication and passion, he not only presents his distinctive sound but also inspires others to appreciate and embrace the beauty of jazz. Dayna Stephens is an artist whose talent and innovation continue to shape the future of jazz music.


Who is Dayna Stephens?

Dayna Stephens is an acclaimed jazz saxophonist known for his innovative albums and captivating performances.

What is Dayna Stephens’ ninth album?

Dayna Stephens’ ninth album is titled “Gratitude.”

Who are some of the musicians featured on “Gratitude”?

“Gratitude” features musicians such as Eric Harland, Julian Lage, Brad Mehldau, and Larry Grenadier.

Where did Dayna Stephens perform live as part of “The Checkout: Live” concert series?

Dayna Stephens performed live at Berklee College of Music as part of “The Checkout: Live” concert series.

Which musicians were part of Dayna Stephens’ quartet for the Berklee College of Music performance?

Julian Lage on guitar, Kiyoshi Kitagawa on bass, and Jaimeo Brown on drums were part of Dayna Stephens’ quartet for the Berklee College of Music performance.

Who did Dayna Stephens collaborate with at the Lawrence University Jazz Series?

Dayna Stephens collaborated with jazz pianist Gerald Clayton at the Lawrence University Jazz Series.

How many Grammy Award nominations has Dayna Stephens received?

Dayna Stephens has received four Grammy Award nominations.

What is Dayna Stephens’ debut album?

Dayna Stephens’ debut album is titled “Two Shades.”

What is Lawrence University’s Jazz Series?

Lawrence University’s Jazz Series is a platform for bringing acclaimed jazz musicians to the Lawrence Memorial Chapel.

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