Get To Know Roy Stephansen

Norwegian trombonist Roy Stephansen

It’s The Land of the Midnight Sun, where the air is clean. Pure as the fallen snow.

Get to know Roy Stephansen and one of the first things you’ll learn is that his doorstep is a long, long way from Brazil.

It’s The Land of the Midnight Sun, where the air is clean. Pure as the fallen snow. One of the world’s northmost regions, Finnmark sits on the southern shore of the Artic Ocean but it’s the Northern Lights which come in waves.

It’s also home to jazz trombonist Roy Stephansen, whose long-distance love affair with Brazilian music began in the 80’s with Raul de Souza. Musically, Stephansen’s Brazil comes to life in tropical tones and breezy melodies, making songs like ‘Carefree Days In Cabo Frio’ an irresistible invitation to get away.

Listen, and you’re virtually there, just like Roy. Recently, we sent 10 questions to Roy Stephansen via email, so we could get to know him a bit better. Enjoy.

Culture, climate and distance separate you from Brazil, yet you still are able to translate that tropical sense of Brasilidade (Brazilian-ness) into your music. What is it about Brazil that inspires you?

Early in life, I was lucky that I came across record albums from musicians who combined rhythms and brilliant harmonies with the right touch of funk that just hits you… and brings this exciting atmosphere for the melody line that I found in Brazilian music.

Tell us about your latest recordings.

Just before the Holidays, I released two Christmas songs. One is an original composition called ‘Merry Christmas’, which turned out to be a kind of family Christmas card. The other song was a cover version of ‘That’s Christmas To Me’, which came out of an idea from my youngest son, who also did the vocals.

In the smooth jazz and Brazilian genre, my latest songs are ‘Carefree Days in Cabo Frio’, and a new single version of ‘Ethereum Funk’, taken from the earlier album Smooth Currency, which I dedicated to the fascinating cryptocurrency and blockchain technology.

Living in one of the world’s northernmost regions is something most of us know little about. Describe a typical day in your life.

A typical day of life here very much depends on which time of the year we are in.

During a typical day, I usually take time to go for a walk in the mountain and enjoy the nature around the city. I believe in daily exercise and getting some fresh air helps me to stay healthy. Of course, at this time of the year (during winter), “exercise” more or less comes naturally by simply taking care of all the snow in the driveway!

I also work on musical ideas and musical arrangements for myself and in collaboration with  other artists, I practice my trombone and spend time online, keeping up with the latest news on financial education.

It seems to me that the general population is increasingly challenged by political systems which is why I believe the getting your own financial education and learning from history is essential, in order to better foresee what is coming further down the road.

In the evening my wife and I settle in with a nice movie. Apart from music, I have my own company where I assist small companies with administrative and accounting work, both locally and remotely via the internet.

When we think of great trombone players in Brazilian music, the names of Sergio Trombone and Raul de Souza come to mind, and who can forget Bob Brookmeyer’s valve-trombone solo on Astrud Gilberto’s ‘Take Me To Aruanda’. Are any of these influences on your own style?

It’s funny that you mention Raul DeSouza, as I first discovered him on George Duke’s records and bought several of Raul’s albums in the late 70’s and early 80’s. I practiced a lot on my trombone to his records, as well as the recordings of the famous Norwegian Trombonist Frode Thingnæs and his band, Frode Thingnæs Quintet. If maybe not exactly equal in style, they nonetheless made me start to play more and more trombone, as I played mostly guitar before.

Smooth Jazz is alive and well, and you are also known for a smooth jazz style you call Silkejazz. Who are your favorite smooth jazz musicians?

There are so many, but I would have to mention long-time favorites George Duke, George Benson, Spyro Gyra, Lee Ritenour, and in more recent years I have been listening a lot to Brian Culbertson and Chris Standring.

What are your music plans for 2021 as we get to know Roy Stephansen?

First of all to make sure to finish my new album, and definitely try to make a final recording of a longtime project called “Take Me To Rio”, which will include lyrics for a change. As you know, I usually compose mostly instrumental music.

Every song has a story behind it. Tell us about ‘Carefree Days in Cabo Frio’.

Imagine yourself at a beautiful place, warm and sunny, with a nice ocean view, enjoying a glass of red wine together with your beautiful wife, watching the sunset… That’s my inspiration for ‘Carefree Days in Cabo Frio’.

Do you have a hobby?

Music is of course my main hobby, but I also enjoy watching soccer, tennis and long walks in nature. I also find cryptocurrency and blockchain technology very fascinating, so that’s become a new interest to me in recent years.

Is there a song that you wish you written?

There are several but I think George Duke’s “Brazilian Love Affair” and Lee Ritenour’s version of “Latin Lover” have been played the most on repeat.

Any plans to visit Rio de Janerio when the time is right?

Well, I like to believe that will happen in the future, as it has always been a dream of mine. In the meantime, I just let the music take me there…


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Get to know Roy Stephansen