Janis Steprans, jazz saxophonist, composer
Born in Montreal in 1958, Janis Steprans started playing saxophone while in high school. He attended McGill University and later the New England Conservatory in Boston, Massachusetts. While a student at NEC, Janis played on a recording of George Russell’s Living Time Orchestra entitled The African Game.
On his return to Montreal, Janis began performing with his own group and has since played with a number of notable Canadian jazz musicians such as Vic Vogel, Oliver Jones, Ranée Lee, Charles Ellison, Charles Biddle, Kevin Dean, Dave Turner and Skip Bey, as well as with the Denis Christiansen and Joe Sullivan big bands. Janis has presented his jazz group on the CBC and Radio-Canada for programs such as Jazz sur le Vif, Jazzbeat and Canada Live, as well as having accompanied visiting jazz artists such as Slide Hampton, Dizzy Gillespie, Aretha Franklin, Paquito d’Rivera, Randy Brecker, and John Pizzarelli. He has recorded three CD’s under his own name, New Morning, Second Set and Influence, and was a featured soloist on Jim
Hillman’s recording The Merlin Factor, which was awarded the 1993 Juno Award for Best Contemporary Jazz Album. A fourth CD release, entitled Le Quatuor du Nord, features his original music arranged for saxophone quartet. The album was released at a 2007 concert at Quebec’s Palais Montcalm as part of the Festival de Jazz de Québec.
Janis and his quartet have performed regularly at the Festival International du Jazz de Montréal(FIJM), and were twice selected as finalists for the annual Prix du Jazz DuMaurier. Janis has also performed as saxophonist with l’Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal, the National Arts Center Orchestra, and the Count Basie Orchestra. In 1999 he was selected as Canada’s representative for the European Broadcast Union jazz orchestra which recorded a live television broadcast at the 2000 Bergen (Norway) jazz festival. Later that year, Janis’ jazz quartet performed a recital of original jazz compositions at the World Saxophone Congress. Since then Janis has performed at the l’OFF Festival de Jazz de Montréal and the Festival d’Été de Québec, as well the Saxophonia and Saulkrasti Jazz festivals, both in Riga, Latvia. In 2008, Janis performed as clarinettist in the Dave Brubeck Octet in a concert presented by the FIJM.
Janis completed his doctoral degree in jazz studies at McGill University in 2001. Currently he is an Associate Professor of Music at Université Laval (Québec), where he directs the FAMUL-JAZZ big band and teaches jazz saxophone, jazz combos and Jazz History.