Name: Steve Hanneman
Instrument: alto and tenor saxophones
Early Years/Education: Born and raised in the Oregon City/ Gladstone area. Started on alto saxophone when I was 12. My dad was a jazz swing musician in the ‘30s in Chicago. He also managed a club called the Valencia Ballroom in Rochester, Minnesota, located next to the Mayo Clinic. The clinic offered health care to musicians like Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong, so he met a lot of people. I remember as a kid my mother told me about sitting on the piano bench holding Louis’s trumpet. [Then] the war broke out and everyone went into the military, including my dad. He went to work building Liberty ships in Portland.
After the war, you had a lot of the Southern contingent (musicians from Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama) who came up to work in the shipyards and stayed here after the war. That was the beginning of Williams Avenue and the “Black Renaissance” in Portland. This also created a huge glut of musicians.
My dad, who was a bass player, couldn’t make a decent living, so that’s when he went into the grocery business. For 45 years he had a grocery in Gladstone. I eventually became partners with him.
I was 20 when I stopped playing the saxophone to go into the family business. Up to that point I had studied music with Erv Lesser in high school and Leroy Anderson at Clackamas Community College.
I had been an “all star” at the Reno Jazz Festival in high school, and at 18 really wanted to go to the Berklee School of Music. I became a meat cutter instead, not a bright thing to do if you play the saxophone. I didn’t start up playing music again until I was fifty-one when we opened Arriverderci Wine and Jazz.
Arrivederci: The current location of Arrivederci on McLoughlin Boulevard was a used car dealership who took trade-ins. They’d put the cars out front so there was no place for my clients to park. I own two other businesses in the building (a hair salon and travel agency), so I complained to the landlord about it, and he said, “That lease is up in January, do you want to have it”? I thought about it and said, “We’ll take it.” My wife, Katy, and I didn’t know what we wanted to do with the space. On the plane back from a trip to New Zealand, after three bottles of pinot grigio, we drew on a napkin “Arrivederci Wine Bar.”
My son, Derek, and Katy run the place. In the beginning it was pizzas and paninis, but Derek, who is the chef, has expanded that into a full Italian menu. When we started eight years ago it was just solo piano. [Now] we present jazz four days a week, Wednesday to Saturday. It’s a family show, most of the people who work here are family friends. Arrivederci doesn’t advertise. My wife does a good newsletter, the chef makes good food, we’re trying to create clients and friends, we don’t want customers. We’re European, so we don’t look to turn tables, we want them to stay all night -- and they do. The important thing is, we have developed a clientèle by creating friends and family. It’s musical evangelism if nothing else. Like at Christmas time, when Tall Jazz comes in with Marilyn Keller; everyone is crying their eyes out when Marilyn sings, it’s an emotional experience, and they want to be part of that.
Musical Influences: My influences are all different ... Stan Getz, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Duke Ellington, Billy Strayhorn, Dexter Gordon, Bill Evans (I listen for his chordal structure; the way he floats in the minor keys), Melody Gardot (love her second album and the way she came back after being hit by a jeep and left for dead), Karrin Allyson (she puts emotion into it, she’s not singing a math problem), Louis Prima, John Coltrane, Babbie Mason (a Christian vocalist), Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Dean Martin, Dizzy Gillespie, Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers and locally, Mike Horsfall, Phil Baker, Dave Captein, Karla Harris, Dennis Caiazza, etc.
Most Satisfying Experience: Not having to go anywhere to have a gig! I have the satisfaction of being asked to play and being accepted by the musicians. Guys like tenor sax player Renato Caranto ask me to go get my horn so we can play together. It’s like I take a private lesson in front of 150 people. Standing next to him is learning jazz by osmosis -- I don’t have time to practice with the other two businesses I’m involved with. It’s personally satisfying to be able to jump back into playing having not done so for 32 years.
Favorite Recordings: Stan Getz: “Sweet Rain,” “Getz Au Go Go” (he took a lot of crap for playing bossa); Dexter Gordon: “Our Man in Paris”; Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers: “A Night in Tunisia” (Jackie McLean playing alto is a beast); Louis Prima: “The Wildest Show at Lake Tahoe” (I was actually at that show; my dad took me when I was 16 years old); Dizzy Gillespie: “Con Alma,” “A Night in Tunisia’; and anything by Duke Ellington.
Discography: I’m on some 1969 Clackamas High School Stage Band recordings. You might hear me on bootleg stuff coming out of Arrivederci if there are any.
Gigs: One night when Tall Jazz was playing at the club, Mike Horsfall asked me to go get my horn, so I started sitting-in. A few years ago, I switched to tenor because of all the vocalists we have at Arrivederci, it sounds better. As a young alto player, I wanted to be the next Stan Getz, so switching to tenor was not a problem. If you want to hear me play, you’ll have to come to Arrivederci.
Future Plans: We’d like to create a brewery downstairs. We have 5,000 square feet of open space. We could do a microbrew/sports bar with pool tables. Another possibility is to turn it into a photo studio.
Other: I have great respect for all these guys, but some of the musicians, when they play a jazz gig, will finish a tune and turn to each other and tell each other how great that was and forget there’s an audience. I’m into show, I watch for performers who can interact with the crowd.
I have an innate respect for musicians, and I’m not going to cheat them, even on a slow night. I keep my covers low, people come for dinner and maybe don’t care that much about the music. We’re creating a lot of jazz fans where they weren’t. There’s no substitute for hearing something live.
-- by Rita Rega