Steve Cardenas’ recent Newvelle Records LP is called Charlie & Paul—as in Haden and Motian, two of the guitarist’s biggest influences and two musicians who gave his career a boost by hiring him. The lyricism of their compositions is echoed in his two leader albums for Fresh Sounds and two subsequent ones for Sunnyside.
Cardenas didn’t move to New York until he was in his early 30s, not because he wasn’t ready but because he was so busy gigging wherever he was. He grew up in Kansas City, where he progressed from junior-high rock bands to prog-rock to fusion to mainstream jazz, and got a chance to play with Jay McShann and Claude Williams. He lived in San Francisco for four years, playing with Paul McCandless and Jeff Beal, and then followed Beal to L.A. for three.