Debut Album 'Sea Change' Voted #4 DC Jazz Album of 2020
"Stephen Arnold is already known as one of the most versatile bassists and side musicians on the D.C. jazz scene. His debut album as a bandleader, Sea Change, with his band of the same name, proves that he may be one of the city’s most imaginative composers too. Sea Change’s music reflects Arnold’s deep study of contemporary jazz and sponge-like ability to absorb music from all other sources.... Arnold also smartly assembled a band that aids in the singular vision he has: on “The Red Turtle,” Brian Settles’ tenor saxophone solo pushes and pulls against the cadence created by Arnold’s bass, Keith Butler, Jr.’s drums and the tide of Simone Baron’s accordion; pianist Aleksey Izotov sprinkles notes from the ivories that trickle down and twinkle like soft rain on the ocean."
- Jackson Sinnenberg, Capitalbop
Praise for Debut Album 'Sea Change'
"The album features an array of eclectic instruments and thoughtful songs that cohere seamlessly into a beautiful whole. Sea Change features a collection of tunes characterized by gentle, pensive melodies and steady pacing. The cryptic, contemplative titles of the tracks — “Red Turtle,” “Second Nature,” “Metamorphosis” — allow their meanings to be left up to the listener. Arnold and his collective set a wistful-yet-hopeful tone on Sea Change, one sure to bring a little light to a decisively grey moment in our country’s history..... “Greenfield” is a guitar and bass-driven tune with a lilting, almost melancholy melody, with keys and a sax to match — each instrument taking its time to inhale the gentle air of the song. A touch of accordion eases in just before the songs’ crescendo, lifting the tune to a serene, almost ethereal place. Much of the album echoes that same ambiguous yet calming aura, leaving the listener to conjure a meaning to each tune specific to themselves. In times as tumultuous as these, Sea Change offers a much needed deep breath."
- Sadie Gronigan, Capitalbop
With the Elijah Easton Trio
"Halfway through, Steve Arnold, a 23-year-old bassist who has already earned significant respect on the D.C. scene, sidled in behind them, seemingly out of thin air, quickly unpacking and plugging in an electric bass. They finished “Evidence” and started into the bebop blues “Now’s the Time” with Arnold giving it a slippery funk feel that was more James Brown than Charlie Parker. The tune almost immediately burst out of its blues form and into a long, unbridled jam, Easton charging forward like a cannonball as Hawkins was pulling one of the bar stools toward him. He played it like a snare drum. Chatty, 20-something jaws dropped."
- Michael J. West, The Washington Post
With Sarah Marie Hughes
"One of the District of Columbia’s breakout artists of the moment is undoubtedly Steve Arnold. The young bassist has very quickly become one of the most in demand on the scene, and he plays with aplomb and with dexterity in seemingly every style. One of his colleagues noted not too long ago that Arnold’s late success probably comes in part because he always seems to enjoy what he’s doing. But we shouldn’t downplay the quality of his sound alone, particularly because Arnold is a superlative composer as well as a player (and aside from improvisation, which yes, does count, nobody’s sitting there watching Arnold compose.) The good folk behind the Betty Carter Jazz Ahead fellowship agree: Arnold was just announced as a member of their next class"
- Michael J. West, Washington City Paper
Praise for Sea Change
"One of D.C. jazz’s most interesting combos is also one that comprises D.C.’s busiest young musicians. Bassist Steve Arnold, the leader, is one of the city’s most ubiquitous players—a hell of an accomplishment in a bass town like this one. Alto saxophonist Sarah Hughes is similarly everywhere, a sonic investigator who can’t seem to get enough sleuthing under her belt. And if you’ve gone out to any jazz gigs in the District over the past year and a half or so, you’ve undoubtedly run into guitarist Nelson Dougherty, pianist Erol Danon, and (especially) drummer Kelton Norris, too. Each of these musicians is highly skilled and has great fire in them. Yet the quintet they make up, Sea Change, is not about fire. It’s a thoughtful, explorative sound that finds its best music in melody and reflective moods that defy the usual tropes of the noisy jazz avant-garde. It might indeed be a stretch to call Sea Change avant-garde … calling them progressive, though, hits the nail on the head.
- Michael J. West, Alchemical Records