Charles Stepney, the lauded songwriter, producer and arranger, steps into the spotlight with a posthumous cut, the Chicagoan’s first-ever eponymous release.
The newly-unearthed “Step on Step” is a home recording from the late ‘60s, and the first track to be released under Stepney’s name.
The Illinois native recorded the song to four-track tape in the basement of his home. On it, Stepney layers his own performances on piano and vibraphone over an early drum machine, for a bare-bones insight into his talents.
“Step on Step” sees the light of day via International Anthem, which releases the track to celebrate would have been Stepney’s 91st birthday this Saturday (March 26).
Stepney has been described as “one of the underrated heroes of Chicago soul music,” a studio master who set the bar during his days as staff arranger at Chess Records.
Before passing in 1976, at the age of 45, Stepney contributed to the sounds of Rotary Connection, The Dells, Muddy Waters, Minnie Riperton, Ramsey Lewis, Earth, Wind & Fire, Terry Callier and many more. His works have influenced countless others, and have been sampled by such artists as A Tribe Called Quest, The Fugees, Kanye West, Jay-Z, D’Angelo, Gang Starr, and Jurassic 5.
The new release is part of a journey of discovery led by the late music man’s three daughters, Eibur, Charlene, and Chanté Stepney. And it’s only the beginning of a slate of releases. “There will be much more news and music to come from The Stepney Family together with International Anthem in 2022,” reads a statement from the Chicago-based label.