B.M., University of Akron; M.M., Cleveland State University
In the aggregate, jazz pianist Chip Stephens’ collaborative, recording and world-wide touring with some of the legendary figures in the history of jazz, would compile a dissertation. Having performed on Grammy and Emmy Award winning recordings, he is sought after for his hard-swinging, powerful and lyrical pianism. Since 2005, Stephens has been consistently ranked in the top 10% of University of Illinois Professors. He was recognized by the Provost, Vice Chancellor and the Committee on Tenure and Promotion as being “Extraordinary for the level of his Teaching and Collaborative Artistry.” His experience and diversity have proven beneficial to his students and many, have received national and international recognition for their work.
A partial list of recent outstanding international reviews of Stephens’ work, quote: “…and Stephens, a hardbop wizard who’s “C Hips Blues,” with its stop-time routines and tags, is the joyous highlight of this (Curtis Fuller) CD.” "Stephens' "C. Hip's" blues is an unexpected gem, set up and later consummated by a motif that derserves a role in a Pink Panther movie." “Stephens is like Gaudi architecture, all riffs and adornments straight from nature - from music that you know.” “Stephens displays great fluency on the fast numbers and a deep introspective eloquence on the ballads. In my view, the accolades don’t come any higher!” “Breathe it in! Some real, muscular, no apologies hard bop piano! Stephens is a real deal, head-spinning jazz pianist! I love what he does and I think you will too!” “Stephens' intimate and somewhat reflective sound scape of passion looks at not just music, but the world itself with a new found wonder which seems to magically, if not mysteriously transcend the work presented here.The tunes are in the deep catalog and are pulled off in a masterful fashion, creating lasting musical images long after the final notes die out.” “Chip Stephens is an impeccable technician, a clever, even daring composer, and a restless explorer of melody.” “Chip Stephens, who first caught my attention in 1996 when he appeared in London with Arturo Sandoval, and his poised, intelligent pianism throughout the (Charles McPherson) album is an absolute joy.” "....magical, mesmerizing, momentous." “….jazz pianist Chip Stephens grabs you immediately.” “….and Stephens is a propulsive and harmonically deep pianist whose CDs with his own trio and with the legendary Curtis Fuller are well worth checking out.” “Stephens makes good on his own words, delivering music that’s real, honest and true, but in doing so, proving that musical reality comes in different shapes and sizes. Stephens confirms his own "Relevancy" (Stephens CD) in today’s jazz world with this appropriately titled release.” “He’s well known in the jazz world, having played with iconic groups like Glenn Miller, Woody Herman, Maynard Ferguson, Benny Golson, Curtis Fuller and many others. Stephens is one hell of a pianist, and this unit is a “must listen to” group (Charles McPherson)!” “Chip Stephens is not ‘bar room’ – he is a big inventive theatre, improvising time and space; swing, swept into verse and chorus with everything to play for.” “Chip Stephens is a hard-charging pianist that may just be scratching the surface of what may well be an untapped reservoir of creativity for our listening pleasure.” “I never tire of the SSG Trio: pianist Chip Stephens, drummer Joel Spencer and bassist Larry Gray, all UI jazz faculty and stellar musicians. They were adventuresome, performing songs, some with interesting chord changes. Among them, Stephens’ “St. Stephens at the Golden Gates,” a tribute to his late father. It’s an audience favorite.”
Stephens can be heard on nearly 80 records and compact discs as a side-man and band leader. He has performed on 4 continents with some of the most prestigious names in jazz and his performing credits are many and include; Eden Atwood, Michael Brecker, Jerry Brown, Kenny Burrell, John Fedchock, Maynard Ferguson, Curtis Fuller, George Garzone, Greg Gisbert, Benny Golson, The Woody Herman Orchestra, Charlie Haden, Conrad Herwig, Milt Hinton, Red Holloway, Denise Irwin, Javon Jackson, Ingrid Jensen, Randy Johnston, Steve Kirby, Bill Kirchner, Ernie Krivda, Ralph Lalama, Tony Leonardi, Joe Lovano, Charles McPherson, The Glenn Miller Orchestra, Keith Oxman, Tito Puente, Nelson Rangell, Arturo Sandoval, Bobby Shew, Frank Sinatra Jr., Howie Smith, Clark Terry, Frank Tiberi, Roseanna Vitro, The Jim Widner Big Band and Glenn Wilson.
Along with being acknowledged by his students and the university for the exceptional quality of his instruction, he maintains a very diverse teaching and performing career at both the national and international levels and has over fifteen years of teaching experience at the university level.