Born in Los Angeles, California, Steve started his professional career while a student on scholarship at Berklee in Boston in 1970–72. There he played with colleagues John Scofield, Billy Drewes, Harvie S, Joey Baron, Joe Lovano, and with the band of Stevie Wonder while still in Boston. His voice centers on the alto sax but also includes soprano sax as well as flute and alto clarinet.
Since moving to New York City in 1977, Steve has worked with: Machito and His Afro-Cuban Orchestra as lead alto(1977–78); Steve Kuhn Quartet (1978–79); Eddie Palmieri, Lionel Hampton, Woody Herman (1979–81); Brother Jack McDuff (1981); Carla Bley Band (1981–1985); Charlie Haden Liberation Orchestra (1985); Ray Baretto Band (1988–91); the Charles Mingus Big Ban (1991–1998) and Joe Lovano Nonet and Quartet (1999–present).
As a leader, Steve’s first record, High Standards, was released by Polydor, Japan, in 1983. Traveling to Brazil as a guest of Milton Nascimento’s band, Steve recorded the instrumental album, Rio Highlife, released on Atlantic Records in 1986. Subsequent touring with his New York group included Japan, Canada, and Europe, as well as the United States. This Quartet often featured Mike Stern on guitar and Adam Nussbaum on drums and is represented by the CD with bassist Jaco Pastorius on Big World Records, Raca.
In the beginning of the 1990s Steve produced his own recording Smoke Signals (on Panorama records) and since 1992 has recorded five albums of his music for SteepleChase records, two with his quartet featuring Tima Hagans on trumpet and one with Kenny Drew Jr. on piano. The fourth quartet recording has Ryan Kisor on trumpet and deals with the blues (Alto Blue). His fifth album, with guitarist Dave Stryker, is their quartet arrangements of Thelonious Monk, entitled Slagle Plays Monk. Also coleading a group with guitarist Dave Stryker, Steve has played on five of Dave’s CDs and toured with him in the States, most recently as the Slagle-Stryker Band. Steve’s New New York recording on Omni-Tone with his newest sounds was released in October 2000.
A member of BMI, Slagle Music, his publishing company, has a long list of original compositions recorded by him and other artists. In the 90s he has been lead altoist and chief arranger with the Mingus Big Band. The Mingus Big Band has toured worldwide and has been voted #1 in Downbeat for many years as well as nominated for Grammys for three of their records. Steve has received four National Endowment for the Arts grants for composition and performance enabling him to produce music for several horns and a large rhythm section. Also writing jazz saxophone quartets (published by Advance Music) and chosen to play at the IAJE Festival. Steve is currently on the faculty of the Manhattan School of Music and The New School in New York City. He is also a jazz clinician and guest artist throughout the world.
Manhattan School of Music faculty since 1991.