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Colin joined his first jazz group the John Rae Collective at the age of 19 (which included Brian Kellock and Phil Bancroft). He then went on to work with Tommy Smith, Tom Bancroft Orchestra and pop band Hue and Cry.
Between 1990 and 1996 he travelled Europe extensively, living in France, London and Italy.
On his return to Scotland in 1997 he established the phenomenally successful live music club Midnight Blue, which ran for three years and attracted over 40,000 people during this time. He began composing and formed his first quintet in 2000.
Since the release of his debut album Twilight Dreams in 2002, Steele’s highly original and melodic Scottish folk-influenced jazz has won just about every UK jazz plaudit there is; from BBC Jazz CD of the Year and Jazz Review international CD of the Year (for his album ‘The Journey Home’) to CD of the year accolades in The Guardian, Observer, Independent and The New Statesman. Steele’s compositions are inspired by Scottish and Irish folk music, but are firmly rooted in the jazz tradition. The success of his first 2 quintet recordings led to a third, 'Through the Waves' being released internationally by top European label ACT.
In 2006 Steele formed Stramash, a 10 piece Scottish 'supergroup' consisting of his jazz quintet, fiddles, bagpipes, whistle and cello. This group received universal critical acclaim, both for their concerts and for their recording, which was released in 2009. "a stunningly lyrical ensemble". (THE TIMES)
2017 was a busy year. After an 8 year pause in recording Colin released his 4th quintet CD "Even in the Darkest Places" and then 2 months later in July he released ‘Diving for Pearls’ with his new quartet on the German label Marina Records. This CD was a jazz versions of pop songs written by David Scott of the Pearlfishers, one of the most melodic songwriters to come out of Scotland. The quartet also featured Steele’s long time pianist/arranger Dave Milligan, bassist Calum Gourlay and drummer Alyn Cosker.
Colin really enjoyed working on "Diving for Pearls" with the new quartet, so decided to develop the project further by using the same band to explore the work of Joni Mitchell. The recording of this music was released September 2020 as Joni -Jazz Interpretations of the Joni Mitchell songbook' also on the Marina Records label.
Over the last few years Colin has also worked on a wide variety of different projects, including composing for the Edinburgh Jazz Festival Orchestra, touring extensively with a long running theatre show 'A Funny Valentine', based on the life of Chet Baker, a quintet playing the music of Miles Davis, 'Stone Islands', a collaborative project with Scottish and Sardinian musicians. including Enzo Favata, Danillo Gallo and Umberto Trombetta Gandhi, as well as developing several duet projects with pianist Brian Kellock, playing the music of My Fair Lady, Mary Poppins and Louis Armstrong/Duke Ellington.