Dynamic Saxophonists Steve Kortyka and Ryan Devlin on the Process of Making an Album


Steve Kortyka and newcomer on the scene, Ryan Devlin are two heavy players navigating the scene today at different points in their musical careers.

Between the two of them, they’ve recorded multiple albums – Ryan with Thoughts on the Matter and The Shape of Light, and Steve with Steps Forward, Wedding Song, and Looking At the Moon.

Steve and Ryan recently completed a tour of the U.S. where they performed charts from their recently recorded album, A Series of Circumstances.

I had the opportunity to touch base with Steve and Ryan to learn about their process of recording an album, and get their advice to others looking to become recording artists, as well as lessons learned during the course of recording and promoting A Series of Circumstances.


ZS: What is your process for putting together an album?

Ryan: I had this dream of putting together a twin tenors “Elvin Jones Jazz Machine”-type of group for a few years now, and when Steve and I became friends, I mentioned it to him. He immediately said he was down and we were off to the races.

Steve: I let Ryan take the reins on this one, but gave him full support in all the things that he envisioned for the project. We had some short conversations about personnel and who we wanted to get, and once that was figured out, everything fell into place pretty quickly.

ZS: Since both of you have recorded albums as a leader and sideman in the past, what have you learned and what have you changed with your current process?

Ryan: I learned that an album is just a snapshot into what you are currently working on. I used to worry about playing all my “newest most killing stuff” on every track of the record….but I’ve since learned that there will always be another record, another session to play. I just need to play in the moment and service the music that is happening now.

Steve: Ryan speaks the truth here! With each recording, I’ve learned to prepare for the album weeks ahead of time as best I can in the practice room and let the day of the session just happen. Sometimes you won’t always get the take you want but you still need to go for it. Most of the time you will be able to look back on what you recorded with a sense of accomplishment and create something that people will enjoy.

ZS: What do you see as some of the pros and cons of recording an album today versus how it was done in the past from your experience?

Ryan: The financial burden….it’s a lot of money out of the artist’s pocket upfront these days. 

Steve: The pros are that if it is released well you can get a good spotlight on yourself and encourage other people to check out your music. The cons are, as Ryan said, the costs. For this last album we did video and audio, CDs, a tour, and are working on vinyl. Not an easy one to pull off but definitely easier when you’re splitting it with another band member.

ZS: When releasing an album do you decide on how you are going to promote the album before or after finishing the album?

Ryan: We tried to do both. We are still experimenting with what works best, but we’ve sold the most physical copies of any CD I’ve done so far. It mostly comes from touring for five weeks as part of the record release I think.

Steve: We’re still promoting! I don’t think it matters when you promote, the “how” is much more important.

ZS: What is the most commonly overlooked, yet important process or step when recording an album, and have you run into that challenge yourselves?

Ryan: Something I don’t always remember to consider is the order of the album tracks as well as the variety of the record. We have a very specific sound in mind for the record but I didn’t really have a strong idea of what tunes would portray that sound the best. We didn’t want to copy the Live at the Lighthouse record, but we wanted tunes that would give that vibe to the listener.  If I could do the session over again I would try and take a step back and think about the overall sound and order of the record….put in an up tempo burning tune and another ballad.

Steve: Playing something that people would want to listen to is always a challenge. What people? Well… YOU! Would you listen to your own album if you didn’t know yourself? I can’t always say that about the albums I’ve recorded in the past (even though I tried!) but I think if you go into the studio knowing that you’re about to drop some serious music you’re probably going to make a good album.

ZS: How did you decide where and what equipment to record on. Is it the music that influences where to record or does it simply come down to cost & time?

Ryan: We recorded at Trading 8s in Paramus, NJ because of the recommendation from our drummer, Adam Nussbaum. He told us he had recorded there several times in the past and was very pleased with every aspect.

Steve: When we arrived I could tell it was going to be great sound – there was a great gear, isolation and visibility for shooting video even though it was a relatively small space. When you get a solid recommendation from somebody who KNOWS like Adam Nussbaum, a lot less is left to chance.

ZS: With your recent album release, A Series of Circumstances, what are you most proud of with this release, and what is a major takeaway that will impact your process for recording an album moving forward?

Ryan: I’m the most proud of the group we put together. To have Gene Perla and Adam Nussbaum on a post-Coltrane style record is really a dream come true. Then to add a pianist like Mike Bond who is as versatile as they come is just icing on the cake. The only thing I would do differently is take shorter and better solos…..hahah, but there is always the next session.

Steve: Shorter and better solos… lol where does that leave me then?!?! I just wish I would’ve slept better the night before. I felt great going into it but fatigue kicked in towards the end of the session because I had only slept an hour or two. I guess I was excited! I’m super proud to have it on Gene’s label, PM Records alongside all the other great music already there. The interplay that occurred with those cats within a short period of time playing together was pretty killin’. I wish we could’ve recorded AFTER the tour because the music was tighter and some of the arrangements changed after having played it 30+ times – maybe we will try that in the future!

To pick up a copy of their album, A Series of Circumstances head over to https://www.ryandevlinmusic.com/albums

You can also find the album on Spotify here.