Robert Stewart (saxophonist)

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Robert Stewart
Background information
Birth nameRobert Darrin Stewart
BornOakland, California, United States
GenresJazz, soul, blues, Middle Eastern, R&B, avant-garde
Years active1986–present
LabelsQwest, Warner Bros., Red, Nagel-Heyer, Exodus, World Stage, Armageddon
Associated actsWynton Marsalis, Billy Higgins, Pharoah Sanders, Winard Harper, Black Note

Robert Darrin Stewart is an American saxophonist. He recorded several albums under his own name during the period 1994–2006. He has also recorded as a sideman, including on trumpeter Wynton Marsalis' Blood on the Fields. Stewart went on multiple national and world tours during his 30-year career as a performer, both under his own name and with the Marsalis band.

Early life[edit]

Stewart was born in Oakland, California.[1] His mother was from Louisiana, and his biological father, Bob Stewart, was a San Francisco Conservatory trained flutist and trumpeter.[2] Stewart says that his mother began teaching him to read from the Qur'an when he was three years old; the Bible was his next reading task, and he went on to study other major religions.[2]

Stewart first played the flute as a hobby; his primary passion was basketball during his grade school years.[3] He stated that he "played flute in high school because it was easy to hide from my friends who were all into sports".[4] His high school music teacher encouraged him to play jazz.[3]

The summer after his graduation from Fremont High School, he was listening to the radio and heard tenor saxophonist John Coltrane playing "Russian Lullaby"; the next song was "All Too Soon" played by tenor saxophonist Ben Webster.[5] The contrast in sound between these two men, playing the same instrument, fascinated Stewart; he then remembered his high school teacher's words and focused on jazz.[5] After the summer of 1986, Stewart began to frequent jam sessions with Oakland Bay Area pianist Ed Kelly.[5] There he met saxophonist Pharoah Sanders, who became his first mentor, giving him technical advice and encouraging him to continue and advance his playing.[4]

Performance career[edit]

Stewart playing in Italy.

In New York, Stewart played with trumpeter Roy Hargrove.[6] In 1991, he performed with drummer Max Roach's ensemble.[7] In 1992, Stewart performed with McCoy Tyner (piano), Bobby Hutcherson (vibes), Freddie Hubbard (trumpet), Milt Jackson (vibes), Billy Higgins (drums), and organist Jimmy Smith.[8] Stewart also joined the Los Angeles-based group Black-Note for an eight-month stint, and performed with trombonist Delfeayo Marsalis and drummer Brian Blade that same year.[9] Others he had played with by 1995 include Buddy Montgomery, Chico Freeman, and Donald Byrd.[10] Jazz critic Jason Ankeny said that Stewart was "One of the most impressive hard bop tenor saxophonists to emerge during the 1990s".[11]

In 1993, Stewart was asked to tour with the New York-based group The Harper Brothers led by drummer Winard Harper. This was his first national band tour.[12] By the end of 1994, he began touring nationally under his own name.[13]

Stewart's highest profile engagement that year came after joining trumpeter Wynton Marsalis' big band, the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, to perform Blood on the Fields, including on the recording that won the Pulitzer Prize for Music.[4][14][15] He also performed on the album They Came to Swing. He was part of the Blood on the Fields tour of the United States and Europe in 1997.[16]

In 1997, Stewart played weekly at San Francisco venues such as Club Deluxe and Bruno's,[17] and had a gig with vocalist Jon Hendricks doing a Bread and Roses benefit inside the former Alcatraz Island Federal Penitentiary.[18] In June 1997, Stewart's quartet included drummer Billy Higgins for a concert at The Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles.[19] The previous year, Higgins was reported as saying that Stewart was "perhaps the most important young artist to come along in decades."[20]

Stewart performed with guitarist Patrick Greene for President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary Clinton at a Democratic fundraiser in Woodside, California in 1998.[21] He backed up Dizzy Gillespie in one of Gillespie's final concerts.[22] In his 30-year performance career he toured the world multiple times.[23]

Recording career[edit]

Stewart's first album as leader was Judgement,[24] for World Stage Records.[25] The recording featured Higgins, pianist Eric Reed, and bassist Mark Shelby.[24] Jazz writer Scott Yanow wrote: "Even on the up-tempo tunes, Stewart is often content to emphasize his warm tone and to hold long notes, taking his time to get his message across. [...] this is a pleasing modern mainstream effort."[24] In 1994, Stewart recorded Beautiful Love Ballads for Red Records of Italy;[26] it was released in 1998.[27]

Stewart's first album for Quincy Jones's Qwest Records was In the Gutta, in 1996.[17] Saxophonist Dave Liebman, on hearing it, reported enthusiastically that Stewart sounded like a player from an older generation.[28] Stewart's next album with Qwest was The Force, with drummer Jeff "Tain" Watts, bassist Reginald Veal, and pianist Ed Kelly (his first teacher).[29] According to Stewart, Qwest delayed its release for almost two years and then did not promote it, because of its Islamic influences.[2]

In 2000, Stewart recorded Nat the Cat, a tribute to Nat "King" Cole that featured Kelly (piano), Mark Williams (bass), Sly Randolph (drums), and family members Kevin Stewart (piano) and Robert Stewart III (flute).[30][31] Stewart's 2003 album The Movement was a concert recording that was also Higgins's final recording.[32] In 2003, Stewart recorded Heaven and Earth for Nagel-Heyer Records.[33] This was essentially a smooth jazz record, and several of the thirteen songs were Stewart originals.[33] The AllMusic reviewer stated that there is "a positive social message that runs through the songs [...] Perhaps Stewart has found a way to combine new age politics with new age music, creating a hybrid that seems almost natural."[33]

Post-performance career[edit]

Stewart retired from recording and performing at the end of 2016 in order to write religious books, teach, and travel.[34]


As leader

  • Judgement (World Stage, 1994)
  • In the Gutta (Qwest/Warner Bros., 1996)
  • The Force (Qwest/Warner Bros., 1998)
  • Beautiful Love Ballads (Red, 1998)
  • Nat the Cat (Red, 2000)
  • The Movement (Exodus, 2002)
  • Heaven and Earth (Nagel-Heyer, 2004)
  • Happy Birthday Trane (Armageddon, 2006)
  • Invitation (Armageddon, 2006)
  • Evolution (Armageddon, 2006)
  • Don't Move the Groove! (Volume 1 – Organ Funk) (Armageddon, 2006)
  • Don't Move the Groove! (Volume 2 – Organ Blues) (Armageddon, 2006)

As sideman

  • Ed Kelly & Pharoah Sanders (Evidence, 1992) Pharoah Sanders, Eddie Marshall
  • They Came to Swing (Columbia, 1994) Wynton Marsalis, Jon Faddis, Joshua Redman, James Carter, Billy Higgins, Marcus Roberts, Nicholas Payton
  • Blood on the Fields (Columbia, 1995) Wynton Marsalis, Cassandra Wilson, Jon Hendricks, James Carter, Eric Reed, Herlin Riley[35]
  • The Music of America: Wynton Marsalis (Sony, 2012) Wynton Marsalis, Harry "Sweets" Edison, Marion Williams[36]
  • Can't Hide Love (Seaside, 1996) Buddy Conner, Wilton Felder, John Handy, Gaylord Birch, Carl Lockett
  • Full Swing Ahead (Deluxe, 1998) Jay Johnson, Mark Shelby, Ed Kelly
  • Expressions of a Legacy (Effania Brown, 2001) Lady Memfis
  • Live at Lo Spuntino (Music in the Vines, 2002) David Leshare Watson[37]
  • David Leshare Watson Loves Swinging Soft & the Ballads (Music in the Vines, 2003) David Leshare Watson
  • Nobody's Home (Chump Change, 2014) Paul Tillman Smith, Levi Seacer Jr.
  • Fonky Times (Chump Change, 2015) Paul Tillman Smith, Pharoah Sanders, Norman Connors, LaToya London, Rosie Gains
  • A Beautiful Heart (Chump Change, 2016) Paul Tillman Smith, Levi Seacer Jr., Rodney Franklin, Kenneth Nash


  • 25th Red Records Anniversary – Un Filo Rosso Nel Jazz (Red, 2003)
  • Red Records : The Color of Jazz (Red, 2009)
  • 30 Jazz Love Standards (Red, 2010)
  • Relaxin' Jazz (Red, 2010)
  • Red Records 35th Anniversary (Red, 2011)
  • Ballads 2004 (Nagel-Heyer, 2004)


  • Marsalis on Music Video Series, Columbia Films (1995)[38]
  • Sessions at West 54th, PBS Television (1997)
  • South Bank Show (Blood on the Fields), Bravo Television (1995)[39]


  • The Real Mind Of God – A Comparative Scriptural Analysis (self-published); (May 19, 2017) ISBN 1521332347


  1. ^ "Robert Stewart". The Oakland Tribune. March 12, 1997.
  2. ^ a b c Moody, Shelah (2004), "Up Close & Personal with Robert Stewart". City Flight Magazine.
  3. ^ a b The Santa Clara Metro, "Young Man With A Hot Horn," by Nicky Baxter, June 1995
  4. ^ a b c Kohlhaase, Bill (January 31, 1995) "A Young Saxman Gets Sound Advice from Jazz Giants". Los Angeles Times.
  5. ^ a b c "May The Force Be With You", Rasputin's Manifesto, May 1998, pp. 47–48.
  6. ^ Merod, Jim (June 1994) "Stray Horns". Jazz Now, p. 15.
  7. ^ McDonald, Mac (May 1995), "The Future Of Jazz", The Monterey County Herald.
  8. ^ Bird, Rick (1994), "Hot West Coast Sax Phenom Playing at Greenwich Tavern", The Cincinnati Post.
  9. ^ Gilbert, Andrew (1994), "The Record Bin," LA Village View.
  10. ^ McDonald, Mac (May 11–17, 1995). "The future of jazz". Monterey County Herald. Retrieved 18 November 2018.
  11. ^ Ankeny, Jason. "Robert Stewart". AllMusic. Retrieved May 2, 2017.
  12. ^ Goodwin, Elizabeth (February 1995), "Youth In Jazz: Robert Stewart," Jazz Now Magazine.
  13. ^ Daye, John (April 1994), "All That Jazz", The New York Beacon.
  14. ^ Yanow, Scott. "Wynton Marsalis – Blood on the Fields". AllMusic. Retrieved October 17, 2017.
  15. ^ "Wynton Marsalis – Blood on the Fields – Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved October 17, 2017.
  16. ^ "Robert Stewart – Tenor Sax". Retrieved November 14, 2018.
  17. ^ a b Gilbert, Andrew (August 3, 1997) "Saxophonist Busy Over All That Jazz". San Francisco Chronicle and Examiner.
  18. ^ Elwood, Philip (October 20, 1997). "Blues at the Rock". San Francisco Examiner. Retrieved November 14, 2018.
  19. ^ Kohlhasse, Bill (May 30, 1997), "Museums Draw On Palette of Acts in Summer". Los Angeles Times.
  20. ^ Kline, Randall, 1996 San Francisco Jazz Festival Official Program Book.
  21. ^ Hildebrand, Lee (July 1998), "Robert Rules," The East Bay Express.
  22. ^ "Robert Stewart, saxophonist". The Oakland Tribune. March 12, 1996. Retrieved 17 November 2018.
  23. ^ Gilbert, Andrew (August 11, 2016). "Sax man Robert Stewart kicks off free jazz series in Oakland". San Jose Mercury News.
  24. ^ a b c Yanow, Scott. "Judgement – Robert Stewart". AllMusic. Retrieved October 17, 2017.
  25. ^ Kohlhaase, Bill (17 May 1998). "Album Reviews" – via LA Times.
  26. ^ Cook, Richard; Morton, Brian (2004). The Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings. Penguin. p. 1507.
  27. ^ Yanow, Scott. "Robert Stewart – Beautiful Love". AllMusic. Retrieved November 14, 2018.
  28. ^ Primack, Bret (June 1996) "Before and After". JazzTimes. p. 59.
  29. ^ Elwood, Philip (April 18, 1998) "Sax and Flute with a Spiritual Bent". San Francisco Examiner.
  30. ^ Bailey, C. Michael (March 2, 2003). "Live! Live! Live!".
  31. ^ Loewy, Steve. "Robert Stewart – Nat the Cat: The Music of Nat King Cole". AllMusic. Retrieved November 14, 2018.
  32. ^ "Robert Stewart: Nat the Cat".
  33. ^ a b c Lankford, Jr., Ronnie D. "Heaven and Earth – Robert Stewart". AllMusic. Retrieved 2017-05-02.
  34. ^ Gilbert, Andrew. "Sax man Robert Stewart kicks off free jazz series in Oakland". The Mercury News. Retrieved May 2, 2017.
  35. ^ "Blood on the Fields". Retrieved May 2, 2017.
  36. ^ "The Music of America: Wynton Marsalis". Retrieved 2 May 2017.
  37. ^ "Live at Lo Spuntino – David Leshare Watson". AllMusic. Retrieved 2 May 2017.
  38. ^ "Marsalis on Music DVD trailer available". Retrieved May 2, 2017.
  39. ^ "South Bank Show – Blood on the Fields". Retrieved May 2, 2017.

External links[edit]