ADELAIDE saxophonist, big-band leader and jazz lecturer
Mike Stewart died suddenly on Monday.
Born in Invercargill, New Zealand, Mike began learning the
clarinet, well into his teens, before picking up a saxophone at the age of 17.
Soon after he began working with local pop and jazz groups, landing gigs with
New Zealand music icons Midge Marsden, Liam Ryan, Ray Columbus and others.
At 21 he moved to Adelaide, Australia to begin jazz studies
at the Elder Conservatorium and graduated with honours before joining its
Mike has worked in a variety of situations in Adelaide
being a member of Goose and the Marmalade Circus as well as freelancing and pit
work with local and international shows.
In 2001 Mike was the inaugural winner of The Barossa Wine
Makers Jazz Scholarship. This allowed him to travel to the USA, with his
then-wife, vocalist Jo Lawry, to study with jazz masters George Coleman and Rich
In 2003, Mike was awarded a scholarship to commence a
Masters Degree of Music at Purchase College in New York. During this time he
studied and performed with jazz legends such as, Jon Faddis, James Moody, Joe
Lovano, Jimmy Heath, Frank Wess, Mark Turner Ralph Lalama, Javon Jackson, Steve
Wilson, Adam Nausbaum, David Hazeltine among many others.
Through considerable help and encouragement from close
friend and mentor Jon Faddis, Mike made his solo recording debut in New York,
with a stellar rhythm section comprised of Renee Rosness (piano), Todd Coolman
(bass) and Lewis Nash (drums) and produced by Jon Faddis. The resulting album
Serenity is a hard swinging record featuring some of Mike's compositions and
arrangements of standards from Joe Henderson to Thelonius Monk.
Returning to Adelaide in 2006, Mike is currently living and
performing in Adelaide and teaching at the Elder School of Music. He runs the
acclaimed Mike Stewart Big Band that has hosted jazz luminaries such as Bob
Mintzer, Jon Gordon, George Garzone, Joe Chindamo, Jim Pugh, Ray Vega, Chris
McNulty, Paul Bollenback and Jamie Oehlers to name a few. Mike performs
frequently with his trio Songbook, his quartet Airbenders, is a member of the
Adelaide Sax Pack and is much in demand as a sideman, teacher, and clinicianand
was also well known for his work in many schools throughout South Australia.
Since 2007, he also was the state’s jazz co-ordinator and
brought performers here including Bob Mintzer and George Garzone.
Mr Stewart is survived by his partner Lizzie Gregory,
parents Max and Ruth in NZ, sisters Alison, Nicola, and Joanne, three nephews
and three nieces.
Friends and colleagues of Mike Stewart hosted a concert in
honour of the beloved Adelaide jazz identity, organised by Rob
Chenoworth, a friend of Stewart’s since the early ‘90s. Chenoworth says he
was encouraged to put on the tribute show by Stewart’s partner Lizzie Gregory.
“I knew Lizzie was pushing to do something and traditionally on the first Thursday of
every month we perform as The Mike Stewart Big Band. So then I contacted The
Gov, who’ve been very supportive and offered the venue for free.”
The tribute concert will feature The Dave McEvoy Trio, The
Mike Stewart Big Band, The Airbenders, as well as a sit-in, “where all of
Mike’s friends will sit in with a rhythm section which will rotate.”
‘A Tribute To Mike Stewart’ took place at The Governor
Hindmarsh on Thursday June 5. All proceeds from the night will go towards a
student awards program being set up by Gregory.
Sources ‘The Advertiser’ Adelaide;
mikestewartjazz.com.au, Bio; and http:ripitup.com.au Tribute To Mike Stewart