Grant Stewart: The Sound of Hard Bop Today
Stewart looks comfortable with the Spanish environment, like he's right at home. Maybe it's because he was living in this country not long ago. He takes off his American jacket. He holds it from the collar and won't leave it on a chair until the sound check starts. He passes the time talking about daily stuff and making jokes about his red skin tone: the day before was his birthday, and he spent it at the beach.
The saxophonist needs just half an hour to set up everything for the concert at Jimmy Glass Jazz Bar, and then he is ready to talk. He takes his jacket again and brings it to the chosen table. He doesn't sit down on the front chair, he sits beside it. Unconsciouslyand naturallythe conversation before the sound check broke the ice. This Canadian man keeps an upright position; he expresses himself without marked body language because he can make sure that you pay attention to his words simply by staring at you with his intense blue eyes that are prominent on his face, below his bushy white hair.
All About Jazz: You first got involved in music because your father was a guitar teacher.
Grant Stewart: Yes, my father was guitar teacher, and I started with music when I was a child. I started when I was 10, and I wanted to play drums, but my father wanted me to play saxophone. So he took it. [Smiles.] And my first saxophone teacher was really good, and he had me playing jazz and also classical saxophone, so I did it my own way.
AAJ: You started with alto saxophone, and then you changed to tenor. Why do almost all jazz sax players change to tenor?
GS: I don't know! [Laughs] Maybe it's because everybody likes John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins. I mean, I like the alto, you know. Sometimes I still prefer to play alto. It's fine. But maybe because of my voice the tenor is better.
AAJ: Are theyColtrane and Rollinsalso your main influences?
GS: You know, the musicians that I like ... Coltrane influenced me, but I'm most influenced by Sonny Rollins, Sonny Stitt, Coleman Hawkins. They are really big guys. I remember when I first came to New York City, I had a lesson with a great trombone player, Donald Byrd. He told me that he had recorded 16 or 14 records with John Coltrane, and he said it was great but that if there was a guy that he was really scared of, it was Sonny Rollins. And then he said that the bottom line is that both of them were just playing Charlie Parker. So what Charlie Parker did is what we have.
AAJ: And what other music styles do you listen to?
GS: I listen to a lot of classical music. I listen to a lot of Mahler, Brahms.
AAJ: When someone talks about you, they tend to define you in terms of the hard bop expression, nowadays. Do you agree?
GS: I think hard bop refers more like to the '60s. I mean, when I think about hard bop, I think about Horace Silver, Lee Morgan. I mean, I'm more influenced by Sonny Stitt and these guys. Kenny Dorham is hard bop, too. I don't know, I just try to play melodically, make my stuff and go along.
AAJ: Do you think that young musicians undervalue, in a certain way, traditional jazz, despite the new tendencies that emerged during the last decades?