219

Arthur Blythe and Bob Stewart

By

Sign in to view read count
St. Paul’s Chapel
Columbia University, NYC
November 27, 2001

St. Paul’s Chapel – what a venue! The geometric precision and soaring, massive architecture made St. Paul’s a great place to showcase the deep talents of two jazz mainstays. The show was billed as “An Exalted Conversation with Arthur Blythe & Bob Stewart.” The music and surroundings did not disappoint.
Blythe and Stewart have played together for more than twenty years, and their profound knowledge of each other’s personality and playing results in seamless, intuitive interplay. Stewart’s harmonic, multi-phonic effects and Blythe’s mellifluous lines echoed and vibrated into every nook and cranny of the building’s domes and vaulted ceilings. Simple, Lenox Avenue Breakdown-era vamps served as springboards for seemingly effortless and spontaneous forays that were jam-packed with emotional and experiential content.
The instrumentation of the duo naturally leads to Blythe leading and Stewart supporting. But Stewart’s support of Blythe is so much more than mere basslines. It is a simultaneous discussion with – and commentary on – what comes out of Blythe’s horn. When Stewart solos he picks up right where Blythe leaves off – they share a similar improvisational vocabulary. It’s as if they’re coming from the same place.
To a certain degree, they do come from the same place. Although Blythe was born in Los Angeles and Stewart in South Dakota, they started playing together in New York. They paid their NYC dues in the 1970s “Loft Scene” in what is now SoHo – an area that has changed so much, according to Stewart, “Now we can’t even afford to walk around down there.”

Then, the low-rent loft atmosphere encouraged musical experimentation and risk-taking. Blythe had an alto-tuba-congas trio, which was unconventional instrumentation at the time. Stewart used those formative years to develop his chops – and, greatly influenced and encouraged by Blythe, develop a unique musical voice. Twenty-plus years later, the odd format of alto and tuba – in the hands of these masters – is a fully realized whole.

The two players held a rap session after the show. They answered questions about their musical approaches, influences and shared personal histories. It was an invaluable glimpse into the warm, humble personalities of two dignified and articulate artists.


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Redwood City Salsa Festival 2017 Live Reviews Redwood City Salsa Festival 2017
by Walter Atkins
Published: October 17, 2017
Read AJAZZGO Festival in Cali, Colombia Live Reviews AJAZZGO Festival in Cali, Colombia
by Mark Holston
Published: October 13, 2017
Read CEO Experiment With Kurt Rosenwinkel at The Sugar Club Live Reviews CEO Experiment With Kurt Rosenwinkel at The Sugar Club
by Ian Patterson
Published: October 11, 2017
Read "Kim Nalley's Tribute to Nina Simone" Live Reviews Kim Nalley's Tribute to Nina Simone
by Walter Atkins
Published: March 31, 2017
Read "38th International Jazzfestival Saalfelden" Live Reviews 38th International Jazzfestival Saalfelden
by Enrico Bettinello
Published: September 15, 2017
Read "Karuna at LaFontsee Gallery" Live Reviews Karuna at LaFontsee Gallery
by John Ephland
Published: May 2, 2017
Read "TD Ottawa Jazz Festival 2017" Live Reviews TD Ottawa Jazz Festival 2017
by John Kelman
Published: June 29, 2017

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.