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Doc Stewart Big Band Resuscitation: Code Blue!

Jack Bowers By

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"Doc" is much more than a nickname to Chris Stewart: it's a profession. And straight-ahead jazz is far more than a pastime: it's a passion. For the past sixteen years, Doc Stewart's day gig has been ER physician at the Mayo Clinic Hospital in Scottsdale, AZ. Long before that, however, Stewart was a working musician who played alto sax with a number of big bands including those led by Tom Kubis, Ladd McIntosh, Matt Catingub, Louie Bellson, Toshiko Akiyoshi / Lew Tabackin, Bill Watrous and (coincidentally) Doc Rutherford. He is also a well-known Julian "Cannonball" Adderley historian / discographer who in 2005 recorded the album Phoenix: A Tribute to Cannonball Adderley.

Having affirmed Stewart's credentials, how's the music? Well, if he practices medicine as well as he plays alto, leads a band and chooses sidemen, Stewart's patients at the Mayo Clinic may rest assured they are in good hands indeed. The session opens, appropriately enough, with the graphic "Code Blue Suite," comprised of four surveys of the blues, the second of which ("Ironman Blues") sounds like something that might have been written by Med Flory for SuperSax. The suite was actually co-written by Stewart and Kubis. Next up is the first of two engaging compositions by Adderley, "The Sticks," followed by Kubis' lyrical "Homage to Bud Shank," Hal Galper's sinuous "Snakin' the Grass" (complete with electronic enhancements), Stewart's charming salute to his wife of thirty-four years, "Patty's Bossa," and Bobby Timmons' jazz evergreen, "Dis Here."

Catingub scored that one, as he did Adderley's graceful "Introduction to a Samba," the standard "Poor Butterfly" (on which the saxophone passages are breathtaking) and Charles Lloyd's warm-hearted "Song My Lady Sings." Yet another Catingub arrangement, of the Jerome Kern standard "The Way You Look Tonight" (a second showcase for the sax section plus trombonist Andy Martin), leads to the fast-paced finale, Kubis' galvanic arrangement of Oscar Pettiford's "Bohemia After Dark" (with even more saxophone pyrotechnics). Stewart solos (tastefully, sometimes in Cannonball mode) on all but one of the album's fourteen numbers, amplifying incisive statements by trumpeters Jeff Bunnell, Wayne Bergeron and Ron Stout; trombonists Martin, Scott Kyle and Bill Reichenbach; alto Catingub, tenor Bill Liston and drummer Steve Moretti. Longtime friends Stewart and Catingub share blowing space (briefly) on "Bud Shank" and "Song My Lady Sings."

No matter how many miles are on your odometer or what shape you are in, Code Blue! could be just what the doctor ordered.

Track Listing: Code Pink; Ironman Blues; The Last Breath Blues; Code Jesus; The Sticks; Homage to Bud Shank; Snakin' the Grass; Patty's Bossa; Dis Here; Introduction to a Samba; Poor Butterfly; Song My Lady Sings; The Way You Look Tonight; Bohemia after Dark.

Personnel: Doc Stewart: alto saxophone; Dan Higgins: woodwinds; Bill Liston: woodwinds; Rusty Higgins: woodwinds; Greg Huckins: woodwinds; Alex Budman: woodwinds; Wayne Bergeron: trumpet, Flugelhorn; Dan Fornero: trumpet, Flugelhorn; Jeff Bunnell: trumpet, Flugelhorn; Ron Stout: trumpet, Flugelhorn; Kye Palmer: trumpet, Flugelhorn; Larry Hall: trumpet, Flugelhorn; Andy Martin: trombone; Alex Iles: trombone; Scott Kyle: trombone; Bill Reichenbach: trombone; Matt Catingub: piano; Kevin Axt: acoustic bass, electric bass; Steve Moretti: drums.

Title: Code Blue! | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Cannonball Records

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