James Stewart


James Stewart

Why Jazz? 

I started out playing Funk in high school. Even though I started out playing funk music, I saw that the role of the horns was getting less and less so I turned to Jazz where I could play like I wanted to play. 

When did you first learn to play? 

I started in elementary school insurance on the violin but I don’t last a year because I wanted to play Clarinet. They wouldn't let me so I didn’t play again until I got to junior high school, or middle school as they say nowadays. That’s when I finally got a chance to play clarinet. 


Who were your teachers? 

In middle school it was Carl Fisher which was a good experience because I was able to play dancer and I wanted to play at that time was Clarinet and then I eventually went to the alto saxophone while still in middle school then in high school I met Tom Passarella and Tom Grice and got into the school band and I eventually started playing tenor saxophone and flu so by the time I graduate high school I was playing four instruments.. 

What did your family think of your musical interests? 

My family was supportive to a degree when I started having a desire to add more instruments my mother was against it at first but as time went on she saw how it was benefiting me. The problem my mother was having was the fact that I was always wanting to play more instruments like when I play clarinet and want to play saxophone she had a problem with it then when I want to play another saxophone and she had a problem with it so one night I was playing in town at Joe’s Mill Hill saloon and she came in with her friends and bragged about me playing all these instruments and I just was surprised by it all. 

How long have you been playing & with who? 

Over the years I started out playing in the Trenton area in the local funk and R&B bands from 1974 to 1978 then in 1979 I played with the avant guard saxophonist Sam Rivers and his big band then I started freelancing in and around a New York and starting in 1984 I was working with George V Johnson until 1988 in the interim I was also working with trumpeter Charlie Chisholm who had the distinction of having Bill Cosby in his band as a drummer. I also worked with a lot of Philadelphia area musicians like Nate Mitchel and Tony Hurdle and that lasted until the early 90s. In 1996 I started working with Abdullah Ibrahim that lasted until 2008. In 1995 I started working with Frank Foster and his Loud Minority Big Band that lasted until 2011. Currently I am with the Sun Ra orchestra. It’s my 10th year in that band. I join in 2010. I’m also currently working with Danny Mixon he’s a pianist and organist I started working with him in 1999 and I’m also in the new Lionel Hampton big band featuring Jason Marsalis and from time to time I have my own band.  

Besides Jazz groups what other people have you played with?

I have also worked with people including The Dells, The Temptations, Chaka Khan, Angela Bofill, Gloria Gaynor, and area instrumental funk bands. 

How many instruments do you play/own? What’s your favorite? 

I currently own nine instruments soprano, alto and tenor, and baritone saxophone, flute, piccolo and alto flute, clarinet and bass clarinet, but my favorites are the tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone and flute.