CD Reviews – Code Blue!

Doc Stewart

Chris Spector – Midwest Record – If Denny Zeitlin was a few years younger and played sax instead of piano and hung with Toni Tennille as well as Matt Catingub, he might have been Doc Stewart.  A hot shot at Mayo Clinic, Stewart was a muso before he was a docto and he still plays with the passion of someone that would do this whether or not he could make a living at it or not.  Far from being the usual busman’s holiday record, Stewart was a pro before he settled on a  day job and he’s never lost his chops.  Straight ahead stuff with an edge that that really cuts to the chase, even without a scalpel.  Hot stuff.

George W. Harris – Jazz Weekly As a doctor who practices between patients myself, I’ve got to admit I’m quite impressed by the alto sax work of Doc Stewart, who practices up in Minnesota, and must’ve come out to LA for some sunshine awhile back, as the best Angelenos are on this hot little session.

Stewart’s got a warm and clean tone, and he’s got some chops! He shows no sense of intimidation on the lightning fast take of “Bohemia After Dark,” and shows he’s got the funk factor on the four part “Code Blue Suite.” His tone glistens on the ballad “Homage to Bud Shank” and can boogie with the best on Bobby Timmons’ soulful “Dis Here.” Trumpeter Ron Stout sizzles on “Introduction to a Samba” and “Snakin’ the Grass’ while the flutes frame Stewart on Charles Lloyd’s “son My Lady Sings” to perfection. With the way health insurance is going these days, this guy’s got a great way to supplement his income! Gotta see this guy in concert-it’s definitely be cheaper than an office visit!

George FendelJazz Society of Oregon – Chris “Doc” Stewart’s “other job” finds him in the Mayo Clinic as an ER physician. But don’t worry. This is distinctly not one of those, “I think I’ll make a record” vanity things. Instead, Stewart is an accomplished alto player in the lineage of Cannonball Adderley and other soulful cats such as Sonny Criss or Ike Quebec. For this impressive session, he got some respected Los Angeles players into the studio for a stirring big band session with a soulful emphasis. Stewart’s “Code Blue Suite,” a four-part endeavor, gets things started. It is followed by additional works by the likes of Bobby Timmons, Charles Lloyd, Hal Galper and Cannonball himself, among others. A couple of standards, ”Poor Butterfly” and “The Way You Look Tonight,” also work very well. Finally, there’s an album highlight in Oscar Pettiford’s “Bohemia After Dark.” Arrangements are from another big band dude, Tom Kubis, and from the pianist on the date, Matt Catingub. Try your best to avoid Stewart’s ER services. His alto saxophone is where you want to be.

September issue of Jersey Jazz by Joe Lang  The DOC STEWART BIG BAND RESUSCITATION has an interesting leader.  Stewart is a doctor at the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Arizona, but performed as a professional musician prior to his current profession.  He has continued to play jazz all through his life, and for Code Blue(Cannonball Jazz – 2014) he has recruited a first call crew of players from the Los Angeles area to play a program of terrific arrangements by Tom Kubis and Matt Catingub.  The centerpiece of the album is the four-part “Code Blue Suite,” composed by Stewart and Kubis.  It is based on Stewart’s experiences as a doctor in the ER.  This is a program that demonstrates the best of modern big band writing and playing, creative and satisfying.  

Rotcod Zzaj If ever you need a total “jazz fix”, Doc & his crew are the right place to get it, I’ll tell you!  It’s a followup to his 2005 CD that paid tribute to Cannonball Adderley – & this outing ROCKS, folks!  Pieces like “Ironman Blues” will surely set your socks afire & require a visit to get you back in order again!  I truly loved the funky environment of “Snakin’ The Grass” – but not to worry, Doc’s got the cure, so wander right along with the slithery beats (some GREAT keyboards on this tune!!!).  Of the 11 tunes offered up, my personal favorite was the back-alley flavor on “Bohemia After Dark“… Doc’s woodwinds administer just the right amount of musical meds to make this one of your favorite CD’s of 2014 (& for a long time to come).  I give Doc & crew a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, as well as a perfect 5.00 for “EQ” (energy quotient).  That means it gets the “PICK” of this issue for “best high-energy jazz band).  

Mark S. Tucker – FAME www. Doc Stewart’s a real-life medical doctor, and ironically looks like he just might be the good-guy brother to Scrubs’ devastatingly nasty quipmeister, the aggressive bad-ass Dr. Perry Cox (John C. McGinley). Just as tongue-in-cheekily, he’s accompanied in Code Blue liner photos by a buxom Hello Nurse! (Stewart’s best friend—and wife?—Patty) watching over life or death ministrations to his trusty alto sax, lying helpless right there in the ER. No need to fret, though, as the Doc’s a 24-year emergency vet, and the brass axe pulled through nicely, presently recuperating in a love nest with a sexy little clarinet. The result of his ministrations is more than evident throughout this disc. The only question remaining is: How the hell did he get so good in view of the rigorous educational process and around-the-clock professionalism necessary to an emergency M.D.? And jes’ so’s ya knows the level of quality you’re in for, the Doc’s previous release, Phoenix: A Tribute to Canonball Adderley, debuted in the #1 spot in the indie jazz new releases chart. That’d be a Code Whew! Smokin’!

Code Jesus, a variant of Zawinul’s Birdland, is the fourth movement of the Code Blue Suite, a zesty segment of this perky 14-cut hour+ CD. Lots of circular chases, lay-outs, and straight ahead blowing, not a moment of rest, instead staves and measures of ceaseless rave-up that’ll have you shimmy-boppin’ around the parlor, drink in hand, smile on face. And I really like that sassy end quotation by da Doc, the sort of addendum one rarely hears closing out such escapades. Stewart may be faced with mortality day in and day out, but not an iota of it traces through his disc.

This is big band, music, y’all, boasting a 19-member roster in full regalia. Jazz may have arisen from the blues (but, um, just as much from classical music, I’d contend, from latterday hep catz who had and still have much in common with Bartok, Stravinsky, and others), but there ain’t an ounce of blue matter anywhere here, just swingin’ hyperbolic good times and jammin’. Code Blue is full proof of just how well the fusion was accomplished. Go ahead, try to find me any tight-ass classicalists who can do what these bad boyz are doing. I dares ya. Tons of individuated and integrated multi-solos from varius musicians and layered charts provide no end of intellectual and booty-swaying, fingersnapping, toe-tapping vigor. Stewart gets the lion’s share of the spotlight, as he should, but there’s so damn much going on that you’ll never credit ego, only exuberance. There are quite a few steals written into everything as well, like the Misty refrains in Homage to Bud Shank, which some will tut-tut but I find delightful, sly homages worked into labyrinthine repertoire. Nowadays, ya win some and then ya win some, and, with Code Blue, you’re awarded even more.

The Jassman – Brian Hough  Yep! Doc Stewart really is a doctor. He is an ER doctor for the Mayo Clinic Hospital and his performances on alto sax are as efficacious as his medical expertise.  Stewart’s Code Blue is sub-titled Cannonball Jazz Catalog #CJ-3012 which is a clue to his project of transcribing Cannonball Adderley’s solos.  As the doc would have it, “The Code Blue Suite is a musical creation that tells the story of life and death that I see every day in the ER.”
So, this 19-piece big band has a ball as it romps through some great arrangements of 14 tunes including: Homage to Bud Shank; Introduction to a Samba; Ironman Blues; The Way You Look Tonight; Poor Butterfly and Patty’s Bossa.  On to the nitty-gritty, the album will appeal not only to lovers of modern big band music. There is so much here; highly skilled musos, great energy, great tunes and most of all a highly accomplished swinging band. If this album doesn’t get you to boogie then our doc in the ER cannot save you.  As the message on the cover declares: Big Band Resuscitation!

Jeff Krow – Audiophile Audition Chris “Doc” Stewart is actually an emergency room doctor at The Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Arizona. His second love is big band jazz, and on alto sax, he is a talented reed man. He is also an historian on Julian “Cannonball” Adderley, and in 2005 recorded a tribute to Adderley, entitled Phoenix. His big band, Resuscitation, reunites his pre-medicine colleagues, who have largely gone on to be forces in the Los Angeles studio scene- especially Wayne Bergeron, Ron Stout, and Andy Martin.

His new CD is a blast. It combines some “kick-ass” big band arrangements with a West Coast bent. There is the requisite medical/ jazz theme (the four part “Code Blue Suite”), along with a gorgeous tribute to Bud Shank (“Homage to Bud Shank”), some bossa/samba arrangements (“Patty’s Bossa” and “Introduction to a Samba”) and along with tracks by Charles Lloyd, Hal Galper, and Oscar Pettiford.

Stewart’s full band comprises up to 19 pieces, and what is immediately apparent with the opening suite is the powerful kick of his aggregation. The arrangements are full of hooks, and the especially the brass section is dynamic. Trumpeter Ron Stout deserves special mention with his blow-the-roof- off power and range. He has solos on Adderley’s “The Sticks,” “Snakin’ the Grass,” Timmon’s classic “Dis Here,” and Pettiford’s iconic “Bohemia After Dark.”

The tribute to the late master Bud Shank, and the ballad “Song My Lady Sings” are nice counterpoints to some of the burners elsewhere. The same goes for the samba and the bossa tunes.

I’d have to say that if Doc Stewart gets tired of the excitement of the ER, then there is a place for him in General Practice, as he can cover the gamut of big band jazz with aplomb.

This superb CD can be found everywhere. Take (at least one) and call your doctor if the excitement does not wear off in four hours. It will jump start your day without cardiac paddles.

 Dr. Stephen Smoliar Classical Music Examiner Chris Stewart is a medical doctor specializing in emergency medicine at the Emergency Room of the Mayo Clinic Hospital. He is also a great admirer of Cannonball Adderley, to the extent that he has documented the saxophonist’s history. As might be guessed, he has also taken up the alto saxophone; and, performing as Doc Stewart, he has applied his own talents to maintaining an ongoing appreciation of Adderley’s hard bop style. In 2005 he self-produced Phoenix: A Tribute to Cannonball Adderley, releasing it through CD Baby with a cover describing the content as “50 years from Bird to Cannonball.”

This past April Stewart continued his enthusiastic pursuit of the Adderley canon, this time going for the big band sound with a group called the Big Band Resuscitation. Consistent with the group’s name and Stewart’s own ER practices, the title of his new self-produced album is Code Blue! The fourteen tracks present an appealing combination of past and present, all in the Adderley spirit but with some original tracks and recognition of other jazz greats.

The opening four tracks form The Code Blue Suite, which Stewart composed working with Tom Kubis. Stewart describes this piece as “a musical creation that tells the story of life & death that I see every day in the ER.” While I would not call this, strictly speaking, a narrative suite, it certainly gives a sense of how Stewart can maintain a positive outlook on his work when engaged in the intensely high pressure of ER activities.

The rest of the album is straight-ahead jazz without any narrative “burdens.” There is another original composition by Kubis called “Homage to Bud Shank, whose world was rather different from Adderley’s but allowed Stewart to take his own improvising in some new directions. Kubis also provided arrangements of Adderley (“The Sticks”), Oscar Pettiford (“Bohemia After Dark”), and Hal Galper (“Snakin’ the Grass”). All other arrangements are by Matt Catingub who is the Big Band Resuscitation keyboardist. Kubis and Catingub both have a great appreciation for the thick chords of the big band rhetoric, often realized through rapid parallel motion in either the wind or the brass section.

This is unabashedly retrospective jazz; but, taken as a whole, this album is a testament to how much fun retrospection can be.

Jazzaholic by Don Albert  Doc Stewart: Code Blue! Chris “Doc” Stewart is an ER Doctor for the Mayo Clinic Hospital besides being a superlative alto saxman, as you’ll hear throughout, and he’s a Julian ‘Cannonball’ Adderley historian. The arrangements are by Tom Kubis or Matt Catingub and mention must be made about the incredible lead trumpet playing of Wayne Bergeron. “Homage To Bud Shank” has the sax section sounding like Supersax on what might be a Shank solo, written out and harmonised. The amazing sax section is also featured on “Poor Butterfly” and “The Way You Look Tonight”. Lots of soloists over the 14 tracks of good or CD Baby or iTunes.

Edward Blanco – All About Jazz  Those who subscribe to the notion that big band music is a dying musical art form, are obviously unaware of Chris “Doc ” Stewart and his star-studded Resuscitation big band that have just given the genre a shot in the arm, a jolt of electricity and some life-saving musical medicine with the amazing Code Blue! An alto saxophonist by passion and pleasure, Stewart is actually an emergency room doctor with the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, AZ, practicing the trade for the past twenty-four years while seemingly surgically attached to the saxophone. Music was initially Stewart’s first calling but the love of playing took second fiddle to his interest in being a physician, yet jazz was never far from his mind nurtured by his interest in collecting and transcribing Julian “Cannonball” Adderley solos which led to his previous recording of Phoenix: A Tribute to Cannonball Adderley (Cannonball Jazz, 2005). 

A hospital emergency code referring to a patient in cardiopulmonary arrest requiring immediate resuscitative efforts, this Code Blue, is Stewart’s prescription for powerful big band orchestrations designed to get one on their feet and swinging! It also has some real life benefits as the project promotes Cardio Cerebral Resuscitation (CCR) which happens to save more lives than the outdated CPR. The doctor’s previous history living and playing music in California before his medical days, serves him well here as he reunites with musicians from his youth, all of which just happen to have developed reputations as LA’s finest jazz players. Stewart’s alto and the nineteen-piece ensemble kickoff the music with a rousing four-part suite entitled “The Code Blue Suite” featuring an array of spectacular solo performances from the doctor, trombonist of note Bill Reichenbach, trumpeters Jeff Bunnell and Wayne Bergeron.

Paying tribute to the late great alto saxophonist Bud Shank, Stewart joins in with pianist Matt Catingub on the Tom Kubis tune, “Homage to Bud Shank,” one of two gorgeous balladic pieces found on the recording. Two slightly Brazilian flavored scores are “Patty’s Bossa,” dedicated to his wife and the spicier “Introduction to a Samba.” The band takes to old-styled swing on the Catingub-arranged “Poor Butterfly” featuring a heated reed and brass section that helps define this band as muscular in nature. By contrast, “Song My Lady Sings” is another soft ballad where the ensemble is gentle and the doctor is just as tender with his solos.

The oft-recorded Jerome Kern standard “The Way You Look Tonight” is one of the outstanding tracks of the album getting one powerful treatment from the band as this Catingub arrangement—featuring the entire orchestra as the main character—may just be one of the best around. The album closes with the dynamic Oscar Pettiford tune “Bohemia after Dark” showcasing solos from trumpeter Ron Stout and versatile drummer Steve Moretti with the entire reeds in support. Check your pulse, because Doc Stewart’s Code Blue! is just what the doctor ordered, a powerful performance from an orchestra loaded with talent-rich players delivering the finest in big band jazz.


Doc Stewart’s ‘Code Blue’ to hit the street on June 3

Chris “Doc” Stewart, prominent ER Doctor for the Mayo Clinic Hospital, is also a world class technician on the alto saxophone. Having said that, Stewart could well be one of the best jazz saxophonists you will ever hear. Born in Chicago, Illinois in 1960, and raised on a farm in Rockford, Stewart was the sixth of nine musical children. Everybody in the family played an instrument. Stewart picked up his lifetime instrument, the alto saxophone, when he was just ten. In eighth grade, his family moved to Anaheim, California just three doors down from his future wife. While in high school, Stewart received jazz and classical awards on both the flute and saxophone. Winning a talent contest at Disneyland, gave Stewart the opportunity to be a part of the then vibrant music scene at the Magic Kingdom.

The concept of Code Blue originally came from an idea to follow-up the 2005 CD Phoenix: A Tribute to Cannonball Adderley. Its popularity and success were attributed to the whole doctor-jazz musician thing. Therefore the follow-up CD would have a bent towards medicine and in particular emergency medicine – which is what Doc Stewart has been practicing for twenty-four years. Code Blue!, which is what is called out when a patient has a cardiac or respiratory arrest, seemed a good fit to merge emergency medicine with jazz.

The big band Resuscitation reunites the band members of Doc Stewart’s “pre-medicine” era who have gone on to become top studio and jazz musicians in the LA scene. The album features Doc on an eclectic collection of arrangements integrating the CD’s original Code Blue Suite with a variety of favorite tunes chosen for their special meaning to Doc Stewart. This is especially true with the Cannonball Adderley Quintet arrangements.


Jerry Gordon, WPRB Princeton, NJ Doc Stewart is not only a serious ER doctor but an alto player with some serious jazz chops as well! He has assembled a brilliant big band of pros, and employed equally talented arrangers. This album swings hard!

Bob Collins – Jazz Producer – WRHU – Long Island Doc Stewart’s dual career is most impressive. . .and his CD really swings.  The musicianship and those Matt Catingub arrangements  are fabulous!

Peter Kuller – Radio Adelaide – Adelaide, Australia  The Doc Stewart’s Big Band Resuscitation “Code Blue” is absolutely great!  What an amazing big band!  My listeners will love it and so do I.

Jamey Aebersold I’m very impressed with everything: your soloing, the arrangements, the band and the fact you are keeping this fantastic music alive by doing what you believe in.  My hat is off to you and may the wind always be on your back.  Keep swinging.