CD Reviews: Phoenix

Doc Stewart

Phoenix album cover

Jazz Improv Magazine

“Capturing the feeling that Cannonball Adderley left us through a storied career and an unmistakable alto saxophone technique steeped in the blues, Doc Stewart honors the memory with a fine quintet that’s based in Phoenix, Arizona. Two of Nat Adderley’s best-known compositions, “Jive Samba” and “Work Song,” alone, give the program its stand-out character. Stewart has borrowed the program’s lineup from Adderley’s next-to-last recording, “Phenix”. They’re memorable songs that are not meant to be re-created by just anybody.

“Dis Here” opens with familiar two-horn harmony and oozes with sensual pride. Stewart steers his alto over a mountain range of peaks and valleys, as he interprets the familiar refrain with the same kind of heartfelt charm as the original. He and tenor saxophonist Lucas Pino stretch out for their solos with authority. Both acoustic bass and piano solo liberally throughout the album, giving it a luster that sizzles intensely. The quintet’s arrangements keep them quite close to the original Adderley album. Straight-ahead, acoustic jazz with deep feeling has never gone out of style. Electric bass and soprano saxophone change the colors of “Country Preacher” on cue. Here, the passion is hot, but the mood is subdued. “Walk Tall” and “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” come with built-in soul, as Fender Rhodes, electric bass and a backbeat drummer provide a solid rhythmic foundation. The quintet has captured the essence hands down. Adderley passed away in 1975 following a stroke. And we’ve been saying “mercy, mercy, mercy” ever since…

Louie Bellson wrote [Stewart’s] letter of recommendation for entry into USC’s School of Medicine. Today, Stewart practices medicine as a full-time doctor at the Mayo Clinic Hospital in Phoenix. Part-time, he’s still as active in jazz performance as he was as a teenager. His album comes highly recommended.”

Jim Santella – Cadence Magazine june 2006

“The tribute to Cannonball Adderley … by Chris “Doc” Stewart is based on Adderley’s last studio recording. Adderley’s quintet instrumentation differs somewhat from that of Stewart’s contemporary ensemble. However, the feeling is the same. Their sound isn’t that far from the original, either, since the quintet swings with the kind of energy that can only come from many years of experience. Stewart’s ensemble has the needed experience; both through years of performing and through years of listening. The Blues comes through on “Work Song,” as Stewart and his comrades dig in. The leader’s fluid alto ebbs and flows with plenty of spirit. His accuracy and that of the quintet, which he calls Phoenix, also come with high marks, as they forge their way through territory that has inspired many. It may be possible to count the number of professional alto saxophonists who’ve been influenced by Cannonball Adderley’s brand of Straight-Ahead Jazz, but it’s impossible to count those, like us, whose lives have been made richer by listening. Stewart honors the memory well. Substituting the tenor saxophone moans of Lucas Pino for the cornet wails of Nat Adderley seems like an unlikely ploy, but Phoenix makes it work well. Stewart’s musical arrangements pair the tenor with alto so that Pino takes the trumpet harmony. When soloing, the tenor saxophonist proves beyond a reasonable doubt that the substitution was a good idea. Similarly, piano and bass do the Straight-Ahead charm of Adderley’s quintet justice. They’re memorable songs, and Chris Stewart’s Phoenix makes ’em swing convincingly. His alto persuades, his writing works, and for the feeling that he’s put into this project, Stewart’s album comes highly recommended.”

Dick Crockett – 88.7 Sacramento Top 20 Picks

“If Chris Stewart was the surgeon I needed for an operation, I’d recommend to Dr Stewart that he play this CD on the loud speakers , whilst operating. For I feel his expert reconnoitering on alto saxophone those great heady days of the sixties and the Cannonball era which is all over this new PHOENIX. Please go with me on this herer I am an unimportant cog in the everyday wheel of trivial pursuits. I’m laying there comatose… But I knew, counting backwards 10 – 9 – 8…that I knew going in , they’ d be jamming on this CD and the doctor’s scalpel was clear and concise as his work on Alto Saxophone, then I’d be confident in Cannonball heaven going in… The bliss would be waking up in the recovery room to “Stars Fell On Alabama.” Then I’d ask the doctor , did you listen to the killer tune “Domination “ at least twice during the operation and if he nodded and smiled , then I’d be in total Cannonball heaven.”

Nancy Ann Lee – Jazz & Blues Magazine

“Alto/soprano saxophonist Chris“Doc” Stewart is not only a talented musician-leader, he’s a prominent emergency room physician for the Mayo Clinic Hospital. On this disc, he heads a solid group featuring Lucas Pino (tenor sax),Dan Delaney (piano, Fender Rhodes),Chris Finet (bass), and Dom Moio (drums).Tunes by the Adderley brothers include Nat Adderley’s “Work Song” and “Jive Samba,” and “Julian Adderley’s “Sack O’ Woe,” “Hamba Nami,” and “Domination.” Remaining tunes are by Josef Zawinul, Bobby Timmons, Randy Weston. Stewart arranged all the tunes and solos by him and the astonishing 18-year-old improviser, Pino, are superbly executed with support from a sterling rhythm team. One of nine musical siblings, Stewart was born in Chicago in 1960 and raised on a farm. He began playing alto at age 10 and, after his family moved to California, Stewart won awards for his playing while in high school, gigged with local big bands, and played other reed instruments. Stewart has created a 21-volume transcription library of Cannonball’s solos out of which this project arose. The selected material, smart arrangements, talented musicians and passionate solos make this recording a highly enjoyable listen. ”

George Fendel- Jazzscene Magazine

“Chris Stewart has chops on prominent display in this Julian Adderley tribute. Perhaps by plan, the recording took place on the 50th anniversary of Adderley’s first record date AND the 50th anniversary of the passing of an alto genius by the name of Charles Parker. The players, I must say, are all unfamiliar to me. Since the recording was made in Tempe, Arizona, they’re probably all Arizona resident musicians, but they’re obviously steeped in this tradition and they play with skill and inspiration. For the record, in addition to Stewart, they are: Lucas Pino, tenor sax; Dan Delaney, piano and Fender Rhodes; Chris Finet, accoustic and electric bass; and Dom Moio, drums. Any Cannonball fan will recognize titles like Hi-Fly, Work Song, Sack O’ Woe, Stars Fell On Alabama, Jive Samba, Dis Here, Country Preacher and a medley of Walk Tall and Mercy, Mercy, Mercy. The one tune which wandered into the menu from I’m not sure where is the ancient Sidewalks Of New York. Cannonball probably recorded it one time or another, and Stewart’s quintet puts in new dress with a cool, understated electric piano. You wanna talk heroes? One listen to this CD and you can tell where Chris Stewart ‘comes from’.” 

John Gilbert – eJazzNews

5 Stars!

“Saxman Chris Stewart is at his best on “Stars Fell On Alabama” a tune which has a lovely melody and Stewart plays it respectfully (and in Cannon’s style)… Nice changes and a brief quote from “How Are Things In Glockamorra” brought a smile. Stewart has Adderley down pat and he demonstrates his rapid fire runs perfectly. A nice piano solo by Dan Delaney adds potent libation to this musical mixture. “Domination” is performed at racehorse tempo and Chris Stewart’s sax is on fire as he gets it all with dexterity and interesting ideas. Speed doesn’t kill in this instance, it celebrates a fiery beginning. This is a formidable quintet and strong medicine from Doctor Stewart and company.”

Tad Hendrickson – JazzWeek Reviews

“Some musicians play music because they have to, others because they want to. Chris “Doc” Stewart falls into the latter category because he comes by the “Doc” honestly as an ER doctor. His musical oath, however, is to alto saxophone, and Stewart has taken it upon himself to transcribe every Cannonball Adderley solo ever recorded. Stewart has the requisite post-Bird fluidity and bluesy grit that were such important facets of Cannonball’s sound. And while there is no doubt about the influence, Stewart’s playing should bring a smile of happy recognition to Cannonball fans instead of grimaces of annoyance. Taking on several Adderley favorites (highlights are “Domination,” “Work Song” and the closing medley), he’s backed by a solidly capable backing quintet from his [Phoenix], Arizona hometown. Certainly a good recording for what it is.”

John Ziegler – KUMD Radio

“This tribute to Cannonball is smokin’…and to think this “Doc” is the real deal (at the Mayo Clinic). He can operate on the bandstand and the Medical Center.”

Dr. Bob – Modern Jazz Classics

“Chris ‘Doc’ Stewart is a Mayo Clinic physician by calling. Chris ‘Doc’ Stewart is also a monster alto saxophone player. His newest effort, Phoenix, A Tribute To Cannonball Adderley (Self Produced) is a ‘must have’ for jazz and Adderley lovers everywhere. The album takes on a quintet form, and the jazz simply flows! The arrangements are perfect as is the playing. Of significant interest is not only Doc’s playing, but the playing of eighteen year old tenor phenomenon Luke Pino. The rest of the quintet are up to the task here; Dan Delaney- piano, Chris Finet-bass and Dom Moio – drums round out an exceptional crew. Shades of Cannonball and Coltrane!

This is one fine gig! Dig it!”

Tony Augarde – BBC

“Stewart catches perfectly the style and ebullience of Cannonball Adderley’s playing. And the choice of repertoire makes the album a fitting tribute to Cannonball. Excellent!”

Adam Greenberg – AMG allmusic.com best of 2005

5 Stars!

“As far as jazz goes from performers “keeping their day job,” this one is surprisingly nice. The album is a tribute really both to Cannonball Adderley and Charlie Parker, as Doc Stewart plays the alto for either’s tone to some degree or another throughout. Realistically, the focus is somewhat more on Adderley, with an emphasis on re-creating some of his classic solos as well as hints of his old band. Dan Delaney provides a nice nightclub piano sound, occasionally emulating Zawinul, but never entirely. A handful of young players take up the rest of the course, including a Coltrane-emulating Luke Pino on tenor. Each player contributes some solos and great accompaniment, but Stewart tends to stay out front in the proceedings. Luckily, his performances are essentially flawless. One can’t help but wonder if they’ve heard those lines before (and chances are, they have in some form), but it’s all done in such a tender form of tribute, one can hardly fault the players here. Of course, a tribute album always risks falling well into the shadow of the giants it’s in tribute of, and this album walks that line. It succeeds well in general, worth hearing for fans of Adderley perhaps, but more so worth hearing simply as some nice post-bop performances.”

Carlos Fernandez Pacin – FM Urquiza 91.7

“Pure Jazz…high energy…very good bop with this excellent musicians…fine arregements…for me the best Jazz Instrumental CD of the year…A perfect jazz tribute to two great jazz masters like Charlie Parker and Cannonball Adderley…highly recommended.”

Jus’ Jazz

“… The impact of ‘Phoenix: A Tribute to Cannonball Adderley’ – “50 Years from Bird to Cannonball” is huge. Chris handpicked crafting of each member of the band facilitates this monumental task, while breathing new life into an era that was tremendously influential to say the least. The velvet textures contained within the limitless attributes of this album are smoothly conveyed. Stewart’s portrayal of the 1975 release adds a 21st century touch of originality filled with classic improvisation. The instrumental variations Chris provides are testaments to his own level of creativity. Overall, there is a rhythmic appeal and supplemental coolness attached to eleven tracks of musical tribute. Chris Stewart has redefined the original message into an upscale vessel of individual intuitiveness, one that is primed to push the envelope of jazz even further than the first. But make no mistake about it, the voice you hear is all Stewart’s, even as he echoes the presence of Cannonball Adderley looming in the background. 

‘Phoenix: A Tribute to Cannonball Adderley’ has the necessary ingredients for a high degree of jazz activated symbolism. Saxophonist Lucas Pino takes on the shroud of Nat Adderley’s cornet with sensitivity and brilliance. He does so without the burden of exaggerated imitation, but do take note; the overall scope of this recording is its superb ability to pay tribute to a jazz legend without being predictable. Stewart has injected a tremendous amount of Cannonball’s style and intellect into every nook and cranny of this release. Tenor saxophonist Lucas Pino may be young, but like a fine wine his sound is invitingly delicate and smooth in style. Pianist Dan Delaney provides yet another posture, he expands upon a colorful panoramic spectrum Chris Stewart has so eloquently painted. Dan’s passionate licks are effervescent and translucent throughout.

When examining this recording for everything artistically correct, the whole project bleeds passion and heartfelt emotion. At first glance, this unique special tribute to Cannonball Adderley may be misconstrued as merely another copycat intrusion that lacks any consideration. But jazz beginners and connoisseurs alike will have a renewed respect for one of jazz’s finest saxophonists, most of which has come through the creative flow of Chris “Doc” Stewart. As has been stated, ‘Phoenix: A Tribute to Cannonball Adderley’ – “50 Years from Bird to Cannonball” is an altogether fine piece of work.

The album could well be one of the finest Cannonball Adderley tributes heard to date.”

Joost Van Steen – Jazz & Blues Tour Radio

“This is JAZZ to The MAX!”

Ray Porter – Jazz Syndicate Radio and Real Love Radio

“This is one of my 2005 favorites. The track selection is very good. The album is a quality production and the musicianship is second to none. Cannonball Adderley is a great favorite with me and although I can hear him in the music I can also hear Chris Stewart. I have played every track on various shows, so I will start all over again.”

Dick Crockett – 88.7 Sacramento

“Phoenix: A Tribute to Cannonball Adderley begins… with some classic tunes out of the sixties, Randy Weston’s “Hi-Fly” as Chris Stewart’s alto is so in the Adderley mode with a warm ,down home, high end, the same original sound the cats in Tampa loved. ( I could listen to “Hi-Fly” all day long and well into the night.) We also played “Sack O’ Woe.” That’ll get your hard bop sugar high, way up there. For Phoenix honors Cannonball in a special way and that era of hard boppin’ sixties jazz radio…”

Aaron Fensterheim – My Kind of Jazz

“Last week I received a CD in the mail entitled “Phoenix” and I was thinking a re~issue of “Cannonball Adderley’s” 1975 Fantasy LP of the same name. Low and behold, this CD is a tribute to Cannon and his influence Charlie Parker. The similarities stop with the title, no imitating Bird or Cannonball by the leader, Chris Stewart. Just a nod to them in terms of the fire in Chris and all the members of the quintet. Excellent ensemble and equally marvelous solo work. My only criticism is the misspelling of Randy Weston’s “Hi~Fly”. You will be playing this CD over and over again. No copy cats here.”

Karl Stober – jazzreview.com

“For the Nat Adderley fandom corralled amongst the jazz populace of which there is many, this tribute project ranks above most. Smooth in texture and graceful as to delivery, Doc Stewart’s 2005 release of Phoenix, a tribute to Cannonball Adderley is classic cool, mixed with modern innovation. Slight instrumental changes along with fresh age-diverse talent catapults this recording to a higher level of admiration.

Please take note this is not you’re A-typical assembly line tribute. Stewart has injected Stewart style and intellect throughout. Tenor sax man, Lucas Pino, may be young but like a fine wine engages a smooth and delicate style as he pours out his sound. No short takes on this spin; each cut takes you on a long and complex musical journey.

The Phoenix flies free and wild, so does this incredible sound! “Sack O’ Woe,” has outstanding rhythms and tone along with a heated sax. “Stars Fell on Alabama,” has such a sultry intro as the sax redefines the standard. Stewart and company recreate the Parish feel and execute a smooth texture to this classic sound. Pianist, Dan Delaney, compliments this cut with a solo as he enhances the effect. A premiere slice on this disc!

The whole project bleeds passion and heart knowing that [Doc] Stewart’s effort is strongly imbedded in each recording. A must spin for those times when your jazz appetite just needs something a bit extra.”

Don Smith – Radio Port Phillip Australia

“This is just great. As a jazz presenter on radio with a definite bias toward the period any mention of Cannon is going to get my attention. I played “Phoenix” in my home studio with the intention of choosing a track or two for an upcoming program I loved it all and couldn’t come to a decision, in the end it was inevitably ‘Work Song’ and ‘Hi-Fly’ just so the point wasn’t lost. There have, of course, been Cannonball tribute bands before, Louis Hayes (who after all, was there!) got Vincent Herring and Jeremy Pelt to do the brothers, and I well remembered the purists responses then…oh, the phone calls, Sacrilege!! Treachery!!! The Nerve of this Guy !!!! Who does he think he is ????? So I was ready. And it happened. My response this time as then was “Wait ’till you’ve heard the music and ring again”; they never do of course. This is a true story. The Complainer-in-Chief, an alto player resident in Melbourne Australia, with more than a hint of Cannon’s influence in his own playing actually did ring back… “Hey! that guy’s pretty good, great album, what else is on it?” He was even blown away to the extent the expected moan about the missing cornet never came. This was a guy who was on Nat’s Christmas Card list. I do not exaggerate, if you can shut this guy up you’ve got a smash. Best Wishes from Australia, Doc, it’s a great album.”

Hans-Bernd Kittlaus – Jazz Podium Germany

“What a fresh take on the well known Cannonball Adderley songbook. Doc Stewart amazes the listener on alto, and the piano player Dan Delaney is a real discovery.”

Jacques Emond – CKCU FM

“I’ve had this CD on my home player, car player, office player and Ipod for the last two weeks and still can’t get enough. What a fine tribute to one of the greatest musicians that ever lived. The good doctor is to be congratulated not only for putting this recording out but also for his breathtaking playing as is that of his colleagues. It’s hard to pick a favorite cut, as this is a superior repertoire from start to finish. A heartfelt tribute that, I’m sure Cannonball would be (is) happy to hear.”

Mark O’Neill – 103.7 3-Way FM

“The Cannonball would be proud, what more can I say?”

Søren Friis – Er spillet på Radio 10 FM Frederiksværk

“Vedr. ‘A Tribute To Cannonball Adderley’, er en fremragende CD, som meget godt følger op på en musiker og hans musik, som ikke er så nemt at komme efter. Jeg syntes, at det er godt gjort og heldigvis ikke et forsøg på at lave en cloning af det originale.”

John Reid – Keith Community Radio Keith Banffshire Scotland

“This is a fitting tribute to Cannonball Adderley and Charlie “Bird” Parker. Dr. Chris Stewart has done an outstanding job with the arrangements in what is a labor of love. The playing is sharp, incisive and the quality of Musician is “Par Excellence” I can little to criticize in what is a terrific recording.”

Jan Nederveen – Radio Heerde

“I’m sorry, till now I have never heard of ” Chris Stewart”. That’s a pity because I think there is made wonderful jazz by him in his other records. But I think I can get the possibility to hear these songs someday. For now I can listen to the cd “Phoenix”. A well chosen title, because the rebirth of the music of Cannonball Adderley. In my collection I have many music of Cannonball Adderley, so I can compare. And of course Cannonball Adderley was a great musician. I think his technique was more rough, then the way of playing by Chris Stewart. His playing is more refined. This time I have chosen ‘Work song’. It is one of my favorites songs by Cannonball Adderley. I compare this song with the original by Julian Adderley and I think that the version of Chris Stewart is a fast driven one. The bass line is a constant moving way with no hesitation. You are forced to listen this thing out and you will be enjoying the music. A great sax player. “