The following bios are also downloadable on the Press page.

Mini Bio

Zan Stewart is a lifelong musician who has been playing saxophone since 1960 and who has been leading bands since 1967, up to and including his current Zan Stewart Band. Over the course of his musical career, Zan has been fortunate to have shared bandstands with such jazz notables as pianists Albert Dailey, Rob Schneiderman, Keith Saunders, and Tardo Hammer; bassists Earl May, Paul Gill, Bill Moring, and Adam Gay; drummers Jimmy Cobb, Gary Frommer, Tony Reedus, Ron Marabuto, and Clarence Johnston; saxophonists Gary Bartz, Art Pepper, Wilbur Brown, Pat Britt, Dewey Redman, and Joe Lovano; trumpeters Joe Magnarelli and Sal Marquez; and guitarists Dave Stryker, Bob DeVos, John Hart, and Yotam Silberstein.

Zan has recently released his debut CD, The Street Is Making Music, on his own Mobo Dog Records. The CD features a mix of originals and classics from jazz and standard repertoires played with vigor and feeling by Zan and his rock-solid colleagues: pianist Keith Saunders, bassist Adam Gay, and drummer Ron Marabuto. The CD has received good reviews and has received radio airplay across the U.S.

Stewart is also a longtime dedicated and insightful teacher. He has previously taught in Los Angeles and New Jersey, and currently has a home studio in Richmond. He teaches beginning to advanced saxophone and jazz improvisation. A typical student response: "Thank you so much, Zan, for enriching me with your knowledge." Stewart's capacity as a teacher stems partly from the wonderful teachers he himself has had. These include Juilliard-trained altoist Victor Morosco, the noted tenor saxophonist Lew Tabackin, and the underrated teacher and saxophonist Charlie Orena - who had studied with the renowned studio and classical musician Phil Sobel, founder of the West Coast Saxophone Quartet.

In another aspect of his career, from 1975 to 2010, Zan was a dedicated, front-line music journalist who covered jazz for such top level publications as the Los Angeles Times and the Newark Star-Ledger daily newspapers, and the jazz magazine Down Beat, to name just three, writing about such greats as Sonny Rollins, Miles Davis, and Wayne Shorter as well as solid, lesser-known members of the local community. Zan has also written many sets of liner notes; one of these — “Out There: The Angelic Passion of Eric Dolphy,” a biographical essay contained in the box set Eric Dolphy: The Complete Prestige Recordings — earned him the celebrated ASCAP–Deems Taylor Award.

Zan is based in Richmond, Ca., in the East San Francisco Bay.

Feature Bio (By Lyn Alexander)

In 2009, when he was 65, Zan Stewart felt it was time for a major life change.

He decided to leave daily journalism — where he had worked as a jazz writer for close to 30 years at The Los Angeles Times and the Newark Star-Ledger — to focus on music.

“It felt like it was time to see what might happen if I devoted myself to the horn, to writing music, and to teaching, seeing where they might take me,” says Stewart, a student clarinetist at age six and a tenor saxophonist since 1966. “I had done a ton of writing — around 1000 profiles plus many more reviews and other short pieces. I had contributed to the music that way, and now I wanted to explore another avenue.”

And so he has. The multi-talented Stewart — who has also written for Down Beat, among other music magazines, and has penned liner notes to over 200 albums and multi-CD sets, earning a prestigious ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award in the process — has moved to Berkeley in San Francisco’s East Bay after a 9-year-stretch in West Orange, N.J., and set up shop.

“My days are centered around practicing, writing music, and developing other aspects of my musical career,” says the saxophonist. “It feels great.”

Since arriving in Berkeley in 2011, Stewart has been an active participant in the Bay Area’s jazz scene, sitting in at various jam sessions and fronting a series of quartet performances at Nick’s Lounge in Berkeley. The group, whose members are absolutely top drawer, features two bebop-to-modern masters — drummer Ron Marabuto and pianist Keith Saunders — and the on-the-rise bass ace Adam Gay. The leader is featured on saxophone, vocals, scat vocals, and microphone commentary.

“We mix it up, playing hip songs from the jazz repertoire with an original here and there,” says Stewart, whose jazz heroes include Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, and Sonny Rollins. “We play a lot of bebop, which all the musicians in the band love, as well as standards, trying to give it all a twist, make it interesting. Same with the originals.”

In playing gems from jazz’s past, like Charlie Parker’s “Quasimodo,” Bud Powell’s “Webb City,” and Fats Navarro’s “Nostalgia,” Stewart feels he is helping to keep a deep music alive. “These songs may have been written in the 1940s,” the musician starts, “but when played with vigor and punch, as is our style, they have a contemporary aspect, because they are being played in the present, not the past.”

“In this context, the idea — currently in vogue among many artists and writers — that playing older music is simply a voyage in sentimentality is absurd,” Stewart goes on. “What’s important is whether the music has life, not what era it comes from. That’s also why classic standards can be so vital and engaging, both for players and listeners, when they are played with emotional heft.”

Stewart’s originals are often upbeat tunes with potent rhythmic feels. “I try to write listenable tunes with good melodies and interesting, varied rhythms that the players can dig into and which listeners can enjoy,” he says.

Stewart’s passion for jazz has been at the center of his life since he was about 15 and fell in love with the music. That love led to many fruitful bandstand experiences as a saxophonist, and to that long run as a writer.

“I have been very lucky,” says Stewart, who was born March 29, 1944 in Los Angeles, Ca. into a particularly fertile artistic environment. “I’ve been able to express myself both as a musician and a writer, and have made my living in and around this music I love.”

In the course of his life, Stewart has encountered a wealth of creative people whose work made an impact, some of whom he interviewed and wrote about. “These men and women expressed their inner feelings through artistic action, setting an example which played a major role in shaping my life,” he states. “When the musicians I interviewed spoke about their lives and how they approached music, I felt like I was taking a lesson as well as getting a story.”

As a budding professional journalist, Stewart, who has a BA from the University of California Santa Barbara, first wrote for the Santa Barbara News & Review (1975-1977), then the L.A. Weekly (from 1979 to the mid-1990s). He subsequently wrote for the Times (1980-2000), the Star-Ledger (2002-2010), Down Beat (from the 1980s onward) and other publications.

His liner notes cover such top musicians as Sonny Rollins, Sonny Stitt, Horace Silver, Joe Henderson, and Eric Dolphy.

For the 9-CD Dolphy box — Eric Dolphy: The Complete Prestige Recordings (1995) — Stewart’s biographical essay, “Out There: The Angelic Passion of Eric Dolphy,” earned him a prestigious ASCAP–Deems Taylor Award. He was also awarded the Los Angeles Jazz Society’s Leonard Feather Jazz Communicator Award in 1994, which included a Certificate of Commendation from the City of Los Angeles.

From 1972 to 1982, Stewart was also heard on the radio, playing jazz on such FM stations as KBCA, Los Angeles’ lone commercial jazz radio outlet, KCRW, KCSB, and KTMS. “That was enjoyable, exposing music that I enjoyed, and hearing from listeners how I improved their days,” he notes.

As a musician, Stewart has fronted bands with that boasted such fine artists as pianist Tardo Hammer, trumpeter Joe Magnarelli, guitarist Bob DeVos, bassists Paul Gill and Mike Karn, and drummers Gary Frommer, Clarence Johnston, Steve Johns, and Tony Reedus.

The saxophonist has also shared bandstands in spontaneous situations with such notables as saxophonists Gary Bartz, Art Pepper, and Joe Lovano, guitarists Dave Stryker and Peter Bernstein, pianists Albert Dailey and Mike LeDonne; and drummers Jimmy Cobb, Brian Blade, and Billy Drummond.

“As fortunate as I have been to have written about so many great musicians, I have been equally blessed to have been on bandstands with scores of ace jazz artists who showed me first hand what playing jazz was all about,” relates Stewart.

Stewart considers himself a bebop-based modern artist who tries to follow Charlie Parker’s conceit: to play clean lines and to look for the pretty notes. “My heroes played beautiful music that had a ton of energy,” he says. “That’s what I try to do.”

Tone is an essential element of Stewart’s oeuvre. “I was fortunate to study briefly with saxophonists Victor Morosco, Lew Tabackin, and Grant Stewart, and extensively with Charles Oreña, all of whom stressed getting a full, rich sound out of the instrument,” he reports. “Following their advice, I think I have ended up with a nice, weighty sound that is my own.”

Stewart’s performances include a degree of mike patter. “I feel it’s important to communicate verbally with your audience, make the listeners really a part of the goings-on,” he says.

Since arriving in the Bay Area — where Stewart previously lived in 1966-67 (in the Haight-Asbury) and 1971-72 — he’s found a very fertile community with scores of fine players.

“There’s a strong sense of creativity in the air, and musicians have good opportunities for self-expression,” he says. “I look forward to seeing what direction not only my music will take me, but also my writing, as I have a book or two in mind. It’s an exciting time in my life.”

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Extended Chronological Bio:

Zan Stewart was born the only child of Elizabeth Wilbur Stewart (1903-1992) — a stage, film and radio actress in the 1930s and 1940s was also a collector of fine art and a good cook — and Cassius Lynford Stewart (1907-1997), an amateur pianist, guitarist, and pen and ink artist who made his living as an accountant, including stints in such Hollywood studios as Universal and RKO. Zan’s maternal grandmother was Helen Clifford Wilbur (1878-1937), a playwright and radio host who wrote under the name Elene Wilbur.

Stewart was raised in an artistic environment in which he was exposed to the finest examples of classical and jazz music. “Some of my earliest musical memories are of listening to Dizzy Gillespie’s ‘Dynamo’ (also known as ‘Dizzy Atmosphere’), Nat ‘King’ Cole’s ‘Ke Mo Ki Mo’ and ‘Old McDonald Had a Farm’ and Prokofiev’s ‘Love Theme for Three Oranges,’ all on 78 rpm,” he recalls.

Stewart’s parents’ aesthetic interests were broad; as a child, he was exposed to all these expressions. There were pieces by Matisse and Kandinsky on the walls; ceramics by Beatrice Wood on tables; his parents read progressive magazines such as Harper’s, The Atlantic and The New Yorker; films such as Howard Hawks’ “Red River,” were shown at home; and he attended performances by the great mime Marcel Marceau and fabled actors Alfred Lunt and Lynne Fontaine, among many others.

Stewart first expressed the inclinations stimulated by this rich environment as a musician, briefly studying piano at age five before undertaking clarinet studies — some with the noted teacher Ola Ebinger, who also taught Eric Dolphy, and some with Joe Vitale, who introduced him to marches, like “The Washington Post” by John Philip Sousa. “I particularly enjoyed playing marches because of their vibrant rhythm,” he states.

Discovering jazz as a mid-teen via recordings by Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins and Thelonious Monk, and by a thrilling live performance by Count Basie, Stewart ended a five-year hiatus from musical studies at age 15 and returned to clarinet, followed by alto saxophone at age 16. He picked up tenor saxophone, his primary instrument, at age 22, when he was living in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury from 1966-1967 in a jazz household where such stellar musicians as saxophonist Mike Morris, trumpeter Tom Harrell, bassist Henry Grimes, pianist Garon Richey, and pianist/bassist Don Thompson played.

“That was an exciting time as many fine musicians came to the house and there were two seven-night-a-week jazz clubs on Haight Street: The Jukebox and the Haight Levels,” relates Stewart.

In 1967, while living in Gibsons, B.C., he was briefly in a group called the Powerhouse Soul Band, which featured the fine bebop-based tenor saxophonist Steve Wolfe and which, on one occasion, played for a dance held by the local Sechelt Indian tribe.

“Steve and I walked into the crowd playing our horns on Booker T’s ‘Green Onions’,” Stewart recalls. “That was my first experience of the electrifying effect music can have when you play close to the listeners.”

In 1968, Stewart returned to Southern California, and played in a jazz/fusion band led by guitarist Bob Walker while studying music at Ventura College from 1969-1970. Then after a year in the Bay Area, he came south once again, acquiring a BA in Film Studies in 1974 from the University of California Santa Barbara. He subsequently performed with a band named Crescent that played at Baudelaire’s, a club on the seaside city’s main drag, State Street. On one special night, the great piano player Albert Dailey, then touring with Stan Getz, sat in with the band

“That was my first experience playing with a world class jazz musician, and it changed how I viewed myself as a player,” says Stewart. “Albert solidified the rhythm section and the band really swung hard for the first time, so I got to find out what the music was supposed to feel like.”

Later, around 1976-1977, the saxophonist also played in the band “Steamroller,” which included the ace drummer Gary Frommer, who had recorded with Art Pepper and Terry Gibbs, and played with Getz, among many others. “We worked four nights a week,” Stewart says. “It was a great time.”

During this period, he was also a jazz dj on KCSB-FM and KTMS-FM.

Also in the mid-1970s, Stewart started to write jazz profiles and other informative pieces on jazz for the Santa Barbara News & Review, a free weekly. “A friend was approached to do a story on pianist Hampton Hawes, but he didn’t know who Hamp was, but I did, so I did the interview and wrote the story,” he remembers. “That started my association with the News & Review.”

Stewart’s interest in writing, story, and language no doubt began as a child when he was read to by his mother. She had a ringing, musical voice and superb diction, polished in part by her years of stage work, first at Stanford University (from which she graduated in 1927 and where photos of her stage exploits appeared several times on the cover of The Stanford Daily) and subsequently as a working professional.

As a writer, Stewart first entered the public sphere around 1958, after he and his family moved from Los Angeles to the small Ventura County hamlet of Ojai, whose police blotter was occasionally humorously offered in squibs in The New Yorker. Around age 14, he put together three or four editions of a small weekly newspaper after he had been given a toy printing press as a gift. Later, at Nordhoff High School, he was sports editor of the school’s Ranger Record newspaper and Topa Topa school yearbook for two years. He wrote his first jazz review in 1961, after traveling with his parents to Monterey for the Monterey Jazz Festival. The review appeared in Paul Affeldt’s Ventura, Ca.-based Jazz Review.

Among the artists Stewart wrote about for the News & Review were pianists Dailey, Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea, saxophonist Wayne Shorter, and trumpeter Chuck Mangione. He sold his first piece, a reworking of the Mangione article, to Musical America (later to be known as Musician Magazine, for whom he also wrote) around 1976. “Making that first sale demonstrated to me that there was a possible future in music journalism,” he states.

In December, 1977, Stewart moved to Los Angeles, and worked at KBCA-FM (105.1), then the city’s lone commercial jazz station. Toward the end of his KBCA stint, in 1979, he began to compile listings for the burgeoning L.A. Weekly, for which he wrote through the mid-1990s. It was through his work at the Weekly that he came to the attention of jazz critic Leonard Feather, who in 1980 brought him onto the Los Angeles Times, for which he wrote profiles, reviews and listings through 2000.

“Writing for the Times was often an intoxicating experience,” Stewart relates. “Now so many people were reading what I wrote and I soon found out the effect of a positive review in such a major newspaper: it brought people out to the clubs, or helped with album sales. In my heart, I was always a jazz advocate, not a jazz critic.”

In 2002, Stewart moved to West Orange, N.J., and wrote for the Newark Star-Ledger. He left the paper and daily journalism in June, 2010, to return to the West Coast and focus on playing and teaching music.

During his writing years, he also wrote for the magazines Down Beat, Swing Journal, Jazz Life, Musica Jazz, Jazziz, and Stereophile.

The major jazz artists he profiled for these publications included Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, Art Blakey, Freddie Hubbard, Ray Brown, Elvin Jones, Quincy Jones, Jimmy Cobb, Toshiko Akiyoshi, Lew Tabackin, Ornette Coleman, Shorter, Hancock, Tony Williams, John Scofield, Joe Lovano, Joshua Redman, Christian McBride, and scores of others.

He also wrote numerous album liner annotations, including the major box sets The Complete Sonny Stitt Roost Recordings (Mosaic, 2001); Sonny Rollins: The Freelance Years (Milestone, 2000); Horace Silver: The Blue Note Years (1999); Joe Henderson: The Blue Note Years (1996); and Eric Dolphy: The Complete Prestige Recordings (1995). Single album annotations appear on recordings by Cedar Walton, Bobby Hutcherson, Joe Magnarelli, Jim Snidero, Tabackin, Bob Mintzer, and many others.

For the Dolphy box, Stewart received the ASCAP–Deems Taylor Award for journalistic excellence in 1996. He was also awarded the Los Angeles Jazz Society’s Leonard Feather Jazz Communicator Award in 1994, which included a Certificate of Commendation from the City of Los Angeles.

“I am extremely grateful for the recognition my work has received,” he says.

One offshoot of Stewart’s writing life in Los Angeles was teaching an introduction to jazz class for the Learning Annex. The class gave students an insight into what jazz was, and how it worked. Years later, students would tell him how much the class had helped their enjoyment of the music.

In 1997, he also had the opportunity to host a presentation at the Monterey Jazz Festival spotlighting jazz music in the films of Clint Eastwood, and those with scores by Dave Grusin. Both artists were on hand, and offered interesting commentary after clips from their films were shown. At the same festival, Stewart also interviewed the noted arranger-composer Gerald Wilson, whose orchestra he first heard at age 15.

For some years, during his time as a writer, Stewart also was a photographer. His pictures appeared in the Times and the L.A. Weekly. The Gallery page of his web site features some of his work.

Throughout his writing career, Stewart continued to play music. He led groups in Los Angeles in the 1990s, playing at Le Café, Pedrini’s Music, and Jax. He also sat in scores of times with saxophonists Pat Britt and Wilbur Brown during their long run at The Cat and the Fiddle in Hollywood, performing with those aces plus drum master Clarence Johnston; pianists Art Hillery, Dwight Dickerson, Jane Getz, and Freddie Redd; bassists Jim Gannon, Louie Spears and Kim Gardner; and drummers Gene Stone and, on one occasion, Mitch Mitchell, of Jimi Hendrix fame.

Those experiences at the Cat with Pat, Wilbur, and Clarence and the others were, pardon the pun, instrumental in my learning how to play, and how to swing,” he notes.

The musician also played in New Jersey and New York City from 2006-2011, appearing at Smalls Jazz Club, Shanghai Jazz, Cecil’s Jazz Club, and Trumpets. “Leading a group with jazz notables to a full house in New York on a Saturday night feels quite special,” he puts it.

The top-drawer jazz musicians that have played with Zan as leader include pianists Tardo Hammer, Keith Saunders, Rob Schneiderman, Ben Stolorow, and Terry Trotter; trumpeters Magnarelli and Jerry Rusch; guitarists Bob DeVos and Joshua Breakstone; bassists Paul Gill, Bill Moring, Dave Carpenter, Mike Karn, and Darek Oles; and drummers Gary Frommer, Clarence Johnston, Carl Burnett, Andy Watson, Paul Kreibich, Tim Horner, Roy McCurdy, Tony Reedus, Ron Marabuto, and Steve Johns.

Stewart has also shared bandstands in spontaneous situations with saxophonists Frank Morgan, Joe Lovano, Dewey Redman, Lew Tabackin, Andrew Speight, and Lanny Morgan; guitarists Dave Stryker and Peter Bernstein; pianists Grant Levin, Eric Reed, and Mike LeDonne; and drummers Jimmy Cobb, Brian Blade, and Billy Drummond.

The saxophonist has studied with formally with Jim Snidero, Charles Oreña, Dan Willis, Jim Canter, and Victor Morosco, and informally with Joe Magnarelli, Grant Stewart, Charlie Shoemake, Noel Jewkes, and Lew Tabackin.

Stewart plans to make his recording debut soon. Samples of his music can be on the Music page of his web site. For a vintage performance, visit Click on artists+audio archive, click on tenor saxophone, scroll down to stewart, zan, click to choose which set from a August, 2009 performance you wish to hear.

Of his life in jazz, Stewart says, “I feel so fortunate to have made my living in and around this music I love.”

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Zan Stewart
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