David “Bull” Stewart passed away last week (You can read the full obituary here). He was a Jazz saxophonist, a fellow Oklahoman, and a friend. I’ve known Bull all my life; he was in my father’s band in Oklahoma, taught at the Clark Terry Institute for Jazz Studies in Iowa, and he was in my band in Oklahoma from 1999 until I went away to college. Our last gig was at Maker’s in Bricktown OKC in 2004. If you ever saw me perform in Oklahoma or happen to have in your possession a copy of my album “Crazy!”, then you’ve heard Bull play.
That band (which included Bull, Monte Butts on bass, and Stephen Fulton on drums) helped shape who I am as a musician and a band leader. We were working a lot in Oklahoma back then – playing at Maker’s sometimes 3 times a week, as well as private parties and regional festivals. Our first gig was at Border’s Books & Music in Norman OK in 1999. At that time I was only singing on my performances (not also playing piano) and I only knew 10 songs. The gig was 2 hours long. Just imagine how many times I had to repeat those 10 songs! haha!
I say Bull was my friend, and he was, but he was really my father’s friend. They would talk about music and practice together all the time; I was a teenager and I enjoyed practicing my music, but they LOVED it. They always wanted to have rehearsal and work on new material, and at the time I was busy with school, friends, growing up, being a teenager, etc. – so we didn’t practice as much as we could have. Now I look back and I think what a wonderful thing to have been surrounded by people who were so incredibly serious about what they were doing. I wish I had been able to be more like them at that time, and given more of my time to all of us playing together.
There is something very special about being in a band, and since this was my first working band it meant a lot to me. When I moved to NYC in 2003 I was very happy, but also very sad to have lost my band and my friends, and the opportunity of playing with the same people day in and day out. When you share the stage with someone often enough, they become a part of your life and you think it will be there forever.
All I can say is: Bull, I wish we had one more gig and one more trip to Petro in our future.
Bull’s service was held today in Oklahoma City. Below are a few pictures shared with me by a friend.