Remembering David “Bull” Stewart

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.

Playing at New York Pizza in Norman OK (Stephen Fulton drums, Earl Enterline tenor sax, Bull Stewart alto sax)

Playing at New York Pizza in Norman OK (Stephen Fulton drums, Earl Enterline tenor sax, Bull Stewart alto sax)

myself on trumpet, Monte Butts on bass, Bull on alto. Playing at a library in OKC.

myself on trumpet, Monte Butts on bass, Bull on tenor sax. Playing at a library event in OKC.

"Champian & the Big Boys of Rhythm" was the ACTUAL name of this band. Here we are playing at Mickey Mantle's Steakhouse in Bricktown OKC. (Bull Stewart sax, Stephen Fulton drums, Monte Butts bass, and myself)

“Champian & the Big Boys of Rhythm” was the ACTUAL name of this band. Here we are playing at Mickey Mantle’s Steakhouse in Bricktown OKC. (Bull Stewart sax, Stephen Fulton drums, Monte Butts bass, and myself)

Playing at the OKC Arts Festival with Stephen Fulton on flugelhorn, Roland Allen on drums, Monte Butts on bass, Bull Stewart on sax, and myself.

Playing at the OKC Arts Festival with Stephen Fulton on flugelhorn, Roland Allen on drums, Monte Butts on bass, Bull Stewart on sax, and myself.

This promo photo of the band appeared in the OKC Gazette in 2003 - this was upstairs at Maker's in Bricktown. (Known as Maker's Straight Up).

This promo photo of the band appeared in the OKC Gazette in 2003 – this was upstairs at Maker’s in Bricktown. (Known as Maker’s Straight Up).

 

UPDATED 5/15/13.

Bull’s service was held today in Oklahoma City. Below are a few pictures shared with me by a friend.

bull's funeral 2

These red books were made while Bull was in my band. We used them on many gigs.

These red books were made while Bull was in my band. We used them on many gigs.

His instruments....

His instruments….

 

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8 Responses to Remembering David “Bull” Stewart

  1. Pingback: Music Monday: Jay McShann & the Kansas City Sound | The Undisputed Champian

  2. Vivian Stewart says:

    Thanks, Susan. David recently expressed high thoughts for all–and died on the high road, peacefully in sleep, the night after his group rehearsed at his home–May 8. He was looking forward to some promising upcoming performances–now, the group will go on without him and for him. Actually his music sounded better than ever–great mix of well-learned technique, seasoned with his pure soul. His sound could make you laugh or cry–and did make people stop visiting and put down their dinner forks to just listen. I noticed (and he mentioned) coming into less of Charlie Parker’s sound (though some heard his CDs and thought it was Bird!) and more of David’s sound which I love. One of his great blessings was his friendship with Frankie Jordon, now 94–fabulous Jazz Singer–read about her in the Deep Duece Book. They bonded like glue. Well, thanks for the good your family brought to Davd’s younger life. “Lives that touch leave finger prints on the soul.” Vivian Stewart

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  3. Cindy Mead says:

    Thank you, Champian, for this blog post.

    Not two weeks ago, during a long phone conversation, Dave and I did a 30 minute deconstruction of “What Is This Thing Called Love” from Charlie Parker With Strings. We talked about how much we both loved that live recording, especially the part where Bird comes in right on the heels of that obnoxious oboe solo and the crowd goes wild. That is not a conversation you can have with just anyone.

    You weren’t yet born, Champian, back in the old days when I used to go hear Dave play with your Dad, Morris Nelms, Roland Allen – all those guys; but in some important ways that’s when I was born. It was during that time of my life, when Dave and I were both just kids, that he instilled in me a love of jazz, which has remained a passion for me all these years. Just watching the way he loved it and lived it made me want to love it too.

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    • Vivian Stewart says:

      Thank you, Cindy. Your Dad was at the service for you–and that was comforting. David really treasured that long talk you had–spoke so highly of you and your friendship and was so happy for your life, your children, your good health and success.–so are we! Vivian Stewart

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  4. I wrote about “Petro” but I didn’t say what it was –

    When we were working at Maker’s regularly we always wanted to hang out late at night after the gig and there were precious few options that were open late in the area. IHOP was there but always too crowded; there was Whataburger down the road, but it wasn’t very close. But just on the outskirts of Bricktown was a Petro Truck Stop which had an Ironskillet Restaurant and a 24 hour breakfast buffet. We used to go there after nearly every gig and eat and hang out until 3 or 4 in the morning. Many fellow musicians, fans, and friends joined us.

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    • Vivian Stewart says:

      David loved those times at Petro, and was so proud of you, Champion! Always hoped the very highest for your future! Sense his blessings as you proceed into your future. Life is precious and fragile. Stay blessed! Vivian Stewart

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  5. Monte Butts says:

    I have one very clear memory.

    We were playing at Maker’s when Roland Allen came downstairs to sit in and Stephen moved over to horn. We played “Lotus Blossom” (the Kenny Dorham one) and I remember thinking how much it was right in the wheelhouse of what I loved. It was just swinging so hard with the 2 horn lines that I knew right then THAT was my kind of jazz. Being a part of that group was very formative for me as well!

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  6. susan fulton says:

    Those were very special times. I wish we could share one more time together.

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