Patches Stewart
by Mary Bentley

Visit Patches Stewart's website at
www.patchesstewart.com
Last year, I had the opportunity to go on the Smooth Jazz Cruise.  We spent a week at sea visiting fabulous ports and listening to concert after concert of great music played by world class musicians.  Every night was a different show.  While I was wowed by the headliners, I was equally as amazed by the talented members of the three bands that played alongside them every day and night. These musicians were among the cream of the crop.   We know many of the musicians that played in the cruise bands, and we’ve brought you their stories over the past eight years in our OTS feature, so  this month, Smoothviews is thrilled to feature trumpet player Michael “Patches” Stewart.

Patches was born in the great musical city of New Orleans.  As good a player as he is, it surprised me that he does not come from a musical family.  Sometimes, just being from a musical Mecca like New Orleans is enough; that city carries with it a certain amount of “street cred” unto itself.   “When I was growing up in New Orleans, there was music everywhere.  You walked the street and you could hear a great brass band.  All the clubs had live music, and the doors were always open so you could hear music from the streets.  There were parades and marching bands.  Hearing different styles of music helps a musician to develop his own style and language.”    

He began with the French horn; that was his first instrument when he began playing in junior high school at age 12. It would be another two years before he would begin playing the trumpet.  Patches also played flugelhorn and flute for a time as well.  While he took formal music lessons in school, he also has a lot of self taught knowledge.  I suspect this also can be at least partly attributed to growing up around so much music and so many musicians in New Orleans.  As a youngster, Patches had several serious musical influences.  “When I was in school, it would be my teacher, Mr. Harris, and a great New Orleans trumpeter named John Longo.”  All the way and throughout the years, there would be others: Miles Davis, Freddie Hubbard, Chet Baker, Clifford Brown, and Louis Armstrong, just to name a few.

Over the years, the list of people that Patches has played with is very impressive.  “In music, just, I think, as in any other work or job, you meet people.  You play with certain people, and then through referrals, you have a chance to work with different artists.”   One of his first big gigs after moving out to LA was playing with The Brothers Johnson.  That association led to meeting Quincy Jones who Patches toured with to support Q’s release, The Dude.  Patches scored big when he became part of Al Jarreau’s touring band from 1983-1991.  He’s also done recording sessions with musical powerhouses such as David Sanborn, Anita Baker, George Duke, Bonnie Raitt, Rickie Lee Jones, and Soul II Soul.  He’s toured with luminaries like Babyface, Diana Ross and Whitney Houston.  Through all of this playing and networking, Patches found himself aligned with artist extraordinaire, Marcus Miller.  This musical relationship began in the early ‘90’s and is still solid to date.  Even with such an impressive resume, there are still people that Patches would love to play with.  “Prince, everybody wants to play with Prince (laugh) and Wayne Shorter.” 

As stated in the opening paragraph, while it was my first time seeing Patches perform live aboard the Smooth Jazz Cruise, he is no stranger to floating jazz festivals.  He began in 2007 with the North Sea Jazz Cruise, which was part of the North Sea Jazz Festival in Holland.  He’s also played on the Playboy Jazz Cruise in 2009.  Patches made his first appearance on the Smooth Jazz Cruise in 2011, was invited back in 2012, and recently returned from his third run in January 2013.  “It is great fun, not only for the audience, but also for the musicians.”  It is clearly evident that the musicians were having as much fun playing for us as we were listening to them. 

It’s always interesting to find out how our favorite musicians like to spend their time when they’re not making music.  A true son of New Orleans, Patches enjoys cooking Cajun food.  He also enjoys watching old black and white movies, and cycling.  
I mentioned Patches 2005 release Blow.  Blow is actually his third solo release.  Prior to that, he released Blue Patches in 1997 and Penetration in 1998.  As of this writing, Patches is currently in Europe working on his (as yet untitled) fourth release.  It will be contemporary jazz, as was his previous release.  This CD will feature a variety of American and European musicians.  He hopes to have it completed later on this year.

Michael Patches Stewart is a busy man.  Not long after he finished his two week gig on the Smooth Jazz Cruise, he was off to Europe to play, tour, and work on his upcoming release.  As of this writing, he is still in Europe, so, until the new CD releases, you can like him on Facebook and follow him there.   We hope to catch Patches again sometime in the near future.  In the meantime, Smoothviews, along with Patches’ other fans, will eagerly await the new release.
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