“In the Ellington band, Stewart quickly blossomed into a major jazz soloist with a wide range of style and technique. He was a fine melodist, could improvise with a Beiderbecke-like grace (he was a great admirer of Bix’s playing), provide sharply crackling muted choruses of immense drive, or play open solos in a uniquely jaunty manner. Rex also became adept at the plunger-muted growl style which was, by the time he joined, a tradition in the Ellington orchestra. Most importantly, he developed a surprisingly accurate and elaborate manner of playing with the valves of his cornet only half-depressed.”
– Eddie Lambert, Duke Ellington, A Listener’s Guide
Here’s a 1966 video Rex Stewart performing “St. Louis Blues” in Switzerland
The recordings heard on this podcast episode:
Chatter Box (CD: “Fargo, ND, November 7, 1940” Vintage Jazz Classics VJC-1019/20-2)
Recorded 7 November 1940 at The Crystal Ballroom in Fargo, North Dakota
Wallace Jones, Rex Stewart, Ray Nance – trumpet; Lawrence Brown, Joe Nanton, Juan Tizol -trombone; Barney Bigard, Johnny Hodges, Otto Hardwicke, Ben Webster, Harry Carney – reeds; Duke Ellington – piano; Fred Guy – guitar; Jimmie Blanton – bass; Sonny Greer – drums.
Zaza (CD: “The Fabulous Ellingtonians” Mercury 830 926-2)
Recorded 5 June 1944, New York City
Rex Stewart – cornet; Lawrence Brown – trombone; Tab Smith – alto sax; Harry Carney –baritone sax; Johnny Guarnieri – piano; Brick Fleagle – guitar, arranger; Cozy Cole – drums.
Frantic Fantasy (aka Prairie Fantasy) (CD: “World Broadcasting Series, Volume 1” Circle CCD-101)
Recorded 8 November 1943, New York City
Wallace Jones, Rex Stewart, Dizzy Gillespie,Taft Jordan – trumpet; Lawrence Brown, Joe Nanton, Juan Tizol – trombone; Jimmy Hamilton, Johnny Hodges, Otto Hardwicke, Skippy Williams, Harry Carney – reeds; Duke Ellington – piano; Fred Guy – guitar; Wilson Myers – bass; Sonny Greer – drums.
Blue Skies (CD: “World Broadcasting Series, Volume 4” Circle CCD-104)
Recorded 3 January 1945, New York City
Shelton Hemphill, Rex Stewart, Taft Jordan, Cat Anderson, Ray Nance – trumpet; Lawrence Brown, Joe Nanton, Claude Jones – trombone; Jimmy Hamilton, Otto Hardwicke, Johnny Hodges, Al Sears, Harry Carney – reeds; Duke Ellington – piano; Fred Guy – guitar; Junior Raglin – bass; Sonny Greer – drums.
B.O. Blues (CD: “Rex Stewart On His Own” JDC Records JDC 70179240)
Recorded 8 February 1946
Rex Stewart – cornet, vocal; Stafford Simon – trumpet; Sandy Williams – trombone; Pete Clark – tenor sax; Mike Colucchio – piano; Wilson Myers – bass, vocals; Bazeley “Bay” Perry – drums.
C Jam Blues (LP: Various Artists, “Newport Jazz Festival Live (Unreleased Highlights from 1956, 1958, 1963”) Columbia C2 38262)
Recorded 4 July 1958 live at The Newport Jazz Festival
Cootie Williams – trumpet; Rex Stewart – cornet; Tyree Glenn – trombone; Hilton Jefferson – alto sax; Ben Webster – tenor sax; Billy Strayhorn – piano; Oscar Pettiford – bass; Sonny Greer – drums.
One Hundred Years from today (LP: “The Big Reunion” Jazz Greats JG-624)
I Knew You When (LP: “Cootie & Rex, The Big Challenge” Jazz Greats JG-602)
Recorded 7 May 1957, New York City
Rex Stewart – cornet; Cootie Williams – trumpet; Lawrence Brown, J. C. Higginbotham – trombone; Coleman Hawkins, Bud Freeman – tenor sax; Hank Jones – piano; Billy Bauer – guitar; Milt Hinton – bass; Gus Johnson – drums.
It Ain’t Necessarily So (LP: “Stewart-Williams & Co. – Porgy and Bess Revisited” Disques Swing SW-8414)
Recorded late 1958, New York City
Cootie Williams (“Porgy”) – trumpet; Rex Stewart (“Sportin’ Life”) – cornet; Lawrence Brown (“Serena” and “Clara”) – trombone; Hilton Jefferson (“Bess”) – alto sax; Pinky Williams (“Jake”) – baritone sax; Bernie Glow, Joe Wilder, Ernie Royal, Al Derisi – trumpet; Urbie Green, Eddie Bert, Sonny Russo – trombone; Sid Cooper, Walt Levinsky, Al Klink, Boomie Richman – reeds; Buddy Weed – piano; Barry Galbraith – guitar; Milt Hinton – bass; Don Lamond – drums; plus string section.
My Girl is Just Enough for Me (LP: “Redhead” Design Records – SS-42)
Rex Stewart – cornet; Joe Venuto – marimba; Bucky Pizzarelli – guitar; Leonard Gaskin – bass; Mousey Alexander – drums.
Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off (LP: “Chatter Jazz, The Talkative Horns of Rex Stewart & Dickie Wells” RCA Victor LSP-2024)
Rex Stewart – cornet; Dickie Wells – trombone; John Bunch – piano; Leonard Gaskin – bass; Charlie Masterpaolo – drums.
St. Louis Blues/Happy Go Lucky Local (CD: “Rex Stewart & the Henry Chaix Orchestra – Baden 1966 and Montreux 1971” Sackville Recordings – SKCD-2061)
Recorded 12 June 1966 in Baden, Switzerland
Rex Stewart – cornet, vocal; Jo Gagliardi – trumpet; André Faist – trombone; Roger Zufferey – alto sax; Michel Pilet – tenor sax; Henri Chaix – piano; Alain Du Bois – guitar; Georges Furrer – bass; Romano Cavicchiolo – drums.
— Our closing music —-
It’s Something You Ought To Know (Paul Gonsalves – “Ellingtonia Moods and Blues,” RCA Victor / RCA63562)
Recorded 29 February 1960, New York City
Paul Gonsalves- tenor sax; Johnny Hodges – alto sax; Ray Nance – cornet; Mitchell “Booty” Wood – trombone; Jimmy Jones – piano; Al Hall – bass; Oliver Jackson – drums.