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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, James Poore, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Bert Thompson, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf


Code Blue




Code Blue Suite: Code Pink, Ironman Blues – But Seriously, Dig Me Man! The Last Breath Blues – All Alone Now, Code Jesus

The Sticks

Homage to Bud Shank

Snakin’ the Grass

Patty’s Bossa

Dis Here

Introduction to a Samba

Poor Butterfly

Song My Lady Sings

The Way You Look Tonight

Bohemia After Dark

Doc Stewart, Dan Higgins, Bill Liston, Rusty Higgins, Greg Huckins, Alex Budman (woodwinds); Wayne Bergeron, Dan Fornero, Jeff Bunnell, Ron Stout, Kye Palmer, Larry Hall (trumpet and Flugelhorn); Andy Martin, Alex Iles, Scott Kyle, Bill Reichenbach (trombone); Matt Catingub (piano and keyboards); Kevin Axt (acoustic and electric bass); Steve Moretti (drums)


The Good Doc (Chris) Stewart has produced an exciting, varied album bursting with solo and collective strengths. Stewart really is a doctor and I assume it’s his other half, Mrs. Doc, dressed in a naughty nurse uniform on the back of the card cover assisting him, none too professionally, as he ministers with a stethoscope to his ailing saxophone.

Code Blue is an appropriate peg therefore for a four-piece suite which reveals both the loose vibe the big band can summon as well as the forceful, juicy and full-toned solo contributions – try the Cannonball-inspired alto solo from Doc, and concluding, coruscating cadenza, and don’t overlook the rich-toned trumpet of Jeff Bunnell. Ironman Blues, the second movement of the suite, is interestingly voiced and the sax choir writing put me in mind of the way Benny Carter voiced this section. Last Breath Blues is Doc all the way, whilst Code Jesus has a resurrection feel, a Gospel call and response and a slow burn with a hint of Big Apple TV cop show theme tunes.

Arrangements are varied but largely the work of Tom Kubis and the band’s pianist Matt Catingub though the suite is the joint work of Stewart and Kubis. They share a confidence and articulacy, a firmness of purpose. Kubis’s arrangement of The Sticks honours Cannonball Adderley’s original with suitably punchy sectional work and ebullient swing. Kubis’ Homage to Bud Shank features a lyrical Doc solo, and piano too, as well as fine unison sax voicings. Steve Moretti’s drum patterns drive Hal Gelper’s Snakin’ the Grass (nice title) ever onward and for more sonic enjoyment there’s a slice of Latino, courtesy of Stewart’s Patty’s Bossa (I assume Patty is Mrs Doc). Blue Note hangs over the blues-infused Dis Here, the Bobby Timmons standard arranged by Catingub and sensitively dedicated in the notes to that discographer extraordinaire, the late Chris Sheridan.

Only occasionally do things flag but whilst Introduction to a Samba, another Cannonball song, sounds a touch unrelieved, it’s soon followed by Charles Lloyd’s nocturne, Song My Lady Sings with arranger Catingub taking a thoughtful piano solo. Oscar Peterson’s fast-paced swinger, Bohemia after Dark, ends the fourteen-track album on a real high and I’ve decided to forgive Doc his Paganini quote here, so driving and straight-ahead is his solo.

This is a swinging and engaging album.

Jonathan Woolf

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