These were my personal goals for the jazz art form that have all been accomplished thanks to my father, God:
1. I became the first saxophonist of my generation to record Islamic music (“THE FORCE”) and the opening chapter of The Holy Qur’an (AL-FATIHAH) on a mega-major record label, Warner Bros. (QWEST)
2. I added my personal saxophone voice to jazz.
3. I became the first jazz saxophonist to do a tribute to legendary pianist and VOCALIST Nat “King” Cole without a vocalist.
4. I fulfilled my vow to work with the Marsalis Brothers.
5. I’ve performed with most of the elder giants of jazz. I’m also the first of my generation to receive international acclaim without ever moving to New York.
6. I became the first jazz saxophonist of my generation to make a hardcore (gutbucket) blues album for a mega-major record label, Warner Bros. (QWEST).
7. I’ve worked for the greatest record producer in history, Maestro Quincy Jones.
8. I became the first jazz saxophonist to create a hybrid album in the smooth-jazz idiom using my own sound and ancient spiritualism, rather than the standard R&B/smooth jazz sound of the 1970s and 80s. I’m also the first jazz saxophonist to play the drums for myself by overdubbing on my album “HEAVEN and EARTH” (Nagel-Heyer Records of Germany)..
9. I became the first jazz saxophonist of my generation to sing (holler) the blues on a mega major record label: Warner Bros. (QWEST).
10. I’ve personally nurtured 18 young musicians who are now famous in several musical genres. I passed the baton to them, and they are running their musical relay races magnificently. All praise is due to God.
[DISCLAIMER: any mention of race in this piece is solely for the purpose of education, not denigrating].
Throughout the history of music, there have consistently been at least three major voices that stand apart from the “rest of the pack” due to their hyper-personalized sounds and immense spiritual power in every music idiom and in every generation. In jazz, tenor saxophonists Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young, and Ben Webster were the big three of early jazz history. In the following generation, there was Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis, Dexter Gordon, and Gene Ammons. The next three were Sonny Rollins, Wayne Shorter, and John Coltrane. The next three were Stanley Turrentine, Eddie Harris, and Yusef Lateef. The next three were Bradford Marsalis, Ravi Coltrane, and Courtney Pine. The next three were James Carter, Joshua Redman, and Robert Stewart.
Each of the aforementioned possessed personalized sounds on their instruments. However, there has consistently been one of each three that possessed a sound so intensely powerful and simultaneously spiritual that it would ensnare and haunt your soul. The God Force is blinding with these individuals: Ben Webster, Gene Ammons, John Coltrane, Yusef Lateef, Courtney Pine, and Robert Stewart.
The seismic shift in the music industry occurred after the 1980s. Before 1990, whites who owned record labels held originality and individuality in high esteem. Hence, the artists who emerged in the 1980s were the last of their kind to be accepted and lauded for their originality: Anita Baker, Bill Withers, Sade, Luther Vandross, Prince, Courtney Pine, Najee, and so on. Although my brother of some 40 years (trumpeter Wynton Marsalis) never attained an individual, original sound in jazz, he certainly created a paradigm shift in the classical music idiom. He’s one of the greatest to ever play the classical trumpet.
Moving into the 1990s, black-owned record labels eliminated swing jazz completely, and white-label owners were ecstatic to finally have complete and total control of the entire straight-ahead jazz (swing) genre. They had desired this control for decades and achieved it due to blacks total disregard for their own art form. Consequently, Wynton and I agree: “If it weren’t for Whites, there would be no jazz in America.”
Segway into my exile (blacklisting) from the USA, this was due to the fact that I was a few years too late to catch the “originality train” once held in high esteem by Whites. They began to desire Black Clones of White saxophonists: Michael Brecker, Joe Lovano, Kenny G., and the rest. Hence, this caused the “death of jazz” to this day.
I was considered a colossal threat to the new white dominance and agenda, for I refused to be a clone of any human whatsoever. Some even blatantly asked, “Why do you want to play like those old black guys in this modern time?” My answer is, “Because they are my forefathers, and I will never allow the black saxophone legacy to die.” This did not sit well with the label executives whatsoever.
I debuted on Quincy Jones’ “QWEST” record label with my paradigm-shifting “In the Gutta” album, which featured the Hammond B3 organ. This literally frightened the Warner Bros. executives, for they had previously invested a ton of money in their new jazz hope, saxophonist Joshua Redman. He conformed to cloning saxophonists Michael Brecker and Joe Lovano. I refused, for I was dangerously unique, and every single news article about me affirmed this during my entire 30-years of performing. Saxophonist James Carter began to use the Hammond Organ after hearing my “In the Gutta” album of 1995.
My next album was the Islamic-tinged “The Force.” This was my primary reason for playing jazz: to glorify my Lord God on a mega-major label run by the Whites. Countless people told me that this was impossible. However, this word (impossible) does not exist in my mind. So,
once the album (which featured drum icon Jeff “Tain” Watts, bass titan Reginald Veal, and piano elder statesman Ed Kelly) was completed, it was sent to the head of Warner Bros. Jazz division, MATT PIERSON.
MATT PIERSON was extremely frightened by what he heard on the record, and a representative from “QWEST” (a subsidiary of Warner Bros.) who was in the meeting called me immediately after and said, “Robert, MATT PIERSON told all present in the meeting that we were to put your record on the back burner.” This means don’t promote or do anything for my album.
This was expected, and I had no hard feelings about it. I simply proceeded to record and perform around the world, eliminating the USA for the most part. You now know the reason for my exile from America and triumphant return as a Messenger of God in these final minutes before God’s wrath is completed. Thanks for reading my words. Part two is coming soon.
(c) Prof. Robert Stewart (2023)