Ian Stewart was born and raised in Syracuse NY, growing up with the sounds of his father’s record collection which included the likes of Frank Zappa, King Crimson, Return to Forever and Weather Report. He took up the electric bass at age 12 and the upright bass at 16. While in high school he had the privilege of having numerous mentors including Phil Flanigan, Ed Castillano, Jeff Campbell, Howard Potter and many of the other musicians and educators in Central and Western New York. He was also fortunate enough to begin gigging at an early age in the various bars, clubs and restaurants in the Syracuse and Rochester areas.
Upon graduation Ian continued his studies at State University of New York at Purchase College where he received his BM in Jazz Studies in 2008. Here he would have the ability to study and take classes under Todd Coolman, John Faddis, Ray Vega, Charles Blenzig, Doug Weiss, Kermit Driscoll, Gerard Hecht, Pete Malinverni, Doug Munro and many other members of the Conservatory’s esteemed faculty.
In 2009, Ian relocated to Chicago, where he would remain until 2013. He quickly began performing around town with various acts of varying styles. It was around this time that he met pianist Darwin Noguera, and began playing with the Chicago Afro-Latin Jazz Ensemble and Noguera’s Evolution Quartet. It was also through Noguera that Ian started to work with many different bands in the Chicago Latin Music scene. Over the next few years he would play with Angel Melendez, Salsa Con Soul, A Cor Do Brazil, Lise Gilly, Havana, Las Guitarras de España and other assorted groups in the area.
In 2010, Ian began playing touring with Moonjune recording artists Marbin. He spent the next two years playing almost exclusively with the band, visiting nearly every state in the US and opening for the likes of Allan Holdsworth, Jimmy Haslip, Virgil Donati, Scott Henderson and Jeff Berlin among others. After parting ways with Marbin in 2012, Ian returned to Chicago and for the next year enjoyed a busy and eclectic freelance schedule once again. During this year he began playing with composer/multi-instrumentalist Hector Silveira and began delving deeper into the world of Timba and Cuban Jazz. Approximately the same time he become associated with author, scholar and Timba.com editor Kevin Moore who further encouraged Stewart’s personal research on the subject.
A visit to New York City and a chance meeting with master bassist John Benitez prompted Ian to return to NYC and pursue further opportunities. Since moving to NY in the spring of 2014 Ian has had the honor of performing with Gerardo Contino, Gabriela Anders, Los Hacheros, Peliroja, Keith Ward, Bobby Sanabria, Axel Laugart, Oriente Lopez, Mike Eckroth, Buyu Ambroise, Conjunto Guantanamero, Wilson “Chembo” Corniel, Salsondria Timba, Ola Fresca and other New York based artists. In March of 2015, Ian released “The John Benítez Bass Method Volume 1- Freedom in the Clave: A Rhythmic Approach to Bass Playing” in collaboration with the great John Benítez. In addition to performing and books, Ian is also a contributing columnist to Timba.com and is a faculty member at Scott’s Bass Lessons.
Photographs by George J. Patterson