September 2011, a Manchester-born singer releases his debut album ‘All Or Nothing At All’ to critical acclaim. The record, praised by peers of the UK music industry, featured some of the best musicians in Britain. The ‘Stellar’ blend of original material, clever re-arrangements of some famous standards, alongside great pop songs, became a sure-fire hit, confirming a place for Alexander Stewart in the heart of the UK music scene.
Prior to the release of his debut album, Alexander had already featured with the stunning BBC Concert Orchestra and John Wilson Big Band, performed alongside Curtis Stigers and Buddy Greco (on a show hosted by Sir Michael Parkinson, on BBC Radio 2) and had sung live on national television on ITV1. No mean feat for a 23-year-old from Manchester, UK.
Alexander’s band, with MD Alex Webb at the helm, consisted of a who’s who in the world of UK musical talent. Alto saxophonist and award-winning Nathaniel Facey (Emperical), Winston Rollins (Jools Holland Rhythm And Blues Orchestra), Gary Crosby (Jazz Jamaica/ Tomorrow’s Warriors) and Freddie Gavita(Ronnie Scott’s All Stars) being just some of the faces included in the live line up.
The show toured much of the UK playing numerous, high-profile music festivals, including both the London and Cheltenham Jazz Festivals, sell-out shows at Ronnie Scott’s, the Elgar Room at the Royal Albert Hall and in fact almost all of London’s jazz rooms.
March 2012, after featuring in multiple performances for JAZZ.FM, Stewart was invited to support the legendary Dionne Warwick on her UK tour. The Grammy award-winning vocalist whose hits include ‘Say A Little Prayer’, ‘Walk On By’ and ‘The Look Of Love’ praised Alexander, calling him a ‘star’. The tour saw Alexander perform at The Sage Gateshead, the Birmingham Symphony Hall and at the Liverpool Philharmonic. One of the final dates included a performance in Stewart’s hometown, at The Bridgewater Hall, Manchester.
The summer of that year, Alexander’s branched out, trying his hand at musical theatre on the London stage. Alexander starred as one of the lead roles in ‘Jazz At Cafe Society, a new musical production about racial oppression in prohibition era New York. The show, curated by Alex Webb, starred Gwyneth Herbert and China Moses, (who recorded the duet ‘The Hard Way’ with Alexander on his debut album) made its debut at the London Jazz Festival.
As a regular on the Manchester music scene, Manchester Pride approached Alexander asking him to perform on their main stage on the opening night, in front of an audience of over 9,000 people. The evening, headlined by pop-rock band ‘The Feeling’, saw the first of many appearances Alexander would make supporting the charity.
Alexander continued touring throughout that year, expanding his live repertoire and profile, appearing at some of the most prestigious events in the social calendar. From Vogue Magazine, to the Miss World Final and Manchester United’s player of the Year Awards, Stewart performed alongside the likes of Emilie Sande, JLS and Mcfly.
With success here in Britain, Alexander ventured overseas, hoping to meet the demands and expectations of an ever-increasing fan base in Europe. Alexander and his group toured much of Europe including Germany, headlining sell out shows at over 12 festivals in that country alone.
Music festivals, including the Jazz Rally, Düsseldorf and Stimmen festival saw Alexander headline nights alongside Elton John, Rufus Wainright and Sir Bob Geldoff to packed German audiences.
Late September, Alexander was back in the UK making a welcome return to the Pizza Express Jazz Club Soho, celebrating his 26th birthday live with his band on stage, performing in front of yet another sold out audience.
In fall 2013 Warner Bros. Germany included Alexander’s track ‘The Hard Way’ on a compilation album, ‘Nachtcafé Vol. 4’ alongside tracks by Jamie Cullum, Barry White and Queen Latifah.
In his final performances of that year, Alexander once again took up his role in ‘Café Society’ upon its return to London, before welcoming in 2013 at a star-studded New Year’s gala at Rosso; a Venue in Alexander’s hometown Manchester, owned by footballer and entrepreneur Rio Ferdinand.
Spring 2014 saw Stewart take up a three-month residency at the St James Theatre in London. The new venue hosted Alexander and his live band with special guest stars at each of the shows. The run had a one final date at the begging of April, 2014.
The year also brought live radio performances on BBC radio 3’s ‘In Tune’, as well as on Jazz FM where Alexander featured as James Tormés ‘hidden treasure’.
Alexander’s overwhelming support from the German audience led to the recording of his second album in Germany. The recording took place for SWR radio in front of an exclusive live audience, and the digital album, ‘The Live Session’ was released on Herzog Records in summer 2014.
Days after the release of the album, Alexander headlined Jazz Open, Stuttgart to another sell out audience. Gregory Porter, Herbie Hancock and Van Morrison were other featured headliners at the festival.
With subsequent shows in Holland, Germany, Austria and through the UK, Alexander was then invited to play two shows at Portugal’s most prestigious venues including the Cultural Centre of Belém in Lisbon. Both performances featured guest vocalist and Portuguese jazz singer Claudia Franco. Alexander was received with critical acclaim.
Having worked previously with harpist Alex Thomas on projects, the duo teamed up to tackle classical repertoire including the works of Vaughan Williams as part of a show curated for BBC radio 3. The live recording took place at the Manchester central library and featured readings by actress Maxine Peake as well as the director of Manchester’s world-renowned Hallé Orchestra, Sir Mark Elder.
Coming toward the climax of an already fruitful year, Alexander was given the opportunity of a lifetime.
Having grown up listening to recordings by Sinatra accompanied by the great Count Basie Orchestra, including the iconic album ‘Sinatra At The Sands’, Alexander was thrilled to be invited to be a guest vocalist on two performances with the legendary big band.
The orchestra, led by bandleader Scotty Barnhart, saw Alexander sing classics from ‘I’ve got you under my skin’ to ‘The Can’t Take That Away From Me’. Alexander made his Asia debut in December at the world-famous Venetian Hotel, Macau, China.
Proceeding the performances in China, Alexander ended 2014 in London, returning to the Royal Albert Hall to a sell-out audience for a final Christmas show, and filling the Elgar room for a third time.
2015 marks the start of a new project for Stewart (coinciding with what would have been Frank Sinatra’s 100th birthday) the ‘Sinatrathon live’, which is currently in production.
This Year, Alexander Stewart returns to form with an orchestral, cinematic new album, that dusts off the constraints of nostalgia, leaping forward into the contemporary and places the twenty-something Manchurian back in the UK music spotlight.
Labelled as ‘one of the most precociously talented vocalists of his generation’, Stewart’s acknowledgement of both standards and popular music is greatly referenced in his choice of material, both in his live and recorded work and no more so than in this upcoming release.
A culmination of Stewart’s ability to hone in on and develop original written material; a collection of the finest musicians and arrangers the UK and Europe has to offer, along side two years of solid touring, writing and dedication, lead to this ambitious point.
I Thought About You– features a stellar lineup, including Stewarts touring band; pianist Rob Barron, bassist Rob Anstey, drummer Andy Chapman and trumpet player Freddie Gavita. The impressive live big-band, recorded at Angel Studios by Grammy-award winner Steve Price, includes a who’s who of UK jazz talent; ‘Alastair White, Andy Panayi and Callum Au to name but a few. Add to the mix the lavish backdrop of The City of Prague Philharmonic, (who feature on 7 of the tracks), Stewart takes the helm of some heavy hitting musical collaboration.
The 12-track album includes new takes on timeless songs, ranging from Jackie Wilson (The Sweetest Feeling) to Dusty Springfield (The Look Of Love), and from up-tempo interpretation on Etta James (I Just Want To Make Love to you), to the opening track, a sweeping orchestral mambo through a Stevie Wonder favorite (Part Time Lover).
Blending with these cornerstones in popular musical legacy, are four original compositions by Stewart, (including a co-write with long time collaborator, Alex Webb) showcasing a huge development of Alexander, as both artist and now songwriter.
Add to all this, a total reimagining of a Sinatra classic as the albums centerpiece (brought forward to the 21st century with a bold, new, orchestral score), I Thought About You is a richly textured, contemporary record, with a modern, emotive approach to songs you know and love, delivered with conviction by Stewart.
The album, arranged predominantly by Rob Barron and Freddie Gavita, was recorded in Londonand Prague. Mixing was engineered by Darren Williams, and mastering took place at the legendary Abbey Road Studios, London, by Geoff Pesche.
The album is scheduled for release on Friday 9th of September 2016, distributed by Proper Music.
Press reaction to Alexander Stewart’s debut release in September 2011, All Or Nothing At All, (ASM001) was highly acclaimed:
‘A singer to listen out for… astonishingly mature for his 23 years… a pretty auspicious beginning’ – The Observer
‘A cause for celebration… All Or Nothing At All doesn’t disappoint’ – Metro
‘Impressive debut album’- The Times
‘He’s accompanied on this debut session by a razor-sharp group… he’s on his way’ – The Guardian
‘A remarkably assured calling card… the singer couldn’t have wished for finer accompaniment’ – Jazzwise