Michael 'Patches' Stewart
Born in New Orleans – the Birthplace of Jazz
If you have heard Michael “Patches” Stewart play his instrument, it will come as no surprise to learn he was born and raised in the city where Jazz was born — New Orleans, Louisiana. He fell in love with the trumpet at a very young age, but did not have the opportunity to study music until he reached middle school.
It was during his high school years that he acquired the nickname “Patches” – from his habit of following the then–current fashion trend of wearing patches on blue jeans. Undeniably talented, his focus on mastering the trumpet prompted him to seek opportunities to hone his skills outside the high school classroom. This included additional music lessons at a local college and of course, listening and learning from the incredible pool of local talent found throughout New Orleans.
Gigs in local bands followed, providing early stage experience playing school dances and small clubs; even the occasional “road tour” during summer vacations. His reputation around New Orleans grew and at the age of 16 he was offered an opportunity to fill-in during a session — his first time in a recording studio. It turned out to be the horn section session for LaBelle’s international hit “Lady Marmalade.”
At the Crossroads
By the end of his senior year at St. Augustine’s, Patches had received music scholarship offers from a number of prestigious institutions, from the Berklee College of Music to local universities. It was a difficult decision, but his focus on performing won out — he passed on the scholarships and headed for Los Angeles.
After a few lean years working with local bands, (and wondering in hindsight whether he should have accepted one of those scholarships,) his luck took a turn for the better when he was offered a tour with The Brothers Johnson. Through this association, Patches met Quincy Jones (who, incidentally, began his impressive career in music as a trumpet player.) When Quincy put “The Dude” tour together, he included Patches in his band.
In 1983 Patches began touring with another jazz giant — Al Jarreau. Al’s frequent international tours introduced Patches to audiences throughout Europe, North and South America, Australia and Japan. In-between tours with Al, Patches worked in various studio recording sessions and occasionally toured with artists such as David Sanborn, Anita Baker, George Duke, Bonnie Raitt, Rickie Lee Jones and Soul II Soul. Still, Jarreau was his “main gig” until 1991.