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Heather Stewart Biography

Heather M Stewart is an extraordinarily talented vocalist and violinist in the international jazz scene. An Australian based in Paris, Heather performs a range of repertoire centred around traditional and hot jazz, ragtime and jug bands, acoustic blues, country and folk music.
Heather studied classical violin and voice (B.Mus.hons), Honours in cognitive neuroscience, an MA in pedagogy and a Graduate Diploma of Jazz. Though starting her career in semi-professional orchestras and operas in Melbourne and London, Heather had always sung and pursued her love for jazz by night. At 23, she decided to change from her classical career to the winding, unpredictable pathways of jazz and original music. Heather dedicated years to workshops, masterclasses, lessons and got solid training with the best swing and traditional jazz musicians in Australia, John Scurry, Peter Baylor, Eamon McNelis, Tim Stevens to name but a few.

Her rigorous classical training has provided regular chances to moonlight in chamber ensembles and orchestras, but once decided, Heather devoted herself artistically to 1900s-1940s jazz, acoustic blues, ragtime and country folk/fiddle music. Heather's singing and violin playing hold a depth and understated artistry that make her one in a million.
Dan Barratt: "I didn't like your singing. I loved it!  Thank you. What you do is so special. It is so good."
Recent concerts have included Paris's illustrious Le Bal Blomet and Caveau de la Huchette (La La Land) with sold-out capacity crowds for The Dirty Ragtimers Orchestra, Leigh Barker Band, Orchestre Delmar and Collectif Paris Swing. Heather has toured throughout Europe, UK, USA and Australia and brings her unique style, warmth and skill to the grand repertoire of great jazz and songwriting from the 1900s to 1940s. Heather has won multiple awards for albums collaborating with husband Leigh Barker, and her self-titled Heather Stewart Band album of original songs and fiddle tunes. Heather also composes for theatre and dance projects.
In Paris, Heather Stewart shares concert stages with Orchestre Del Mar, Collective Paris Swing, Leigh Barker Band, Jake Sanders, Jason Marsalis, Matt Munisteri, Giacomo Smith, Nicholas Montier, Christophe Davot, Eamon McNelis, Lucas Montagnier, Mathieu Meyer, and many more. With a collection of quality music projects, a natural presence and joy on stage, Heather builds audiences wherever she performs.
Heather's quartet collaboration with Parisian fingerpicking guitarist Lucas Montagnier, pianist Mathieu Meyer and bassist Leigh Barker is called The Dirty Ragtimer Orchestra. Their first album "Fairytales of Montmartre" recorded at Hi Style Studios was a sold out performance exhilarated the crowd filling Paris' illustrious Le Bal Blomet and they are working on their second album to be released later in 2023.
Influences: Annette Hanshaw, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Sidney Bechet, Duke Ellington, Lester Young, Bessie Smith, Jelly Roll Morton, Irving Berlin, Gene Aubrey,  Bix B, Scott Joplin, Big Bill Broonzy, G and I Gershwin, Hoagy Carmichael and so many more.
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Heather Stewart's ability to stretch phrases subtly over the bar line gives her vocals a seductive, slightly world-weary quality, and her fiddle playing contains echoes of old-time country and folk styles.”

Jessica Nicholas - THE AGE


Leigh Barker and The New Sheiks

Reviewer rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Surrey Music Cafe, 
November 29

In 1920s slang, a ''sheik'' was a hip gentleman - a man about town - with obvious romantic appeal. Leigh Barker's band The New Sheiks are five snappily dressed young lads and one sassy lass, re-creating the sound of early jazz and blues. They dig up obscure songs from the American South, polish them up and make them sparkle with life.They also incorporate new tunes, dressed in vintage clothes but delivered with a playful nod to the now. A case in point from Friday's concert: Sex With My Ex, a mischievous update on the flagrantly suggestive blues tunes sung by Bessie Smith and others.
Singer Heather Stewart's ability to stretch phrases subtly over the bar line gives her vocals a seductive, slightly world-weary quality, and her fiddle playing contains echoes of old-time country and folk styles.
The rhythm section (Barker on bass, Matt Boden on upright piano and Sam Young on drums) imbues each tune with a buoyant swing that can be nudged into a strut or swagger, while Eamon McNelis and Don Stewart - on trumpet and trombone respectively - sound crisp, airy, jovial and mournful by turns.
The second set of Friday's show saw the Sheiks morph into the Melbourne Rhythm Project. Seven impossibly energetic dancers (led by Ramona Staffeld and Grant Swift) took to the floor, blending tap and lindy hop in choreographed routines and improvised solos that demonstrated - in irresistible fashion - the once inextricable links between jazz and dance.

Jessica Nicholas - THE AGE

Leigh Barker & The New Sheiks - The Sales Tax
Led by Melbourne bassist Leigh Barker, The New Sheiks is a splendid band that proudly specialises in a vintage form of jazz and blues that harks back to the early days of jazz, an era when the leading blues singers were formidable women like Bessie Smith, Mamie Smith and Victoria Spivey.

On this album, recorded variously live and in the studio, they all have great fun performing a variety of original songs and vintage classics. The latter include ‘Sales Tax’ and ‘Lonely One In This Town’ by the Mississippi Sheiks, Ellington’s ‘Come Sunday’ and ‘Creole Blues’, and a neat medley of Jelly Roll Morton’s ‘Jungle Blues’ and Robert Johnson’s ‘Love In Vain’. Impressive teamwork, lots of strong solos and vocals, plenty of fun.

By Adrian Jackson - Rhythms Magazine

"Early blues and jug band from a talented young violinist vocalist.
This is a refreshing new CD from Heather Stewart and her talented trio.  It is a bluesy, jug band sound, but with Heather out front singing in her Bessie Smith tinged vocals it has an extra dimension to it.

This is the first 12 track album from the Trio.  They have chosen to pursue a live-feel and it has given the CD an engaging vitality, a joy that is needed to succeed with jug band music.  The album features a some Jug Band classics such as "Sitting on Top of the World", "Deep Blue Sea" and of course "Get Your Fingers Off It". There are a couple Of Heather's compositions and they fit right in with the style of the rest of the CD. 
The Trio features Heather on violin, banjo-mandolin and vocals, plus Dan Dinnen (2009 BPOY winner) on guitar and harmonica and Danny McKenna on drums and percussion.  What I liked most about this CD is Heather's vocals and violin.  Female vocals and violin is not a combination you hear a lot of, and it makes a refreshing change. The vocals are strong but Heather has captured that longing that you will hear in Bessie Smith and Memphis Minnie.  I love the way Heather and the boys play this music with respect, they play the up tempo numbers with real verve and the slower numbers with great feeling."
Geoff Forbes, MBAS

"Heather Stewart was a big hit at The Juke Joint for the second year running in 2010.  A classically trained vocalist and violinist, Heather found her voice in earthy, old-time blues, and what a mighty sound it is! The combination of skill and passion in her playing had the room abuzz and made a very hard act to follow for Mojo Webb and Abbe May. Heather’s is a talent that will make you re-think everything you think you know about the blues, and the festival came to a raucous climax when she was let loose in a jam; a set that was undoubtedly the highlight of the weekend."
Chris Leese, Mojo Inc