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Guitar-playing judge has local ties

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POSTED: August 5, 2012 2:00 p.m.
Photo courtesy of Bennett Studios/

Pembroke native Jay Stewart dons a judges robe by day and a Fender Stratocaster by night. His first CD is titled “Enjoy the Ride.”

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By day, he dons his judge’s robe and pounds his gavel when need be as a superior court judge in the Atlantic judicial circuit.

It is a role that Jay Stewart takes seriously. But after 5 p.m., Stewart can be found in his blue jeans, his favorite T-shirt or button-down with the sleeves rolled up, hands on his guitar strumming acoustic medleys or popping out a variety of sounds on his electric guitar.

He received his Juris Doctor from the Walter F. George School of Law at Mercer University and also graduated from the National Judicial College in Reno, Nev.; was an assistant district attorney in the Atlantic Judicial Circuit, where he prosecuted felony crimes; and was a partner in the law firm of Brown, Rountree and Stewart P.C. in Statesboro. His achievements in law include Stewart was instrumental in the implementation of the first Drug Court Division of the Superior Courts of the Atlantic Judicial Circuit.

This year, Stewart released his first CD, “Enjoy the Ride,” which is available on iTunes, Amazon and through his website, jaystewartguitar.com.

A native of Pembroke, Stewart grew up around Claxton. It was there at the age of 6 that he first picked up a guitar. His mom had been teaching piano for years and his dad played guitar.

“My dad bought a guitar later and told my sister, brother and I that whomever learned it would get a nicer guitar,” Stewart said. “They were not as interested as I was in it, so I got the guitar.”

Stewart has played guitar with Gregg Allman and considers the rock legend a friend. Allman gave “Enjoy the Ride” this endorsement: “This is music that people should hear.”

Upon finding out that the CD had been released, even though it had been almost two years since I spoke with the judge, I shot him an email, and he quickly emailed back. A few weeks later, he sent me a review copy of “Enjoy the Ride.”

This full-length debut CD of Jay’s is full of emotion-building, head-bobbing, just plain good music. “Enjoy the Ride” could be compared to a beautiful, stained-glass mosaic; each piece shines with different color and shape, but together the mosaic leaves a lasting impression.

Humbled by the compliments and happy as a new father hearing how sweet his “baby” is, Stewart said, “Being able to do the CD has been a long time in the making.” Following the styles of some of his favorite rock, blues and jazz influences — like B.B. King, Duane Allman, Larry Carlton and local guitarist Buddy Owens — Stewart’s debut CD alludes to the potential of more to come.

And it depends on how “Enjoy the Ride” goes. Stewart said the CD came about in 2011, when he struck up a conversation with Jason Miles, a music producer who worked with Luther Vandross and was a keyboardist for Miles Davis.

Once it was decided that this would be a venture both were willing to take, with Miles offering to help write the songs, Stewart, in his studio in Evans County, and Miles, in his studio in New Jersey, started work. Most of the songwriting was done via the Internet.

“I would send him what I had worked on, and he would add to it, and send it back to me, and that is how it went on until we finally came together in the middle of June 2011 in Englewood, N.J.,” Stewart said. “The musicians had a rough idea of what each song was going to sound like because they had the MP3.”

“We recorded seven of the songs in one day … That was a long day,” Stewart said, adding it was a fun day.

Miles brought in bassist Neil Jason — who has worked with John Lennon, Paul McCartney and Cyndi Lauper — to work on the CD. Drummer Brian Dunne, who played with Hall and Oates and Chuck Loeb, joined in the party. Others who helped include famed saxophonist and recording artist David Mann, contemporary jazz trumpeter Cindy Bradley, conguero Jimmy Brawloer and trumpeter Barry Danielan. Mike Mattison for the Grammy-winning Derek Trucks Band sings lead on one of the tracks.

With such a mixture of artists, combined with the talents of the pens of Stewart and Miles, it is no wonder the album hit No. 28 on the jazz charts.

“Other lawyers and judges I know play golf … I play the guitar,” Stewart said.

And he plays it well.

Go to www.jaystewartguitar.com for more details about “Enjoy the Ride.” To purchase or download the CD, search at itunes.apple.com, Amazon.com or to cdbaby.com.

Holland is the editor of the news site tricountymonitor.net. She can be reached at tcmeditor@bellsouth.net.

 

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