Moab Happenings Archive
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Artist of the Month - January 2008

Moab’s Music Man
by Annabelle Numaguchi

Dave StewardMy first encounter with Dave Steward, guitarist and vocalist of many genres, dates back eight years ago, just before I officially moved to Moab. I was looking for someone to play at my impending wedding, and whenever I asked anyone in town to recommend a musician, Dave’s name kept coming up. Unfortunately, his contact information was less easy to find, and in true Moab-style, my only hope was to leave messages at the co-op. We never connected at that time, and we settled for recorded music at our wedding celebration. My husband, Gen, an accomplished jazz trumpeter, did play two unaccompanied songs for me. This introduction, or lack of, to Dave amuses me today since he and Gen currently play jazz duets together on a weekly basis.

Through the winter, this duo can be found nearly every Sunday morning at Arches Book Company playing old jazz standards, such as “Ain’t Misbehavin’” and “Someone to Watch Over Me”. These two musicians are classic Moab finds, whose talents far exceed their renown and the level of playing one would expect to find in a small, rural town in southern Utah.

When people recommended Dave to me eight years ago, I had no idea what to expect, and after failing to get a response from him, my expectations probably took a turn for the worse. I figured he was probably either arrogant or not particularly talented, or perhaps both. Now that I’ve both heard his music and met him, how far from the truth my expectations were.

Apart from being a genuine, unassuming person whose pleasant to converse with, Dave is an accomplished guitarist in a variety of genres, from rock to country, from classical to jazz. He says with a wry smile that “I’m mediocre in a lot of things,” but, in fact, he is very adept at all.

He clearly has a passion for music, but his beginnings in the art were less than illustrious. He began taking guitar lessons at the age of seven, but his teacher soon forced him to quit because he wouldn’t practice. Perhaps this was the greatest lesson of all, since once he took up the guitar again at ten years old, he continued playing.

His first forays into both playing the guitar and singing were in rock-and-roll, and that is still the genre that primarily defines him as a musician. Having grown up looking up to singers like David Cassidy and Donny Osmond, Dave has been in various rock groups since the seventh grade.

In Moab, he helped found The Remnants, who self-produced a CD available at Sgt. Peppers Music, and the Space Cowboys. Providing vocals and guitar, Dave’s bands were playing at The Rio since the late ‘80s until a few years ago.

In 2002, he became a member of the Bar-M Chuckwagon group, dressing up as a gunfighter and performing old country ballads. The transition to this phase was serendipitous enough and fits into the traditional Moab story. Because artistic opportunities are somewhat limited in a small town, one takes what one can get, and the unexpected occurs.

River companies were being asked to provide a singing cowboy for entertainment by overseas tourists who came with preconceived notions of The West. Although Dave sported dreadlocks down to his waist, his musical talents were well-recognized and he played for outfits like Tagalong and Adrift Adventures. These performances provided the segue into country music and a permanent gig with Bar-M, which lasted four seasons.

Having always been interested in a diversity of genres, Dave had dabbled in jazz and classical guitar beginning in high school. Finding the theory of jazz demanding, he soon lost interest in playing it, but did pursue an interest in Classical, really “sinking my teeth into Bach Suites,” as he puts it. He also spent a year in Hollywood studying at the Guitar Institute of Technology, which probably helped solidify his understanding of musical theory.

Because jazz is so much about bending the rules with improvisation, it requires knowing the rules, or theory, pretty comfortably. Dave’s forays into Classical ripened his abilities to go back to playing jazz when the opportunity came up to form the Moab Jazz Quintet. When that group disbanded a couple of years later, he hooked up with Gen, who had spent the last five years playing jazz standards in town with another guitarist. Dave also sings, adding his soulful voice to the guitar and trumpet duets. The duo can be found enlivening Sunday mornings at the local book/coffee shop, Arches Book Company, and find opportunities to perform at private functions.

If Dave were not so attached to this small community, his talents would have probably taken him far, both in geography and success. Fortunately for music lovers in Moab, he has stuck close to his adopted home. Though he still gets the jitters before any performance, he takes any opportunity he gets, resulting in a diversity of venues that include smoky bars, the great outdoors and cozy coffeeshops. The variety of places is only outpaced by the diversity of styles Dave plays.

If someone were to ask me today whom I would recommend to play at his or her wedding, I’d happily provide Dave’s name, and fortunately, some concrete contact information. I understand why his name kept popping up when I was looking for a musician, and when I listen to him play, I still regret that I didn’t locate him before my nuptials (the only regret I have about that day). On the other hand, I’m leaning towards throwing another party to celebrate keeping our vows, and this time I’d be sure to engage Dave, and his partner too.

If you would like to contact Dave Steward, he can be (easily) reached at (435) 259-1643, or you can catch him playing and singing jazz duets with Gen on trumpet at Arches Book Company (78 N. Main Street) most Sunday mornings, from 10:00 a.m. to noon.

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