Jazz guitarist Louis Stewart brought joy to many, funeral told

Musician of international stature had played with greats including Benny Goodman


Louis Stewart was a gentle, humble person whose life brought joy and consolation to many, his funeral was told on Tuesday.

Mourners for the jazz guitarist, who died last weekend at the age of 72, included President Michael D Higgins, who offered his condolences to the musician’s widow, Elizabeth, and the rest of the Stewart family before Requiem Mass in the Church of the Holy Spirit in Greenhills, Dublin.

Ireland’s first jazz musician to achieve international stature, Stewart played with many greats, including legendary US bandleader Benny Goodman.

Acclaimed albums

During the 1970s he was a regular performer in Ronnie Scott’s famous Soho club and, over the course of more than 50 years, released many acclaimed albums and was widely hailed by some of the world’s foremost jazz musicians.

Fr Raphael Annan told the congregation that Stewart “brought joy to many through his music and through the respect he gave to every person”.

Symbols of Stewart’s life and art, including a set of guitar strings, his tuning fork and a box-set of Alastair Sim films, which his daughter Grainne said showed “his great sense of humour and love of all the arts”, were brought to the altar by family members.

“He devoted his life to his passion, music, and was fortunate enough to work alongside people he considered as heroes,” said Stewart’s son, Tony, who thanked the medical staff at St James’s Hospital and Our Lady’s Hospice, Harold’s Cross, who had cared for his father in his final months.

‘Surprise me’

He said his “wonderful father” was renowned for his sense of humour and had never lost that during his illness. “I asked him about his preference for burial or cremation,” he recalled. “He said, ‘Surprise me’.”

Other mourners included broadcasters Gay Byrne and Mike Murphy, actors Eamonn Morrissey, Ronan Wilmot and Garret Keogh, and musicians including John Sheahan and Eamonn Campbell of the Dubliners.

An ensemble led by pianist Jim Doherty, Stewart’s great friend and closest musical collaborator, and including Brian Dunning, Dave Fleming and Myles Drennan, played a number of pieces, including Doherty’s own The Gentle Rain (“If it had been a fine day, I was going to play Indian Summer,” said the pianist), Lament by Brian Dunning and When Two People Meet, also by Doherty.

Just Friends

Two standards, Here’s That Rainy Day and We’ll Be Together Again, were sung respectively by Sean Hession and Honor Heffernan, and the ceremony concluded with what Doherty described as “an old favourite of Louis’s”, Just Friends.

Cremation following the funeral Mass took place at Mount Jerome Cemetery in Harold’s Cross.