‘L.A. Arteest Cafe’ is the final song (not counting several hidden bonus tracks) on Stew’s 2003 album Something Deeper Than These Changes. It’s a quirky, playful tune about an ill-fated trip to Los Angeles.
After a trio of winning solo albums and another few with his project The Negro Problem, Stew kind of fell of the map, at least in terms of album releases. He focused on his theater work, and found success with Passing Strange, which hit Broadway in 2008 and was captured on film by Spike Lee a year later.
It’s time for the next installment of my Decades series, wherein I dive into the albums from a certain year across four decades. It’s time to close out the 3’s. After covering 1973, 1983, and 1993, I’ll dedicate the next few weeks to 2003.
As always, I’ll start by counting down my favorite albums from the year, and then turn my attention to some of the critically-acclaimed records with which I’m less familiar.
Stew (stage name of Mark Stewart) is another of those oddball artists who don’t really fit well into any of my musical genome categories.
Both as a solo artist and with his band The Negro Problem, Stew has explored jazz, punk, avant garde and cabaret. He has written a couple of musicals, one of which (Passing Strange) became both a Tony-winning Broadway play and a Spike Lee movie. He’s really unlike anybody else I listen to.
In 2003, Stew released his third “solo” album, Something Deeper Than These Changes. This was the album that introduced me to him, just in time for him to not release another studio record for the next eight years. Fortunately I had the back catalog I’ve just finished exploring to occupy my time.
After this album, Stew turned his attention to writing and performing in an off-Broadway show titled Passing Strange, which received excellent reviews and was eventually filmed by Spike Lee. The soundtrack to the play culls from several of his previous albums and includes new material as well.
I’ve always disliked Valentine’s Day. It’s the ultimate commercial holiday, designed to do nothing more than sell flowers and candy. Fortunately my wife feels the same way.
And yet, two of the most significant moments in our lives took place on February 14. The first was our engagement. I asked Alex to marry me on Valentine’s Day of 1996, coincidentally for the most part. We had bought the engagement ring a few days earlier and had planned to dine out that night, so I dropped on one knee during a stroll on South Beach and popped the question.