Rex studied piano and violin and dropped out of high school to become a member of the Ragtime Clowns led by Ollie Blackwell.

He was with the Musical Spillers led by Willie Lewis in the early 1920s, then with Elmer Snowden, Horace Henderson, Fletcher Henderson, Fess Williams, and McKinney’s Cotton Pickers as a cornetist.

In 1933 he led a big band at the Empire Ballroom in New York City.

From 1934-45, he was in the Duke Ellington Orchestra, co-writing  “Boy Meets Horn” and “Morning Glory” amongst others.

He supervised recording sessions by members of the Ellington band, then left to lead “little swing bands that were a perfect setting for his solo playing.”

He toured in Europe and Australia with from 1947 to 1951.


In the early 1950s, he worked in radio and television and wrote jazz criticism for the Los Angeles Times and DownBeat.

He hosted a jazz radio program in Troy, New York, and owned a small restaurant for a short time.. While living in France, he attended the Le Cordon Bleu school of cooking and dedicated his life to becoming a chef.

Stewart moved to Los Angeles, where he reunited with musicians from the Ellington band and played jam sessions in clubs. He was a studio musician for The Steve Allen Show and with George Cole he hosted two radio shows: Dixieland Doings and Things Aint What They Used to Be.

Stewart continued to be a witty lyric artist, as shown in The Big Challenge, a recording of sessions he and Cootie Williams led together in 1957.

Jazz Masters of the Thirties is a collection of articles he wrote as a jazz critic

He made a cameo appearance in the film Rendezvous in July (1949) directed by Jacques Becker. He also appeared in Hellzapoppin’ (1941) and The Sound of Jazz (1957) telecast.[2