Sweep The Leg Johnny’s Steve Sostak Dead At 49

Sweep The Leg Johnny’s Steve Sostak Dead At 49

Steve Sostak, the saxophonist and vocalist for Chicago-based indie/experimental projects such as Sweep The Leg Johnny, Check Engine, and ZZZZ, has died, Stereogum can confirm. He was 49.

Originally from Chicago, Sostak’s Facebook page had the performer currently living in Beijing. More recently, he co-founded Inspire Citizens, an organization “empowering diverse teachers and students toward impactful action.”

Coming up in the music scene, Sostak attended the University Of Notre Dame, where he met guitarist Chris Daly. The two performed in Check Engine between 1993 and 1994. Later, they relocated to Chicago, where they, drummer Scott Anna, and bassist Matt Alicea formed Sweep The Leg Johnny. The band released five albums (including a live album), beginning with 1997’s and leading up to 2002’s Going Down Swingin’.

After Sweep The Leg Johnny split up, Sostak and Swing Kids’ John Brady formed ZZZZ with Greg Sharp, the drummer of Tekulvi, and electric pianist Ellen Bunch. They’d perform shows with the likes of Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, Faun Fables, Skeleton Key, Cheer-Accident, William Elliott Whitmore, and TV On the Radio. Their debut full-length was 2005’s Palm Reader, which came out on Polyvinyl and featured production from John Congleton.

In November 2005, ZZZZ played their last show at Schuba’s in Chicago. Brady shared a note and a video to Facebook paying tribute to Sostak on February 5: “Wherever you are my friend, I hope you’re rocking it as hard as we did that night in London two decades ago.”

After ZZZZ, Sostak spent the next 14 years teaching in Chicago, Lima, Kuala Lumpur, and Beijing. As the co-director of Inspire Citizens, Sostak “coach[ed] diverse learners through designing media and global impact projects, helping spark educator and student passions to build community and problem solve in a challenging world.”

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