Welcome to my tributepage to
the most musical drummer on the scene today:
Stewart, Bill b. 18 October 1966, Des Moines, Iowa, USA.
Percussionist Bill Stewart made his name as the rhythmic force behind guitarist John Scofield 's band, working with him for five years between 1990 and 1995. Self-taught on drums, Stewart is also a capable pianist, the instrument on which he composes.
He grew up listening to his parents' jazz and R&B record collection, but otherwise jazz was a rare commodity in Iowa in the 70s and he played in a Top 40 covers band in high school as well as the school orchestra.
After graduating he enrolled at the University Of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, playing in the jazz and marching bands as well as the orchestra. He then transferred to college in Wayne, New Jersey, where he studied with Dave Samuels, Rufus Reid and Harold Mabern.
It was here that he met future collaborator, saxophonist Joe Lovano. While still in college he made his recording debut with saxophonist Scott Kreitzer and recorded two further collections with pianist Armen Donelian. After graduation in 1988 he moved to Brooklyn, New York, where he set up home.
There he began the slow process of establishing his reputation by regular appearances at jam sessions and by word of mouth, leading to his first gigs with the Larry Goldings trio.
At one of their regular sessions at Augie's Club in Manhattan, Maceo Parker attended and invited him to contribute to a forthcoming recording date (for Roots Revisited ). Afterwards he was invited to join Scofield's band, which also included Lovano, who has featured on both of Stewart's solo albums to date.
The first, Think Before You Think, was issued on the Japanese label Jazz City and featured Dave Holland on bass and Marc Copland on piano in addition to Lovano. The second, Snide Remarks, featured pianist Bill Carrothers, trumpeter Eddie Henderson and bassist Larry Grenadier. This boasted nine original Stewart compositions, highlighting a sophisticated compositional technique that Lovano once analogized as being that of 'a melody player within the concept of rhythm'.
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John Scofield,Pat Metheny,James Brown,Larry Goldings,Peter Bernstein,Joe Lovano,Scott Kreitzer,Maceo Parker,Tim Hagans,Andy LaVerne,Steve LaSpina,Lee Konitz,Marc Copland,Don Grolnick,Fred Wesley,Ron McClure,Shamus Blake,Kevin Hays,Armen Donelian,Larry Grenadier,Bill Carrothers,Steve Wilson,Semus Blake,Michael Brecker.....and many more
Of all the young drummers to come on the scene in the last ten years, jazz has been blessed with a few who take the drums and create an environment that fosters mystery, personal expression and a fair amount of wit. Twenty-eight-year-old Bill Stewart is a part of that group.
How can a drummer be so influental on those around him? Seeing and hearing Bill Stewart reminds one that jazz is first of all a listening music. He draws you in with his magic carpet ride, floating over the music one minute, punctuating the next. In other words, he makes his moments count even as he carries those around him, at times there but almost not there. The last bunch of albums by John Scofield, Bill’s most recent employer, can be heard as a vivid example group interplay as the guitarist, bassist Dennis Irwin and (depending on the recording) saxophonists Joe Lovano or Eddie Harris, and keyboardist Larry Goldings are held together by Bill’s distinctive glue much in the tradition of a swinging Jack DeJohnette, a lightning-quick Roy Haynes, an idiosyncratic Ed Blackwell, inspirations all.
Speaking of influences, Bill’s respect and adoration goes out to a number of other drummers, including Philly Joe Jones, Elvin Jones, and early Tony Williams. No doubt, they’ve shared what might be heard as Bill’s enlarged notion of what their craft is: namely, that they are musicians first, drummers and percussionists second.
This makes perfect sense when considering the present collection of music, all written and arranged by Stewart. His second album as a leader (the first being 1989’s Think before you think for Jazz City Records featuring Joe Lovano, Dave Holland and Marc Copland), Snide Remarks is a showcase for top-notch drumming but also arranging and composing as well. On hand to amplify his musical persona are Lovano, trumpeter Eddie Henderson, pianist Bill Carrothers, and bassist Larry Grenadier. “I’ve played with them all in other situations, and enjoyed them,” says Bill about his choise of musicians for the album. “This makes it more like a band. I thought it would be good to bring some of these guys together who hadn’t played as a group before. As for the material, five tunes were already written, four within the group in mind; some were changed afterwards”.
While the music is frequently patterned around straight-ahead rhythms of various tempos, it’s the way the music is set up and executed that makes this album jump at you. The closer, for example, “4:30 A.M.,” is a strange way to go out, what with its haunting, somber mood, suggesting a kind of ode to the Prince of Darkness, Miles Davis, circa 1967. But then there’s “Fred and Ginger”, a bright playful nod to the famous dancers of the same name, titled after this 5/4 piece’s dancing imagery struck Bill. And, of course, there’s the loping, hard-swinger “Mayberry”. Bill’s wacky salute to the town of Andy, Barney and Opie. Some tunes, line the unadorned “7.5”, derive their title simply because the music’s duration is 7.5 measures. While everyone plays great, Lovano and trumpet great Eddie Henderson turn in outstanding performances, especially tailoring their playing to meet Bill’s needs.
Recorded in two days, the leader’s fingerprints are all over it. As session producer Bob Belden puts it, “there’s a consistency to the sound of Bill Stewart on every date he’s on. As a leader, as a sideman, he is there 100 percent.” Getting back to the pull great drummers have on a band, Belden, who’s worked with some of the best, notes, “You realize how much he shapes the sound of each recording he’s on. Some musicians in sideman roles, they tend to want to portray a different facet of their musical persona. For example, DeJohnette has a different side to him that surfaces on his own records; Tony Williams is the same way. Bill is of the newer generation that has loosened up the role playing, so what you hear on a Bill Stewart record is that sound that doesn’t change from record to record. He’s searching, but to make the music happen at the moment as opposed to trying to create a preconceived notion of what the music should be.”
“This album is very representative of me as a composer,” Bill explains. “As a drummer it’s probably half the pie!” And whlie his ’89 album included just one tune of his, Snide Remarks is Bill Stewart from start to finish. In fact, there’s some serious classical backbone to this music. For example, as Bill says, “Snide Remarks was written on a scale that Messiaen uses a lot, a third mode of limited transpotions with a scale based on an augmented triad.” Other influences? “Bartok, Brahms, Stravinsky, Ravel, Monk, Shorter, Andrew Hill, Ellington, Strayhorn and Ornette Coleman.”
As for the playing side of Bill, credits include backing up, among others, John Scofield, Maceo Parler, Kevin Hays, Lee Konitz, James Moody, James Brown “I’d like to have him listed!”), Jim Hall, Charlie Haden’s Liberation Orchestra, Marc Copland and Larry Goldings. Bill Stewart has emerged big-time as an in-demand drummer with a sound. No wonder. As producer/musician Belden proclaims, “There’s a reason he’s so sough after: he’s focused and spreads good vibes. You’re riding on a cushion, you’re swingin’ when you’re playing with Bill. That’s what guys want. If there’s a cushion there, you’re in. They want that “thing” there, and Bill Stewart has it!”
Bill’s contribution-list is tremendous. For the full list, click here.
I bring you a shorter one:
John Scofield Hand Jive
Meant to be
What we do
John Scofield and
Pat Metheny I can see your house from here
Pat Metheny Trio 99 -> 00
Michael Brecker Time is of the essence
Larry Goldings Whatever it takes
Joe Lovano Landmarks
Bill Carrothers Duets with Bill Stewart
Maceo Parker Roots revisited
Lee Konitz Zounds
Marc Copland All blues at night
Bill Stewart Think before you think
Here’s what Bill listened to for inspiration in 1996:
Artist Title Drummer
Chick Corea Trio Music Roy Haynes
McCoy Tyner The Real McCoy Elvin Jones
Miles Davis Milestones Philly Joe Jones
Keith Jarrett Standards Live Jack DeJohnette
Dewey Redman & Ed Blackwell Red and Black Ed Blackman
Ornette Coleman In All Languages Billy Higgins
Miles Davis Nefertiti Tony Williams
Johnny Hammond Smith Black Feeling Bernard Purdie
Wayne Shorter Et Cetera Joe Chambers
Jo Jones Jo Jones Trio Jo Jones
James Brown Motherlode Clyde Stbblefield
Mustapha Tettey Addy Les Percussions Du Ghana Various
LINKS 2 RELATED BILL STEWART-PAGES:
If you want to buy his DCI-video, click here!
THIS PAGE IS MADE BY ANDERS DAMAAS!
Thanks to Modern Drummer for having interviews with him.