Bill Stewart (musician)
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|Birth name||William Harris Stewart|
18 October 1966 |
Des Moines, Iowa United States
|Associated acts||Maceo Parker, John Scofield, Lee Konitz, Michael Brecker, Pat Metheny, Joe Lovano|
|Website||Bill Stewart at Drummerworld|
William Harris "Bill" Stewart (born October 18, 1966, Des Moines, Iowa) is an American jazz drummer. Stewart is a versatile player who has performed with a broad array of musicians, from Maceo Parker to Jim Hall. He is also an active composer, whose tunes, which might be categorized as "postmodern" jazz tunes, appear on his, and others' records.
Stewart grew up in Des Moines, Iowa listening to his parents' jazz and rhythm and blues records without much exposure to live jazz in the then relatively isolated state of Iowa. The largely self-taught drummer began playing at the age of seven. While in high school, he played in a Top 40 cover band and the school orchestra, and went to a summer music camp at Stanford Jazz Workshop, where he met jazz legend Dizzy Gillespie. After high school graduation, Stewart attended the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, Iowa, playing in the jazz and marching bands as well as the orchestra. He then transferred to William Paterson University (then William Paterson College), where he played in ensembles directed by Rufus Reid, studied drums with Eliot Zigmund and Horacee Arnold and took composition lessons from Dave Samuels. The young drummer met future employer Joe Lovano while still in college (the two played duets in lieu of a drum lesson when Zigmund was away). Stewart also made his first recordings, with saxophonist Scott Kreitzer, and pianist Armen Donelian, while still in school, and with pianist Franck Amsallem (and Gary Peacock on bass) shortly thereafter, in 1990.
After college, Stewart moved to New York where he quickly built his reputation, first gaining wider recognition in John Scofield's quartet and in a trio with Larry Goldings and Peter Bernstein, which has become the longest-running group Stewart has played with, having begun in 1989 and continuing to this day, however infrequently the group may be found in performance. Stewart's musical horizons expanded when funk saxophonist Maceo Parker tapped the budding drummer upon seeing him with Larry Goldings at a regular gig at a club in Manhattan. Stewart worked with Parker from 1990 to 1991, touring and recording on three of Parker's albums. The association led to Stewart's gig with James Brown, who told Stewart that there "Ain't no funk in Iowa!" upon learning the drummer's roots. Another close associate is pianist Kevin Hays, with whom he performs, along with fellow WPC graduate, bassist Doug Weiss. The Kevin Hays trio has recorded five CDs and toured internationally. Musical associations with Lee Konitz, Michael Brecker, Pat Metheny and many other notable jazz musicians have followed.
Musical style 
As a drummer, Bill Stewart's playing is distinguished by its melodic focus, and its polyrhythmic, or layered character. To describe someone's drumming style as "melodic" would mean there is a sense that you could "hum along" with discernible linear phrases which tell pieces of a story, akin to a vocalist, pianist, or saxophonist. Stewart's improvisations favor the development and layering of motivic ideas over the raw generation of excitement or display of technical prowess. Stewart has great touch, or dynamic precision, so that his ideas are articulated with an exactness and clarity. He has also achieved a very high degree of independence of his limbs, so that not only the ride cymbal and the snare/toms, but also the bass drum and hi-hat, are free to participate as melodic "first-class citizens." His drumming bears the influence of various melodic drummers who preceded him, including Max Roach, Art Blakey, Roy Haynes, Tony Williams, Jack DeJohnette and Al Foster.
As a composer, Bill Stewart is forward-looking, and seems not to want to repeat what others have already accomplished. In other words, his tunes have a bit of an avant-garde flavor. The melodies, harmonies, phrase lengths, and measure lengths are often altered so as not to conform too closely to traditional jazz language. Some of his tunes (such as "Mayberry") also feature a built-in "free blowing" section, surrounded by a composed "head" (in the case of "Mayberry", a parody of the theme song of the Andy Griffith Show.) The concept of "Mayberry" may have been borrowed from Stewart's long-time collaborator John Scofield, who has written many tunes of the same general shape.
Stewart, for the most part, plays holding his sticks in a "matched" grip. This is in contrast to many contemporaries that prefer the "traditional" grip.
As a leader 
Stewart has a considerable output as a leader, beginning with 1989's Think Before You Think, with bassist Dave Holland, pianist Marc Copland, and saxophonist Joe Lovano, on which the drummer led a session of originals and standards, including one of his own compositions.
In his next outing as a leader, Stewart assembled trumpeter Eddie Henderson, saxophonist Lovano, pianist Bill Carrothers and bassist Larry Grenadier for an entire record of Stewart compositions, Snide Remarks, which was chosen as one of the top ten jazz CDs of the year by Peter Watrous of the New York Times.
In 2005, the Bill Stewart Trio, with Kevin Hays and Larry Goldings, released Keynote Speakers. The ensemble is a twist on the usual organ-guitar-drum trio, where a second keyboard (variously piano, Fender Rhodes, and other keyboard instruments) is added to the organ-drum foundation. In December 2006 he recorded Incandescence with the same trio.
Stewart's recordings all have a certain blend of playfulness and mystery propelled by his drumming and melodic and rhythmic compositional style. Stewart has said that he thinks it very important to find an interesting combination of musicians whose abilities will complement each other and who will sound at home on the compositions slated for the given session.
Stewart recently completed a creative collaboration with the Avedis Zildjian Company in developing the Special Dry Complex Ride cymbal, which is meant to replicate the sound of an old K. Zildjian cymbal Stewart has had for a long time. Stewart says of the new cymbals, "[They] are very pretty, yet can be very nasty."
|This section requires expansion. (July 2011)|
- Joe Lovano: Landmarks (Blue Note, 1990)
- John Scofield: Meant to Be (Blue Note, 1991)
- Seamus Blake: The Call (1993)
- Walt Weiskopf: A World Away (Criss Cross Records, 1993)
- John Scofield: Handjive (Blue Note, 1994)
- John Scofield and Pat Metheny: I Can See Your House From Here (Blue Note, 1994)
- Onder Focan: Beneath the Stars (EMI Turkey/Blue Note, 1997)
- Bill Stewart: Telepathy (1997)
- Peter Bernstein: Earth Tones (1998)
- Pat Metheny: Trio 99_00 (Warner Bros., 2000)
- Jesse van Ruller: Circles (2003)
- Peter Bernstein: Heart's Content (2003)
- Stan Sulzmann: Jigsaw (Basho 2004)()
- Jonathan Kreisberg: Nine Stories Wide (2004)
- John Scofield: EnRoute: John Scofield Trio LIVE (Verve, 2004)
- Tim Hagans: Beautyful Lily (2005)
- David Kikosi: Limits (2006)
- Jesse van Ruller: Views (2006)
- Bill Stewart: Think Before You Think (Evidence, 2006) with Joe Lovano, Marc Cohen, Dave Holland
- John Scofield: This Meets That (Emarcy / UMGD, 2007)
- Adam Rogers: Time and the Infinite (2008)
- Bill Carrothers: Home Row (2008)
- Bill Stewart: Incandescence (Pirouet Records, 2008) with Larry Goldings, Kevin Hays
- Marc Copland: Night Whispers - New York Trio Recordings Vol. 3 (Pirouet Records, 2009)
- Seamus Blake: Bellwether (2009)
- Bill Carrothers: Joy Spring (Pirouet Records, 2010)
- Drummerworld - Bill Stewart's Drummerworld Page
- 2002 AllAboutJazz - 2002 Interview with Bill Stewart on AllAboutJazz.com
- Bill Stewart discography at MusicBrainz