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.”