Episode 24: Bill Stewart

Bill Stewart is one of the most creative  jazz drummers around today. Since moving to New York in 1989, he has been busy playing in groups with the likes of Joe Lovano, John Scofield, Maceo Parker, and Pat Metheny.

Soon after moving to New York, he connected with the piano player / organist Larry Goldings, and the guitarist Peter Bernstein. The three have been playing together ever since, recording a number of records under Goldings’ name, and recently as a cooperative band.

Stewart grew up in Iowa. Both of his parents were music teachers, and Bill was raised in a very musical house. Although he had a few local roll models and musicians to watch (many of them were friends of his dad’s) Bill’s early musical explorations happened largely alone. In our conversation, he talks about how he was a bit of an outsider in high school, in part because he was serious about jazz.

After a year of college in Iowa, Bill transferred to William Paterson College in New Jersey, where he came into contact with a number of teachers and fellow students who would help to define his future career. Most notably, he met saxophonist Joe Lovano.

I discovered Bill Stewart’s playing on a series of John Scofield records that were made in the early to mid 1990s, and I was deeply influenced by his sound, his independent and conversational approach to playing, and his deep grooving feel.

Here he talks about growing up in Iowa, finding his way into the music and out of the Midwest, the early days of his career in New York, his approach to playing and composing. And although it’s certainly not the primary focus of the interview, he does speak openly about being one of the few out gay jazz musicians on the scene today. 

Stream it here or download it from the iTunes Music Store.