Slam Stewart, c. 1946
|Leroy Elliott Stewart|
September 21, 1914|
Englewood, New Jersey, U.S.
|Died||December 10, 1987
Binghamton, New York
Leroy Eliot "Slam" Stewart (September 21, 1914 - December 10, 1987) was an African American jazz double bass player whose trademark style was his ability to bow the bass (arco) and simultaneously hum or sing an octave higher. He was a violinist before switching to bass at the age of 20.
Stewart was born in Englewood, New Jersey, on September 21, 1914, and began playing string bass while attending Dwight Morrow High School. While attending the Boston Conservatory, he heard Ray Perry singing along with his violin. This gave him the inspiration to follow suit with his bass. In 1937 Stewart teamed with Slim Gaillard to form the novelty jazz act Slim and Slam. The duo's biggest hit was "Flat Foot Floogie (with a Floy Floy)" in 1938.
Stewart found regular session work throughout the 1940s with Lester Young, Fats Waller, Coleman Hawkins, Erroll Garner, Art Tatum, Johnny Guarnieri, Red Norvo, Don Byas, Benny Goodman, and Beryl Booker. One of the most famous sessions he played on took place in 1945 when Stewart played with Dizzy Gillespie's group (which featured Charlie Parker). Out of those sessions came some of the classics of bebop such as "Groovin' High" and "Dizzy Atmosphere."
He taught at Binghamton University in Binghamton, New York, and at Yale University. He died on December 9, 1987 in Binghamton.
This sample highlights Slam Stewart's style of bowing and simultaneously singing/humming one octave higher. Stewart's solo picks up at the end of a Charlie Parker saxophone solo and leads into a trumpet solo by Dizzy Gillespie.
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