Born: November 9, 1942 Primary Instrument: Drums
Bill Elgart, often credited as Billy Elgart is one of many American jazz musicians who have settled in Europe. Quite often based out of Munich, Elgart's credits include appearances on some choice Paul Bley records, an appropriate bandleader to bring up in this context as he has in his own biographical writings explained what has come to be known as the Bley test for American jazz musicians trying to settle in Europe. Whether or not Elgart was able to pass this test, he seems to have successfully replaced Paul Motian in Bley's band in the early 70's, and jazz listeners have the opportunity to directly compare the two drummers on several albums on which they both appear, including the early ECM release Paul Bley With Gary Peacock as well as the album Turning Point, good enough to be released by both the Improvising Artists and Steeplechase labels and also highlighting a rare appearance by tenor saxophonist John Gilmore outside the interplanetary confines of the Sun Ra Arkestra. Elgart has also collaborated with vibraphonist, pianist, composer and bandleader Karl Berger, appearing on that artist's return to recording following a hiatus, No Man Is An Island on the Knit Classics label.
European musicians seem fond of having Elgart around, as he has appeared in a steady series of interesting bands through the 80's and 90's, with no signs of letting up. He will frequently have a superb rhythm section partner, such as Dave Holland on recordings with trumpeter Kenny Wheeler, or fine bassists such as Ed Schuller and Wayne Darling.
Elgart performs frequently in these different contexts and, also presents workshops for drummers all over Europe as well as giving private instruction. With the South African bassist Carlo Mombelli, the drummer played time feels both funky and free in the intriguing Zollsound 4, backing up a twin horn, piano-less line- up featuring alto saxophonist Lee Konitz and baritone saxophonist Thomas Zoller. From 1982 through 1990 he was a member of the Sundial trio fronted by guitarist Peter O'Mara, which recorded three albums and toured with Wheeler as a guest. In 1991 Elgart began working in the Caoma band, founded by tenor and soprano saxophonist Sigi Finkel and also featuring Schuller and Polish trumpeter Tomasz Stanko. The latter artist also played with Elgart in a quartet under the leadership of Vlatko Kucan.
Source: Eugene Chadbourne