Born: September 21, 1914 | Died: December 10, 1987 Primary Instrument: Bass
Slam Stewart was a superior swing-oriented bassist whose ability to bow the bass and hum an octave apart made him famous in the jazz world. He had thought of the idea while studying at Boston Conservatory when he heard Ray Perry singing along with his violin.
In 1936, Stewart was with Peanuts Holland's group and the following year he started playing regularly with guitarist/singer/comedian Slim Gaillard in a group logically dubbed Slim and Slam. Flat Foot Floogie became a huge hit and kept the group working through the early '40s.
After leaving Gaillard, Stewart was in great demand. He played with Art Tatum's trio, was featured on records with the Benny Goodman Sextet, Red Norvo (a famous session with Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie), and Lester Young (a classic rendition of Sometimes I'm Happy), and led his own group which for a period featured the up-and-coming pianist Erroll Garner.
Stewart performed a couple of stunning duets with tenor saxophonist Don Byas at a 1945 Town Hall concert and later worked with Billy Taylor, Roy Eldridge, the Newport All- Stars, and a countless number of other jazz greats. He even recorded two albums with bassist Major Holley (who also bowed and hummed but in unison).
In the 1950s and 1960s he played with Beryl Booker and Rose Murphy, recording some singles with both and a duet album with Murphy. The 1970s brought Slam, and other famous swing-era musicians, to Europe where he toured and recorded several albums as a leader and as a sideman for Black & Blue Records in France (most of which have been re-released on CD). Slam also recorded with Bucky Pizzarelli in the 1970s and on Slam's final album in 1987, released as a benefit for the Sertoma club.