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Bill Stewart on playing with John Scofield



Drummer Bill Stewart discusses playing with John Scofield on their new recording, ‘Swallow Tales’.

When you really know the material and the musicians, good things can happen. Regarding ‘Swallow Tales’, John Scofield said he started playing the material with Steve Swallow in hotel rooms many, many years ago when they were out with Gary Burton. It’s a tremendous record, quickly rising up my personal favorite list. I checked in with Bill Stewart to get his take on the project.

Bob: The three of you know each other so well musically and personally… you have played together all over the world for decades. This collection of Steve’s songs is part of your collective musical DNA … Tell us about what it’s like for you to play on this project at this time with John and Steve.

Bill: Okay, Yeah it’s been great to play with John over many years… I think it was in the spring of 1990 that I first played with John… but it was part of a big band project… it was actually the first time the three of us played together… And then at another point, we did the record with Pat Metheny called “I Can See Your House from Here”. And then a few years after that, we started doing some trio tours in Europe and such. It’s always been a blast to play with those guys.

Just to, make music with them and also to be around them and hang out on the bus and talk about stuff (is great!) … And the three of us are three really different generations. I would say John was born in about 1951, Steve was born in 1937, I’m born in 1966. So there you go! So it’s really three different generations but somehow it doesn’t really feel that way… And as/if we’re talking or whatever I don’t really feel that, but interestingly as far as playing with them, I mean John is obviously a great guitarist and a great composer whose compositions I think are very connected to his guitar playing… But for this particular record, he wanted to Steve’s tunes which he admires so very much and I do as well… So I think that I can say as a composer myself, to play other people’s music feels different than playing your own… So sometimes you’re getting some other things (musically) as a result of playing other people’s music. The whole session was maybe done in I don’t know, probably six hours tops is my guess. And… it came out really nice.

Bob: It just jumps out at me that the three of you have obvious respect for each other… the level of interplay and weave going on in the harmony, melody, and dynamics is tremendous. Just the dynamic interplay alone is like nothing I’ve never heard… I just thought it was phenomenal.

Bill: That’s great, thanks!… one thing about the session and this record is there weren’t any real arrangements to speak of… and, not too much talking about what we’re gonna do… or even how we were gonna end on tunes. I think something’s happened in the studio on several of the tunes have sort of (improvised) many tunes were very interactive and extended… there were some unexpected things that happened in the studio just because it wasn’t very planned… and, it wasn’t very arranged… Well, that’s what I like. So I think it plays to our strengths as a trio because we’re very interactive and we like to keep it different every night. This sort of thing is what you get on the record and is what happens on one afternoon in the studio.


John Scofield Makes ECM Debut with Longtime Friend and Mentor Steve Swallow on ‘Swallow Tales’, Available Now!

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