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Slam Stewart 

 

 

   Slam Stewart (left) with Major Holley  

 

 

 

Leroy "Slam" Stewart was the most recorded jazz bassists of the 1940s.  He was born September 21, 1914 in Englewood, New Jersey.  He started on violin but switched to bass, studying at Boston Conservatory.

Stewart, who had perfect pitch, mastered the technique of playing his solos with a bow while humming along simultaneously at an octave higher, which made him a very popular showman, and made him very famous in the jazz world.  He got his nickname from the percussive "slamming" sound his strings made when they hit the neck of his bass while plucking.

In 1937, he moved to New York and met Slim Gaillard.  Together they became very popular on radio and records.  Their song Flat Foot Floogie was a huge hit.  During the 1930s and 1940s he worked mostly in small groups, playing with Art Tatum, Lester Young, Benny Goodman, Charlie Parker, Dizzie Gillespie, and others.  He also led his own group which for a period featured the up-and-coming pianist Erroll Garner, and he performed a couple of stunning duets with tenor saxophonist Don Byas at a 1945 Town Hall concert.  He won many awards including Down Beat's Best Bassist of the Year (1945) and Berklee's Highest Achievement Honor Award. Although accepted as a pioneer on the bass, he didn't influence a large number of future bassists, because he was too difficult to emulate (Learn bass tabs from artists such as Leroy Stewart.)

In the 1950s, he played with Tatum, Roy Eldridge, and he regularly accompanied singer Rose Murphy. 

In the 1960s, he added classical music to his repertoire.  He frequently toured in the 1970s and 80s playing with a variety of artists, usually in mainstream jazz.  

Slam Stewart died in 1987.

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