Bill has been a professional drummer since 1959, and has performed with many jazz instrumentalists such as: Bill Evans, Dexter Gordon, Art Pepper, Jim Hall, George Shearing and Bobby Hutcherson, and singers such as June Christy, Joe Williams, Tony Bennett, Mose Allison and Manhattan Transfer. Joining the performing ensemble of vibraphonist Gary Burton brought him to the East Coast in 1969. Then worked with Steve Gilmore. He was also featured on Tom Waits' album Nighthawks at the Diner in 1975, and worked with Steely Dan during the mid-70's. We did an interview about all of his carrier and we especially ask him about The Cosmic Brotherhood LP. He was one of the members and recorded that legendary LP with Bill Plummer and others. That LP is especially »hot« for fans of eastern »hippie« vibe. Enjoy.
Hi Bill, thank you very much for taking your time to answer a few questions. In first part of our interview I would like to talk about the The Cosmic Brotherhood. What are some of the strongest memories from recording of that legendary LP and how did you actually got together to record this. I heard you were mostly a studio musicians on the record?
In LA in the mid sixties, there were two bands with overlapping personnel. The Paul Horn Quintet (w/ Plummer, Blessing, Lang and Goodwin) and The Jazz Corps (w/ Maurice Miller, Blessing and Plummer). All of us and the other Cosmic Brothers were a clique of working musicians with an interest in jazz, rock, and at that time, Indian music. The sitar was in demand for recording sessions that needed western music oriented players. Bass players seemed to have the adaptive skills to get some sitar chops together and get that work. None of us were full time studio musicians but one looked forward to getting called from time to time. (Mike Lang went on to a studio career that still continues). The recording band was our clique along with Carol Kaye a great record date player with jazz chops and Tom Scott an up and coming player about 10 years younger. We recorded again for Impulse (live at Dontes jazz club) but the label never released it. Bob Thiele produced both dates. We once opened for Timothy Leary at a college concert. He was very nice.
Your carrier is really amazing and you played with some of the most legendary jazz artists like Bill Evans, Dexter Gordon, Art Pepper, Jim Hall, George Shearing, Bobby Hutcherson and many others. What can you tell me about experince you had playing with these musicians?
I started working as a "pro" in 1959 with Charles Lloyd. Bobby Hutcherson was in that group. He was 18. I was17. By 19 I was playing with Shorty Rogers and Bud Shank as well as most of the younger set. LA had a lot of great players then, like Dexter and Joe Gordon, Harold Land, Leroy Vinnegar, Shelly Manne and on and on. I started traveling in 1963 with singer Milton Trenier (Ray Neapolitan was the bass player) after a year away, I returned and went to work with Howard Rumseys Lighthouse all-stars. And Art Pepper, Leroy Vinnegars Trio, Paul Horn The 4Preps the Mike Melvoin trio Gabor Szabo and in 1968 George Shearing.
Around 1969 you came to east coast with Gary Burton. What can you tell us about this?
I had known Gary Burton for a few years and followed his music and his band. I was with Shearing but it was no secret that I coveted Garys gig. Roy Haynes left the job and Gary called me. I joined on January 7, 1969. One day before my 27th birthday. I moved to NY, and about a year later to a small town in Pennsylvania. The band stayed busy for about 2 1/2 years then really slowed down. Gary broke us up in 1971 and went to teach at Berklee College, I freelanced in NY with many people (Gerry Mulligan, Al Cohn and Zoot Sims, Bob Dorough, Mose Allison, The National Jazz Ensemble, Stan Getz, even Benny Goodman!
Then in the mid 70's you and bassist Steve Gilmore met. You and Gilmore were both charter members of The Phil Woods Quartet joining at it's inception in February 1974…
In 1972 I took a job at a resort in the Pocono Mountains. Steve Gilmore was the bassist. We bonded and he became my first choice bass player. We played together in many situations successfully and when Phil Woods came to live in our community we started the original Quartet (Feb 12, 1974) Mike Mellillo was the pianist. By 1975 the band was touring constantly and recording for RCA.We won our first Grammy in 1976. I started producing our recordings in 1979. Steve and I still play in the (now) quintet.We also occasionally play with others. Steve lives in Florida now.
What happened after that for you?
Since the 70's I have been touring, playing, producing and for 13 years, teaching at William Paterson University.
What currently occupies your life?
I have a steady Thursday gig at the historic Deerhead Inn with my Quartet. I practice every day. Recently recorded with my old buddy Bob Dorough and will be recording live at the Deerhead with my band and Phil Woods as our guest in August.
Would you like to share anything else? Perhaps a message to It's Psychedelic Baby readers?
Thank you all for your interest and support for my long , slow but steady life in music.
Interview made by Klemen Breznikar / 2012
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