Bill Ware’s most prominent and enduring band relationship began in 1987 when he joined saxophonist Roy Nathanson, trombonist Curtis Fowlkes, and guitarist Marc Ribot as a charter member of the internationally renowned seven member jazz group, The Jazz Passengers. Bill's role in the Jazz Passengers exceeds that of a virtuosic vibraphonist and rhythm section player - as he has served the band for decades as arranger, composer, librarian and more....
In 1989, Bob Blumenthal wrote in the Boston Globe, "The seven piece Passengers often suggest a perverse mainstream band, a hard-bop group as imagined by Frank Zappa." The group emphasizes vocal based composition, featuring singers from Blondie star Deborah Harry, Elvis Costello, Mavis Staples, Jimmy Scott and Bob Dorough, to name a few. Throughout the course of their ensemble, the Jazz Passengers have toured the world extensively, including the US, Europe and Asia.
In 2010 after a 10 year hiatus, the group reassembled for their 2010 comeback release “Reunited.” The new release brought on an acclaimed appearance at the 2010 Saalfelden Jazz Festival in Austria, sets at NYC's Jazz Standard in October, 2010 and May 2011, a European tour in April 2011 and a performance of Imitation of a Kiss at the Gateshead International Jazz Festival with the Northern Sinfonia Orchestra. This summer they appeared at the Rochester Jazz Festival, and are planning a California tour for October 2011.
In 1997, the Jazz Passengers’ rhythm section (Bill, Brad, and E.J.) needed a forum to cut loose from the tightly composed arrangements of the Passengers. They found their outlet every Wednesday night at the Knitting Factory Tap Room's "Late Night Hang,” with dark, pulsating jazz- funk sounds under the banner "JP trio" (which later changed to "Vibes"). Vibes debuted on record in 1998 on a Knitting Factory album of the same name, and then followed with three more recordings, “With Drawn” (Knitting Factory Records - 1999), “Liebe Tunina” (Knitting Factory Records - 2000), and “Four” (Knitting Factory Records - 2001). Bill continues to lead the group in trio and quartet format today with an impressive roster of NYC downtown players, regularly appearing at Puppet’s Jazz Bar in Park Slope, Brooklyn.
Rez Abbasi Acoustic Quartet
The Rez Abbasi Acoustic Quartet (RAAQ) is a stunning exploration of the textural cascades created between Rez Abbasi’s acoustic guitar playing and Bill Ware's multi-faceted vibraphone playing. Abbasi fills out the quartet with bassist Stephan Crump (Vijay Iyer Trio), and drummer Eric McPherson (Andrew Hill). Through RAAQ, Abbasi features his own compositions alongside “gems from other composers that are rarely heard today.” The quartet’s first release, “Natural Selection” (Sunnyside 2010) captures the profound sensitivity of the ensemble as it twists and turns throughout the set, with compositions such as Abbasi’s “Up On The Hill” (dedicated to pianist, Andrew Hill), Keith Jarrett’s “Personal Mountains”, and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s “Lament”. Natural Selection earned 4 stars in Downbeat and was voted one of the Best Albums of the Year from the well respected, Jazz Journalists Association. The renowned jazz impresario, George Wein, heard RAAQ at the 2010 New York Winter Jazz Fest and subsequently invited them to perform at the 2010 the Newport Jazz Festival.
In February 2015 RAAQ released "Intents and Purposes", where the group showcases captivating acoustic renditions of electrically charged jazz-rock classics from Weather Report, Return To Forever, Herbie Hancock, Mahavishnu and more! Available on Amazon.
Rez Abbasi says about RAAQ: "The blend of the acoustic guitar with vibraphone is one I've envisioned for years and that I've not heard so far on other recordings. It offered me a fresh perspective from which to write the music for this album. During the compositional process, I was conscious of magnifying the group's unique chamber-like sound while retaining the essence and subtleties of each player's unique voice. In addition, it was important that the acoustic guitar not only be featured on ballads, as it often is, but also engaged in a variety of settings as a viable front line instrument."
Marc Ribot, Really The Blues
In 2011, the JP rhythm section reunites once again - fulfilling Marc Ribot's vision of the blues. This band isn’t a tribute to anything, except the form itself, black America’s ‘birth of tragedy’, a rhythmic platform on which one can hear a human being, armed only with a Fender Jaguar guitar, contest their fate. The starting points are mid 50’s Chicago, and a certain kind of soul jazz one could hear on late night radio if one happened to live near Newark, New Jersey in the late 60’s. The endpoint isn’t fixed, the capacity for misreading infinite. (The “Really” part nods at Mezz Mezzrow, who wasn’t). The band is mercifully instrumental.Marc Ribot - guitar, Brad Jones – bass, Bill Ware – vibes, JT Lewis or E.J. Rodriguez - drums
From 1993-1995 Bill toured and recorded as a percussionist with Steely Dan in the United States and Japan.
In the late summer of 1993, Donald Fagen and Walter Becker resurrected the Steely Dan name for the first tour in 19 years. Famed record producer Gary Katz, impressed with Bill's talents, recommended him to Donald Fagen who was looking for a percussionist to record and tour with his infamous band.
They put together an all-star band dubbed the "Steely Dan Orchestra", including Bill Ware III: vibes, Drew Zingg: electric guitar, Warren Bernhardt: keyboards, Cornelius Bumpus: saxophone, Bob Sheppard: saxophone, Chris Potter: saxophone, Tom Barney: electric bass, Peter Erskine: drums, Brenda White-King: vocals, Catherine Russell: vocals, Diane Garisto: vocals.
The "Alive in America" tour received great acclaim during 1993-96, performing mainly songs from the later Steely Dan albums plus a selection of re-arranged Dan classics, and they released a live CD compiled from recordings of several 1993 and 1994 concerts, Alive in America in 1995 (Giant Records).
Youtube has some great video from this concert tour - check out this performance in Nashville, TN on September 16, 1993 of Donald Fagan's "Countermoon," which features a fantastic solo by Bill Ware on vibes.
And here's another link to a September 23, 1993 performance of "Tuzz's Shadow," an instrumental piece to start the second set which really shows off Bill's playing and the entire band of excellent musicians.
In 1990, Bill was invited by Club Bird in Yokohama, Japan, to join a group of New York musicians for a three-month engagement. On returning to the US, Bill added members from AM Sleep to the group, calling it "Bill Ware and the Club Bird All Stars". They received rave reviews for producing, writing, and recording "Long and Skinny" (Knitting Factory Works - 1993). Personnel were Bill Ware - vibes, Jay Rodriguez - saxes, Josh Roseman - trombone, Matt King - piano, Pete MacDonald - drums, Brad Jones - bass.
In 1993, Bill and saxophonist Jay Rodriguez signed onto the Eight Ball Records label with their solo acid jazz project, Groove Thing. They released two cds, the first in 1994 (The Adventure), and the second in 1997 (This Is No Time...), which featured Blondie star Deborah Harry. Groove Thing gigged in NYC regularly in the 90's at various clubs such as SOBs.
In 1995, Bill formed "Urban Vibes", an experimental improvisational jam band which took up residency at “The Ace of Clubs” in Manhattan. The band personnel were on Vibraphone, Keyboards, Producer, Arranger - Bill Ware, Guitar-Fred Shehadi, Vocals and Guitar-Eliane Amherd, Vocals-Gina Figueroa, Drums-Jaime Affoumado, Genji Siraisi, Bass - Norbert Marius, Soprano sax-Alvin Rogers, Tenor sax-Jay Rodriguez, Percussion-Chauncey Yearwood.