William A. Ware III was born in East Orange, New Jersey on January 28th, 1959. After graduating from Columbia High School in Maplewood, New Jersey, he earned his Arts Degree (1982) from Montclair State University, where he majored in Music Theory and Composition. During his college years, Bill also studied at the Harlem Jazzmobile Workshop under the direction of Dr. Billy Taylor. At the workshop, Bill had the opportunity to learn from many prominent Jazz educators including Barry Harris, Frank Foster and Jimmy Owens, and performed as a feature soloist in the Workshop Jazz Ensemble. After graduating college, Bill was invited to become an adjunct-faculty member of the Music Department at William Patterson College in New Jersey, where he taught Latin Jazz Bass and music theory.
Teaching and studies were only the tip of the iceberg for Ware, as he became increasingly sought after for his jazz vibraphone performance skills and musicality. Ware’s impeccable ensemble skills in the rhythm section, combined with his virtuosic use of the vibraphone as a solo voice demanded his tenure in several major bands throughout his career.
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. 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 Debbie Harry, Elvis Costello, Mavis Staples, Jimmy Scott and Bob Dorough, to name a few. The Jazz Passengers w/Deborah Harry (which contains Ware’s Vibes trio as the rhythm section) made appearances on The Conan O’Brien Show, and toured the U.S. and Europe.
Throughout the course of their ensemble, the Jazz Passengers have toured the world extensively, including the US, Europe and Asia. After a 10 year hiatus, the group reassembled for their 2010 comeback release “Reunited”, with an acclaimed appearance at the 2010 Saalfelden Jazz Festival in Austria, and two nights of sets at the Jazz Standard in October, 2010.
The Jazz Passengers represent only one path in Ware’s musical journey. In 1986, with the assistance and tutelage of Cuban master drummer Roberto Borrell, Ware put together the Latin Jazz band, AM Sleep. With associates from the Workshop and William Patterson College, “AM Sleep” released their first album “Las Sombras” (Creageous Records) and toured the northeastern US. Through these projects, Ware garnered a reputation as a bassist and pianist on the Latin music circuit recording with artists including Roberto Borrell, Bobby Sanabria, and Chico Mendoza.
In 1990 Ware organized a group of New York musicians and headed to Yokohama, Japan for a three-month engagement, forging the group, Bill Ware and the Club Bird All Stars. On returning to the states, Ware received rave reviews for producing, writing, and recording “Long and Skinny” (Knitting Factory Works) for the Club Bird All Stars.
In the 1990s, with a move from New Jersey to New York City, Ware began to investigate the emerging “acid jazz” scene. From this scene, the popular band Groove Collective emerged, including Bill and the horn section from Club Bird as charter members. After several months of gigging and touring, the Groove Collective was signed to a Warner Bros./Reprise record deal, produced by famed record producer Gary Katz. Groove Collective later signed to a new label, Shanakie Records and the group produced 3 CDs “Dance of the Drunken Master” “Declassified” and “It’s All in Your Mind” (including 2 Ware produced tracks). The band also toured extensively throughout USA and Europe in 2000 and 2001.
Record producer Katz, impressed with Ware’s talents, recommended him to Donald Fagen who was looking for a percussionist to record and tour with his infamous band Steely Dan. From 1993-1995 Bill toured and recorded as a percussionist with Steely Dan in the U.S. and Japan.
In addition to his involvement with the prominent bands, The Jazz Passengers, The Groove Collective and Steely Dan, Ware’s musical collaborations also included the Knitting Factory Tap Room’s “Late Night Hang,” a series that featured groups in a weekly format. Every Wednesday night, Bill along with fellow Jazz Passengers Brad Jones and E.J. Rodriguez began gigging under the banner “JP trio” (which later changed to “Vibes”). In 1997 Ware released a second CD with his acid jazz studio project act, Groove Thing (Eight Ball records), featuring Blondie star Deborah Harry.
In 1997 tragedy struck Bill’s life and a tumor was discovered in his spinal column, but thanks to the Jazz Foundation of America’ Jazz Musician’s Emergency Fund, Ware received medical treatment and was back working after a 13 day recovery. Determined as ever he continued his feverish work tempo and produced his trio’s first CD “Vibes”. Ware also recorded and produced his second Eightball Records CD, “This is No Time…” In 2000 Ware created the Solo/Duo – Y2 K Jazz Quartet and recorded the CD “Keepin’ Up With the Jones’”, and the CD “Sir Duke” with his friend, guitarist, Marc Ribot. Ware produced and recorded “Paradise” track for the Deborah Harry solo CD “Necessary Evil,” and was the featured soloist on Joel Dorn’s production of Janis Siegel’s solo CD “I Wish You Love” (Telarc Jazz).
Ware has contributed to a variety of recordings as sideman, including “At Last” Megashira, ”The Man in a Jupiter Hat” Lee Feldman, ”Fire at Keaton’s Bar & Grill” Roy Nathanson, “I Wish You Love” Janis Siegel, Hidden in Plain View” Jerome Harris, “Spirit Stage” JD Parran, “Song for Septet” Mario Pavone. – Ware recorded on Elvis Costello’s Solo CD’s “North” and “When I was Cruel.”
Ware is an innovator with the use of electric pedal effects on the vibraphone, creating a unique sound, which he integrates into many of his projects. In 2009 he produced and engineered the first of two albums for full electric band, recording all the instrumental tracks himself.
In 2010, Ware’s Vibes group recorded “Played Right,” (Cheetah, 2010), described by All About Jazz as showing “…the touch of a resilient, serpentine stylist, a master of quiet spectacle.” Played Right is a masterfully performed recording featuring a cross-section of popular tunes and original compositions that appeals to a broad spectrum of Jazz audiences.
Ware is also a member of the Rez Abbasi Acoustic Quartet, whose debut release, “Natural Selection” (Sunnyside, 2010) earned 4 stars in Downbeat and one of the Best Albums of the year from the well respected, Jazz Journalists Association. The quartet – which performed at the 2010 Newport Jazz Festival is planning international tours for 2011 and 2012.
Ware is also a member of the Puppeteers, a brilliant jazz quartet with pianist, Arturo O’Farrill, bassist, Alex Blake and drummer Jaime Affoumado. The name stems from Affoumado’s club Puppet’s Jazz Bar in Park Slope, Brooklyn from 2008 to 2011. Ware, O’Farrill and Blake all had regular residencies at Puppet’s, finding a home for their exploratory, fluid and dynamic endeavors in jazz.