Slam Stewart's professional career spanned over fifty years. He was regarded worldwide as one of the most outstanding performers of the double bass. Slam's inimitable talent was enhanced by
his elegant, gentle, and kind character. He was admired, respected, and loved by all who knew him.
Slam lived in Binghamton, New York, with is wife Claire from 1969 until his death on December 10, 1987. He considered those nineteen years to be the happiest time in his life. Even though
Slam was an international celebrity, he considered Binghamton to be "where it's all at"; to paraphrase, where he would rather be than anyplace else in the world. Whenever his schedule allowed,
Slam was involved with various community activities and organizations. One of his main interests was the Binghamton Sertoma Club, of which he was a member for seventeen years. His intense concert
and touring obligation did not allow him to participate in many of the club's various charitable activities. However, he strongly believed in the club's motto, "Service to Mankind," and he wanted
to donate a gift to the Sertoma Club that would benefit the club on a long-term basis.
In September of 1987, Slam approached the club members with the idea of making a new record: the album was to be financially backed by the Binghamton Sertoma Club, and, in return, the Club
would be given any and all profits from the future sales of the album. This offer was overwhelming to the members of the club, for they realized the potential of Slam's gift. Slam made the
arrangements to have the rights and royalties turned over to the Binghamton Sertoma Club, and the club made the arrangements to proceed with the project as soon as possible for this was to be a
"permanent gift of love" from which many charitable projects could and would benefit.
This recording project allowed Slam, for the first time in his career, to record the music he wanted to play, with the musicians he wanted to play with. Slam's selection of players yielded a
unique and wonderful ensemble. The septet is made up of some of the most well-known and respected jazz musicians in the world, combined with some very accomplished, but yet not "famous players
(at least at this writing). When selecting the artists, Slam said he wanted to surround himself with the musicians he "loved" . . . there is no doubt that his feeling was returned, many times over,
by his six friends who gathered at Clinton Recording Studios on November 25, 1987.
The musicians on the album are: Richard Wyands, the pianist who Slam chose to play many of the "Slam Stewart and Friends Concerts"; Guitarist, Bucky Pizzarelli, and Peter Appleyard, the
ever-swinging Canadian vibraphonists, are both long-time associates of Slam's from the Benny Goodman Band; Kent McGarity, a very melodious trombonist and bassist, whom Slam often referred to as one
of his favorite players; Sharon Maricle, a drummer who had become Slam's protege during the last several years of his life; and, Al Hamme, a very gifted saxophonist and long-time musical collaborator
who produced and supervised this entire recording project.
When Slam and Al discussed the music that was to be recorded, the following criteria were established: the music should represent Slam's interest in the various styles of music; the music should
have been specifically written for Slam: and, Slam stated flatly that he did not want to do "the same old tunes" that he had been doing for years. He wanted the album to be fresh and representative
of his multifaceted musical interests. The album was recorded in two sessions on November 25th, but one vocal track and one bass solo were not completed. After listening carefully to the "rushes,"
Slam and Al decided that Minor over-dubs were needed, and a second session was planned to take place on December 20th. As was stated earlier, Slam died on December 10th, but Claire Stewart, Slam's
wife of 19 years, knowing how proud Slam was of the results of the first sessions ("this recording in some of the best work I've ever done") asked Major Holley, Slam's close friend, and fellow
bassists, to complete the few tracks that slam had not finished. John Pizzarelli, Jr., Bucky's son, who is a fine guitarist and vocalist, was chosen to compete the missing vocal track. The recording
was completed on December 20th, as Slam had planned, and was mixed by Rebecca Everett and Al Hamme in the weeks that followed.
The title cut, The Cats Are Swinging', was composed by Claire Stewart and introduces the players in medium-groove swing style. Claire has stated that the tune is really a collection of some of
"Slam's riffs," which she heard him play over the years; Slambow was composed by Peter Appleyard and is in a "down 'n dirty" funk/rock style. Slam had previously recorded this tune with Bucky
Pizzarelli on Bucky's album, DIALOGUE; A Ballad For My Love was also written by Claire and features Slam's smooth bowing technique on a beautiful and haunting melody and includes some emotional
playing in a conversational style between Al and Peter. White sitting in a restaurant after the original recording session, Slam learned over to Peter and said, "Claire asked me not to sing on the
Ballad. . . and I was real careful not to . . . No Sir-eee"; Sertoma was composed by Al Hamme and features John Pizzarelli, Jr's. Vocal skills and a rollicking bass solo by Major Holley; Sir Slamelot,
composed by Jack Martin, is written in the form of a divertimento. Everyone gets a turn to stretch out on this one!; the last cut is revered for Sam's Flat Foot Floogie and was included, even though
it didn't fit the established criteria, at the insistence of Al Hamme. This was the only composition that was performed in the tradition of a "jam" or "head" format and was completed in one "take"
. . . it may be the first time Slam recorded his tune in the performance version of recent years. All of the septet arrangements, except 80 Chestnut Street, were written by Al Hamme.
To be personal for a moment, I feel very fortunate and privileged that I had the opportunity to play with Slam Stewart, and I am very honored that he included my composition and arrangement of
80 Chestnut street on this album. I entitled this tune after the street address of the Stewart's home because Slam and Claire always welcomed young musicians, friends, and relatives "from far and near"
to join them in their warm and lovely home. Slam was a fantastic musician, a wonderful human being, and a true "American Treasure." He always played with flawless pitch, great time, and a perfect feel.
I am certain that everyone who performed with Slam, or attended one of his performances, would agree with me when I say that "Slam's love and passion for music could be heard, seen, and felt every
time he played." The world is very fortunate to have been graced with such a warm, wonderful, and talented man.
Sharon L. Maricle
May 30, 1988