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Leroy Stewart, 73; Big Band Bass Player

December 14, 1987|SANTIAGO O'DONNELL | Times Staff Writer

Leroy (Slam) Stewart, the Big Band bass player known for his novel manner of humming an improvised jazz solo and simultaneously bowing in octave unison on the bass, died Thursday in his Binghamton, N.Y., home. He was 73.

A native of Englewood, N.J., he studied at the Boston Conservatory. After working with Peanuts Holland in Buffalo, Stewart met Slim Gailliard at Jock's Place in Harlem in 1937, and they teamed as "Slim and Slam." In 1938, they scored the national hit "Flat Foot Floogee." The song became so popular that the Slim and Slam record was buried in a time capsule at the 1939-40 New York World's Fair.

The team broke up in 1942 when Slim joined the Army. Stewart went on to record and tour with the Art Tatum trio and the Benny Goodman band. He then formed his own trio, featuring Billy Taylor on piano and Johnny Collins on guitar.

Played Part in Movie

Stewart was one of the most recorded jazz artists in the mid-40s. His recording partners include Erroll Garner, Lionel Hampton, Dizzy Gillespie, Art Tatum and Benny Goodman. He played a part in the 1943 movie "Stormy Weather" with Lena Horne and Fats Waller.

In the early '50s, Stewart rejoined Tatum several times, and he later paired with singers Beryl Brooker and Rose Murphy. For years he continued to be active in the club and concert circuit, and in the last 10 years he added university campuses to his busy schedule, recalled his wife, Claire.

Music reviewer John Wilson once called Stewart an "inventive vocal improviser and light fingered, unobtrusive accompanist." Benny Goodman said during a reunion concert in 1973 that he had called Stewart to join him because "I've grown accustomed to your bass."

Major Concert Halls

Throughout his lengthy career, Stewart played in many major concert halls in the world, both as a jazz and a classical bass player.

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