was born and raised in Connecticut, and started playing the trombone around
the age of six. He got the
trombone gene from his father, a vaudeville musician who had also performed
with Paul Whiteman. Bill kicked
around in traditional Dixieland jazz bands in his teens and joined the
military, where he studied with Herbie
Nichols. He toured
Czechoslovakia and Sweden with Paul Anka in the
early 1960s and went on to work with Kai Winding for five years, between
1962 and 1967.
children were not conducive to performing on the road, so Bill concentrated
on studio work, and was busy as a session musician in New York, recording
with the likes of Maynard Ferguson, Woody Herman, Quincy Jones, and Johnny
Richards. He also did a couple
of stints on television, working on The
Merv Griffin Show for three years as well as
serving two years at CBS.
In 1969, while
playing on Dick Cavett’s TV program, he
assembled what would be the first of many bands. A couple of years later, he switched
genres a bit and played with a band called Ten Wheel Drive, which liked to
rock as well as swing. Then in
the mid-‘70s he started The Manhattan Wildlife Refuge Big Band, which
recorded a couple of LPs on the Columbia label. One of them was simply titled Manhattan Wildlife Refuge, and these
Bill followed up with Tiger of San
Pedro and Leprechaun. He emigrated to L.A. in the late
1970s and changed the name of his band to Refuge West, adding trumpeter Al Vizzutti to the fold.
In May of 1980
he reunited with Kai Winding on an album titled Trombone Summit, recorded in Germany. He also did a jazz fusion album with
Chick Corea and Herbie
authorship to his resume in 1983 with Trombonisms, a tome that
foreshadowed his eventual career as a teacher.
were a pretty prolific decade for Bill, who released three albums, Bone-Ified,
A Time For Love, and Space Available. He hasn’t slowed down in the
new millennium, either, releasing five CDs, including 2000’s Live at the Blue Note.
he’s not in the recording studio, Bill is in the classroom,
instructing a new generation of trombonists: He is the Professor of Jazz Studies
at the USC Thornton School of Music.
In his copious
free time, he also helps out at the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival in Idaho.