Bill Ward: From Jazz to Black Sabbath, Part 1-2
“ Being influenced by dynamic music, I felt quite suited for blues and jazz which is pretty much what we really liked to play, especially more traditional blues. ”
That having been said, Black Sabbath has had a serious influence not only in rock music, but increasingly in jazz as well. This can be validated in free jazz circles by highly acclaimed musicians such as pianist Gust Burns and saxophonist Gregory Reynolds who enthusiastically acknowledge Sabbath's music as "real jazz." The music on Burns' and Reynolds' Ficus Trio CD, recorded with drummer Greg Campbell, demonstrates clearly the power and integrity of real creative musicianship. Multiple reviews from BBC Radio to Amazon.com to free jazz distributor Forced Exposure state that Black Sabbath's music runs the gamut from blues to jazz to rock and is highly innovative and influential. Experiencing the music first hand by creative musicians who acknowledge and embrace their influence, this is a blatant understatement.
From their early days under the name Earth the musicians in this bandOzzy Osbourne, vocals; Tony Iommi, guitar; Geezer Butler, bass; and Bill Ward, drumscreated their music through extended improvisations based in rock, blues, and jazz. The influence that Black Sabbath has brought, not only to rock but increasingly to jazz also, has fueled the fire for musicians to play hard, take creative risks, and to color outside of the lines.
On the day prior to Black Sabbath's Seattle performance at Ozzfest in August 2005, All About Jazz writer Jack Gold was fortunate to have been invited to interview Sabbath's classic drummer Bill Ward. In part one of this two part interview, Mr. Ward talks in depth about his career playing the drums and how it felt to be influenced by the blues growing up in Birmingham, England.
All About Jazz: Who were some of your early influences as a musician?
Bill Ward: Childhood, all me influences were, say, between the time that I can remember, which would have been about three years old to the time that I was about five or six years old, all the music that I ever heard was jazz and it was American jazz, and it was big band jazz, to be more defined. Because of the time, it being in the fifties when I first heard Presley, of course I was just totally gone at that point. I was just absolutely trapped or gathered up, if you like, by rock and roll. But before that, what I consider to be traditional rock and roll would have been the Ink Spots and the Platters.
All of those bands I was extremely fond of listening to and they were very influential in my life. So, those were the combinations and I have always been attracted to the big swing bands throughout my life up to this very day. I'm 57 years old now, so I guess that's 54 years of listening to pretty much American swing, particularly big band swing. I like jazz in all the ways that it is played. I think I am probably attracted to it because of the drummers that played in those big swing bands at the time. So those were my very early influences.
AAJ: At what age did you start playing?
BW: I think I might have been about four, four or five, because my mother told me that they thought there was something wrong with me because I continually kept tapping on furniture. They thought I had something which, in Birmingham where I was bornor actually I was born in Aston which is in Birminghamthey said that I had Saint Vitus's Dance, and Saint Vitus's Dance is a common term in the midlands for somebody who can't sit still. So, apparently I was listless and discontent like I am now. [Laughs] But I couldn't stop tapping all the time, you know. I just was attracted to just wanting to make noise on different things.