Versatility, passion, and creativity...are words that describe bassist/composer/producer Will Howard. Chicago-based but nationally and internationally seasoned, bassist Will Howard's unique combination of gospel roots, formal study, and wide-ranging musical interests have allowed him to work with a wide variety of artists. Inspired by bassist Al Hamilton, Will started on bass guitar at age 13 playing for the children’s choir at church. By the age of 18, Will not only recorded an album with the Bethlehem Temple choir of Harvey IL, but co-wrote, produced and mixed it too! This event started Will’s life-long fascination with the process of writing and recording music. During this formative period Will performed with gospel greats such as Albertina Walker, Deloris Washington-Green, Twinkie Clark and many others. Will began seriously listening to jazz, funk and R&B and feeling that he needed more formal training, Will then entered Chicago’s American Conservatory of Music. At ACM , Will studied with Bill Harrison and Bobby Broom; both of whom had a huge impact on him. Will attended Roosevelt University to complete his formal education, and also participated in educational workshops with noted musician/theorist/composer Steve Coleman and educator David Baker.
From there... Will dived into the fertile Chicago music scene. One of the many groups Will worked with in the beginning was David Byrd and Byrd’s of a Feather (later David Byrd and Oversoul). This group played a unique combination of jazz, reggae and world music and included musicians such as Hamid Drake (Pharaoh Sanders, Don Cherry, Herbie Hancock), Abdul Hakim (Herbie Hancock, Judy Mowatt), Darryl Thompson (Black Uhuru, Sly & Robby), and Alan Burroughs (Miles Davis, Art Porter). Will says, “playing in that band was like going to grad school because of the knowledge and experience of the other members. They took me under their wings and taught me a lot”. Will did some of his first touring working with South African singer-songwriter/activist Tony Bird, the late blues woman Kinika Kress, and playing on Carnival Cruise lines. Will became part of the scene centered around Chicago’s legendary now closed “The Cotton Club”. From the late ’80 to the mid ‘90’s, The Cotton Club was the place to be on Monday nights for their open mike jam. Performers such as Bernie Mac, R. Kelly, the late Art Porter, Adell Givens and many, many others gathered there to polish their skills that later made them into household names. Will says, “At first I was just sitting in, and then I became the House bassist and later the Band Leader”. Often playing behind 20 acts a night doing a wide variety of music ( jazz, R&B blues, Funk ), Will’s versatility was further enhanced. Will says, “One of the other great things about The Cotton Club was that you never knew who would walk through the door to jam on any given Monday”. George Benson, Freddy Hubbard, Nagee, Carl Anderson, Heavy D, and Queen Latifah are just some of the people Will had a chance to play behind at that time as well as many poets and hip-hop artists.
As Will continued... to play around Chicago and the mid-West, he also began getting calls for studio sessions; first from dance music producers, then from people in the Chicago jingle scene. Will’s playing can be heard on jingles for Ford Motors, Sears, Gatorade and Kraft, and also on several dance remixes . Will also began doing theater work at the ETA and Drury Lanes theaters, as well as off-Loop productions. Will began getting calls from friends who had relocated to the East coast for touring gigs with many “ new jack swing” acts such as Jade, Silk, Troop, Liza J, and r&b acts like Freddy Jackson, Stephanie Mills and others. Will continued on this path playing behind top performers such as Ashford & Simpson, Dennis Edwards of The Temptations, Jefferee (“Love's Gonna Last”), Tina Moore (RCA Records), Chuck Berry and many others .
Will became the bassist... with Atlantic Jazz recording artist Tim Cunningham in 1994 which started a long period of road gig's and lead to will working with R&B legend Jeffery Osborn as well as famed poet Maya Angelou. He appeared at the 1996 Olympic games in Atlanta, several super bowls, on ESPN ‘s broadcast of the ESPYS ,on BET’s “Jazz Central”, and has played at top night clubs and festivals around the world. Will's ability to apply his very personal feel and tone to many different genres and settings have lead him to work with diverse artist as jazz/blues great Henry Butler, trumpeter Ron Haynes (Liquid Soul, Lenny Kravitz) saxophonist Mike Phillips, guitarist Bobby Broom, neo-soul singer Akeon, The Drifters, The Platters, The Coasters, Martha Reeves,Blues man Vasti Jackson, Norman Connors, Tom Brown, Jade,Drummer Marcus Baylor, neo- soul artist N'dambi and Julie Dexter,Donnie Saxophonist/producer Darren Rahn ,winner of NBC's the Voice Jermain Paul,Jazz legend Bobby Lyle , grammy award winner Chuck Loeb,R&B great Kenny Latimore,Micheal McDermott, vocalist Bruce Henry,Grammy and Oscar award winner Rhymefest.and Many many others.
Will started buying... recording equipment and began the process of learning how to produce his own music in 1996. Will says, “At that point I had played on a bunch of records but wanted to do more than just play bass”. As a songwriter/producer Will has placed songs on several artist CDs for major and independent labels including a top 20 hit on the European chart’s with the song “Why Not Now” co-written by Will and performed by Lizzet .Will has also done remix's for various artist including Julie Dexter,Diana King and many others. Will has also contributed to some independent film scores and has also placed music used on ESPN,VH1,MTV and BET .
Over the years... Will Howard has appeared around the world with various artists and has continued to delve into new music scene's where his versatile style has made a impact. Will is also a noted bass instructor who brings his “real world” approach to his students. Will says, “I try to use the various settings and situations I have been in through the years to help me explain what you need to know to be a professional musician”.
Will also works as a performing artist with urban gateways in the Chicagoland area.Along with noted educator performer Bruce A.Henry, Will has taught Hundreds of school children about the evolution of African-American music
Will is currently preparing a clinic presentation called “Contemporary Bass Guitar” which is going to highlight his approach and is also the author of the popular blog "Art of the Sideman" as well as continuing to be a highly popular sideman and session player.