Tribute: Hiram Bullock 1955-2008

“The Hiram Bullock stage was always fertile ground for creativity, more so than with any other musician I’ve ever played with,” says Bullock’s longtime stage mate, bassist Will Lee. From a guy who has performed with everyone from Roberta Flack to Paul McCartney, this is quite an accolade. “Hiram had a huge musical vocabulary. From folk to rock to jazz to Middle Eastern, he could play anything you could dream up. And any little goofy scrap of an idea you threw out, he’d jump on it and make it huge. He made you feel like your licks were beautiful.”

By the mid-’80s, Bullock was an established New York session player who had recorded with Billy Joel, Steely Dan, and other big names. On stage, his charisma and larger-than-life personality helped him land a solo deal with Atlantic Records, as well as highprofile work with the Saturday Night Live, Late Night with David Letterman, and Night Music (featuring David Sanborn) house bands.

“Hiram was the opposite of a shoe-gazer,” says Lee. “He could take a roomful of blank faces anywhere in the world and, within five minutes, have everyone completely lit up, smiling, cheering, laughing, and totally involved. Every room became his room.” Bullock had a “room” one last time when Lee, along with drummers Clint DeGanon and Charley Drayton, organized a star-studded tribute concert in his honor at New York’s Cutting Room on September 9. (Bullock died on July 25 after surviving throat cancer and years of struggles with substance abuse.)