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You’re currently reading “steve swell,” an entry on metropolis | jazz, free-jazz and improvised music
- 11.09.06 / 2pm
- artist portraits
is a landmark figure in the world of improvised music.
Born in Newark, New Jersey, he has been living, working and performing in New York City for most of his adult life. In an effort to find his own voice on his instrument and to learn to write and arrange in a style of his own, he has sought out, performed and recorded with many of the world’s finest composers and improvisors. He has recorded and toured with such diverse jazz personalities as mainstreamers Lionel Hampton and Buddy Rich, to so-called outsiders like Anthony Braxton and Jemeel Moondoc.Swell has 20 recordings as a leader or co-leader and is a featured artist on more than seventy other releases.
Swell first came to public attention performing with Makanda Ken McIntyre in the multi-instrumentalist’s concert at Carnegie Recital Hall in 1985 of which Herb Boyd of The Amsterdam News wrote, “Swell possesses a foreceful, but mature sound…with a vibrant syncopation…” Later, Swell came to international attention while touring in Europe and recording with alto saxophonist Tim Berne and his group “Caos Totale.” There are two studio recordings of this band on the JMT label. During this time Steve also toured and recorded with Joey Baron’s “Barondown” which has three releases; one for JMT, one on New World and the most recent for the Avant label.
Even though he is strongly identified with the “downtown scene”, Swell has been developing his style in the more so-called “traditional avant-garde” arena. Co-leading such projects as “Space, Time, Swing” with Perry Robinson, being a sideman in William Parker’s “Little Huey Creative Music Orchestra” and working with other similar people has kept him on this circuit. Dave McElfresh of Jazz Now wrote in a review of drummer Lou Grassi’s CD, PoGressions, “Swell’s powerful trombone zooms in and out of the music like a plane diving at a target. Players like himself – and music like this – are to be thanked for the revival of interest in the instrument.”
Swell’s newest CD, “Slammin’ the Infinite” with Sabir Mateen, Matt Heyner and Klaus Kugel was released in November of 2004 on Cadence. CIMP also released a co-lead group with Gebhard Ullman called Desert Songs which has Barry Altschul and Hill Greene. Drimala Records will be releasing a duo recording with Dominic Duval. “Unified Theory Of Sound, This Now!” featuring Jemeel Moondoc, Wilber Morris, Cooper-Moore, Kevin Norton and Matt LaVelle was released on Cadence in 2003. Swell was also a featured soloist with Anthony Braxton in his opera, “Shala Fears For The Poor” performed at John Jay College in New York and recently taught a master class at New England Conservatory in Boston and is an artist/mentor in the NYC public school system.
Steve Swell on 577records
PROPHECIES COME TO PASS
Sabir Mateen’s Shapes, Textures and Sound Ensemble
Sabir Mateen: Tenor and Alto Saxophones, Flute, Bb and Alto Clarinets, Matt Lavelle: Trumpet, Pocket Trumpet, Flugelhorn, Cornet, Steve Swell: Trombone, Matthew Heyner: Bass, Michael T.A. Thompson: Drums and Percussion
All music by Sabir Mateen. Recorded at Zebulon, Brooklyn, New York. Date: September 22nd 2005. Release: June 2006. Total CD time 72:41. Photograph: Federico Ughi