Steve Swell

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Steve Swell
Background information
Born (1954-12-06) December 6, 1954 (age 59)
Newark, New Jersey, USA
Genres Jazz, Free Jazz, New Music, Improvisation
Occupation(s) Trombonist, Composer, Teacher
Instruments Trombone
Years active 1975–present

Steve Swell (born in Newark, NJ, December 6, 1954) is an American free jazz trombonist, composer and educator.


“One of the most adventurous and prolific members of the New York free-jazz community” according to Ed Hazell of Signal To Noise, Steve Swell’s reputation, work ethic and commitment to excellence has kept him in the forefront of improvised music and a leading voice on his instrument for more than 20 years. Swell studied at Jersey City State Teachers College[1] before moving to New York City in 1975 where he began his musical life, playing in top 40 bands, salsa bands, big bands (most notably those of Buddy Rich and Lionel Hampton) and performed on Broadway in Bob Fosse's "Dancin"". He then became a member of Makanda Ken McIntyre's band which led to tours and recordings with Tim Berne, Joey Baron, Herb Robertson, Jemeel Moondoc, Anthony Braxton, Cecil Taylor, William Parker, Bill Dixon, Butch Morris, John Zorn, Dave Burrell, Elliott Sharp, Rob Mazurek, Perry Robinson, Ken Vandermark.

He is greatly influenced by Roswell Rudd, with whom he studied in the mid-1970s.[1] He was also a student of Grachan Moncur III and Jimmy Knepper.

Swell has a number of projects including Slammin' The Infinite (w/Sabir Mateen, Matthew Heyner, Klaus Kugel), Fire Into Music (w/William Parker, Jemeel Moondoc, Hamid Drake), Unified Theory Of Sound (w/Cooper-Moore, Matt Lavelle) and his large ensemble Nation Of We (aka NOW Ensemble).

Steve has received a number of awards including a USArts International (NEA) travel grant in 2006, grants from MCAF (LMCC) in 2008 & 2012, Foundation for Contemporary Arts and was nominated for Trombonist of Year, 2008 & 2011 by the Jazz Journalists Association. He was chosen Trombonist of the Year 2008, 2009, 2010 & 2012 by El Intruso, the Argentine jazz journal. In 2008 he received a fellowship award from The Jubilation Foundation of the Tides Foundation for his work in the NYC public school system and was selected by the Downbeat Critics Poll in the Trombone category 2010, 2011, 2012 & 2013. He also received the 2014 Creative Curricula grant from the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council.


As leader or co-leader[edit]

  • Schemata and Heuristics for Four Clarinets #1 - Ned Rothenberg/Guillermo Gregorio/Zara Acosta-Chen/Miguel Malla - Relay Records (2014)
  • Dragonfly Breath - Paul Flaherty/Weasel Walter/C Spenser Yeh/Steve Swell - NotTwo Records MW 890-2 (2013)
  • Latecomers - Andrea Centazzo/Giancarlo Schiaffini/Steve Swell/Anthony Coleman - Ictus Records 168 (2013)
  • Estuaries - Andrew Raffo Dewar/Garrison Fewell/Steve Swell - dEN Records 014 (2013)
  • Window and Doorway - Pandelis Karayorgis/Guillermo Gregorio/Steve Swell - Driff Records CD1301 (2013)
  • Unto the Sun: New Atlantis Octet - Ed Ricart, Roy Campbell, Steve Swell, Aaron Martin, Jason Ajemian, Vattel Cherry, Andrew Barker, Sam Lohman - NotTwo Records MW 873-2 (2013)
  • Swimming in a Galaxy of Goodwill and Sorrow - Steve Swell's Fire Into Music w/Jemeel Moondoc, William Parker, Hamid Drake - RogueArt 09 (2006)
  • Steve Swell's Nation of We: The Business of Here - Sabir Mateen, Darius Jones, Will Connell, Ras Moshe, Giuseppe Logan, Jason Hwang, Rosi Hertlein, Danile Levin, Jackson Krall, Todd Nicholson, Alby Balgochia, Flip Barnes, Matt LaVelle, Chris Demiglio, Dave Taylor, Peter Zummo, Aaron Johnson, Chris Forbes - Cadence Jazz Records CJR-1238 (2012)
  • Steve Swell's Nation of We: Live at the Bowery Poetry Club (Ayler Records, 2006)
  • Slammin The Infinite - Steve Swell, Sabir Mateen, Matt Heyner, Klaus Kugel - Cadence Jazz Records CJR-1174 (2003)
  • Slammin The Infinite: Remember Now - Steve Swell, Sabir Mateen, Matt Heyner, Klaus Kugel - NotTwo Records MW-772-02 (2005)
  • Slammin The Infinite: Live at the Vision Festival - Steve Swell, Sabir Mateen, Matt Heyner, Klaus Kugel, John Blum - NotTwo Records MW 780-2 (2006)
  • Slammin' The Infinite: 5,000 Poems - Steve Swell, Sabir Mateen, Matt Heyner, Klaus Kugel, John Blum - NotTwo Records MW-827-2 (2009)
  • Platform 1: Takes Off - Ken Vandermark, Magnus Broo, Steve Swell, Joe Williamson, Michael Vatcher - Clean Feed CF-255 (2012)
  • News? No News!Ullmann/Swell 4 - Barry Altschul, Hill Greene - Jazzwerskstatt (JW 068) (2010)
  • Live in MontrealUllmann/Swell 4 - Barry Altschul, Hill Greene - CIMPoL 5013
  • Feynman's Diagrams - Steve Swell/Kirk Knuffke Duo - Nacht Records (2013)
  • International Trio: Donkere Golven - Joachim Badenhorst, Steve Swell, Ziv Ravitz - W.E.R.F.095
  • Inner Ear: Breathing Steam - Mikolaj Trzaska, Steve Swell, Per Ake Holmlander, Tim Daisy - Kilogram Records (1 kg-021)
  • The Diplomats: We Are Not Obstinate Islands - Rob Brown, Harris Eisenstadt - Clean Feed CF-061 (2006)

As sideman[edit]

With Tim Berne

With Anthony Braxton

  • Trillium R Opera (Braxton House, 1997)

With Rob Brown

With Jaki Byard and the Apollo Stompers

With Bill Dixon

With Jemeel Moondoc

  • Spirit House (Eremite, 2000)
  • Live at the Vision Festival 2001 (Ayler, 2001)

With William Parker

With Alan Silva

  • Vision Festival Orchestra (Eremite, 1999)
  • Celestial Communications Orchestra Live in Poschiavo, Switzerland (Eremite, 2001)

With Cecil Taylor

  • All The Notes(DVD) Cecil Taylor and Orchestra Humane - Chris Felver Films (2005)

With Ken Vandermark

  • Resonance Ensemble: Head Above Water
  • Resonance Ensemble: What Country Is This?
  • Resonance Ensemble: Kafka in Flight
  • Resonance Ensemble: Live in Krakow
  • Resonance Ensemble: Live in the Ukraine

With Tom Varner


  1. ^ a b Drouot, Alain. "Steve Swell: Biography". Allmusic. Retrieved 2010-10-25. 

External links[edit]

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