Neil Swainson

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Neil Swainson plays bass with Joe Henderson

Neil James Sinclair Swainson[1] (born November 15, 1955) is a Canadian musician and bassist. Swainson started his career in Victoria, British Columbia backing for professional musicians visiting which include Herb Ellis, Sonny Stitt, and Barney Kessell. in 1976 he moved to Vancouver, British Columbia after playing with Paul Horn Quintet and leading his own band for two years. He then relocated to Toronto where he has worked since 1977.[2]

Music career[edit]

Swainson has become a leading Canadian jazz player since the 1980s when he started playing with famous local and visiting acts which include, Tommy Flanagan, Rob McConnell, Ed Bickert, Slide Hampton, James Moody, Jay McShann, Moe Koffman, Lee Konitz, Joe Farrell, George Coleman, and Woody Shaw. He went on to collaborate with Woody Shaw appearing on two of Woody Shaw's recordings: In My Own Sweet Way (In & Out 7003) and Solid (Muse 5329). He also toured with Shaw often in New York and on many European tours.

A collaboration between Swainson and pianist; George Shearing would form in 1986, after Swainson replaced Don Thompson in 1988. This relationship continued until Shearing's passing in 2011. They have travelled playing all across North America, Great Britain, Europe, Australia, Hong Kong, and Japan. They played with musicians including Joe Williams, Nancy Wilson, Diana Krall, Robert Farnon and Mel Tormé. Together the two made numerous recordings which include: A Perfect Match (with Ernestine Anderson, (Concord Jazz 4357), Dexterity (Concord Jazz 4346), Mel & George "do" World War II (Concord Jazz 4471), I Hear a Rhapsody (Telarc 83310), How Beautiful is Night (with Robert Farnon, Telarc 83325), Walkin' (Telarc 83333), That Shearing Sound (Telarc 83347), Joe Williams: A Song Is Born and Paper Moon (Telarc 83375)

Swainson's recorded his own album; 49th Parallel (Concord Jazz 4396) in 1987. His recordings feature Woody Shaw on trumpet, and Joe Henderson on saxophone along with numerous other musicians such as Jay McShann, Geoff Keezer, Doc Cheatham, Sam Noto, Don Thompson, Peter Leitch, Pat LaBarbera, Joe LaBarbera, Rob McConnell, Ed Bickert, Lorne Lofsky, Kirk MacDonald and JMOG, a cooperative band featuring, Kevin Dean and Pat LaBarbera.

Swainson has also recently toured worldwide with the singer Roberta Gambarini and as well with pianist Gene DiNovi in Japan. He recorded: So In Love (Marshmallow MYCJ30118) and Golden Earrings (Marshmallow MYCJ30185) and recorded Smile (Five Stars Records FSY-501) and Gene DiNovi at Red Brick Warehouse Live in Yokohama (Marshmallow MMEX-103).[2] Swainson now works at Humber College (Lakeshore Campus) as a professor in the Bass department after receiving a music degree. He also continues to compose music and freelance in Toronto.[3]


  • Five recordings that Swainson has played on have won Canada's JUNO Award:[2]
  • 1990 Best Jazz Album[4]Jon Ballantyne's Skydance (Justin Time 30-2)[2]
  • 1993 Best Jazz Album[4]P.J. Perry's My Ideal (Unity 128)[2]
  • Unknown – Free Trade. a co-operative band featuring Renee Rosnes (Justin Time 64-2)
  • 1999 Best Mainstream Jazz Album[5]Kirk MacDonald's The Atlantic Sessions (Koch 8600)[2]
  • 2000 Best Traditional Album – Instrumental[6]Pat LaBarbera's Deep in a Dream (Radioland 10015).[2]


As leader[edit]

  • 49th Parallel. Shaw trumpet, Henderson tenor saxophone, Williamson piano, Fuller drums. 1987. Concord Jazz CJ-396 (CD and cass)

As sideman[edit]

With Jay McShann

  • Airmail Special (Sack, 1985)

With Walter Norris

  • Lush Life (Concord Jazz, 1990)

With Woody Shaw

With George Shearing


  1. ^ a b "Neil Swainson". The Canadian Encyclopedia. October 12, 2012. Retrieved 2012-10-22. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g "Neil Swainson Musician Biography". October 12, 2012. Retrieved 2012-10-22. 
  3. ^ "Neil Swainson". Humber College. Archived from the original on January 15, 2013. Retrieved October 12, 2012. 
  4. ^ a b "Yearly Summary > The JUNO Awards". Retrieved October 12, 2012. 
  5. ^ "Yearly Summary > The JUNO Awards". Retrieved October 12, 2012. 
  6. ^ "Yearly Summary > The JUNO Awards". Retrieved October 12, 2012.