Steve Swallow

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Steve Swallow
Steve Swallow.jpg
Background information
Birth name Steve Swallow
Born (1940-10-04) October 4, 1940 (age 76)
Fair Lawn, New Jersey, United States
Genres Jazz, cool jazz, jazz fusion, avant-garde jazz, free jazz, post-bop, hard bop
Occupation(s) Electric bassist, composer, educator
Instruments Electric bass, double bass
Years active 1960-present
Labels Palmetto, RCA, RCA, Atlantic, Watt, Blue Note, Winter & Winter, Verve, Impulse!
Associated acts Jimmy Giuffre, Art Farmer, Carla Bley, John Scofield, Gary Burton, Michael Mantler, Pat Metheny, Paul Motian, Stan Getz, Roy Haynes, Paul Bley, Steve Kuhn, Joe Lovano, Pete La Roca, Jim Hall
Notable instruments
Electric bass
Steve Swallow, Moers Festival 2012

Steve Swallow (born October 4, 1940) is a jazz bassist and composer noted for his numerous collaborations with musicians including Jimmy Giuffre, Gary Burton and Carla Bley.[1] He was one of the first jazz double bassists to switch entirely to electric bass guitar.


Steve Swallow in San Francisco 1981

Born in Fair Lawn, New Jersey,[citation needed] Swallow studied piano and trumpet, as a child, before turning to the double bass[1] at age 14. While attending a prep school, he began trying his hand in jazz improvisation. In 1960, he left Yale, where he was studying composition, and settled in New York City, playing at the time in Jimmy Giuffre's trio along with Paul Bley. After joining Art Farmer's quartet in 1963, Swallow began to write. It is in the 1960s that his long-term association with Gary Burton's various bands began.

In the early 1970s, Swallow switched exclusively to electric bass guitar, of which he prefers the five-string variety. Along with Monk Montgomery and Bob Cranshaw, Swallow was among the first jazz bassists to do so (with much encouragement from Roy Haynes, one of Swallow's favorite drummers). He plays with a pick (made of copper by Hotlicks), and his style involves intricate solos in the upper register; he was one of the early adopters of the high C string on a bass guitar.

In 1974–1976, Swallow taught at the Berklee College of Music. He contributed several of his compositions to the Berklee students who assembled the first edition of The Real Book. He later recorded an album, Real Book (album), with the picture of a well-worn, coffee-stained book on the cover.

In 1978 Swallow became an essential and constant member of Carla Bley's band. He has been Bley's romantic partner since the 1980s. He toured extensively with John Scofield in the early 1980s, and has returned to this collaboration several times over the years.

Swallow has consistently won the electric bass category in Down Beat yearly polls, both Critics' and Readers', since the mid-80s. His compositions have been covered by, among others, Jim Hall (who recorded his very first tune, "Eiderdown"), Bill Evans, Chick Corea, Stan Getz and Gary Burton.

Partial discography[edit]

As leader or co-leader[edit]

As sideman[edit]

With Carla Bley

With Paul Bley

With Gary Burton

With Dave Douglas

With Don Ellis

With Art Farmer

With Stan Getz

With Jimmy Giuffre

  • 1961 (ECM, 1992 – re-issue of the 1961 Verve-albums Fusion & Thesis) – with Paul Bley
  • Emphasis, Stuttgart 1961 (hatArt, 1992)
  • Flight, Bremen 1961 (hatArt, 1993)

With Steve Kuhn

With Pete La Roca

  • Basra (Blue Note, 1965)

With Joe Lovano

With Michael Mantler

  • The Jazz Composer's Orchestra (JCOA, 1968)
  • The Hapless Child (WATT, 1976)
  • Movies (WATT, 1977)
  • More Movies (WATT, 1980)
  • Something There (WATT, 1982)

With Gary McFarland

With Pat Metheny and John Scofield

With Paul Motian

With Jimmy Raney, Jim Hall and Zoot Sims

With George Russell

With John Scofield Trio

With Tore Johansen

  • I.S. (Inner Ear, 2010)


  1. ^ a b Yanow, Scott. "Steve Swallow: Biography". Allmusic. Retrieved 17 August 2011. 

External links[edit]