Steve Swell

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Steve Swell
Background information
Born (1954-12-06) December 6, 1954 (age 61)
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 2008-2010, 2012 & 2014 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 2010-2015. He also received the 2014 Creative Curricula grant from the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council.


As leader or co-leader[edit]

  • Observations (CIMP, 1996) - Steve Swell & Chris Kelsey Duo
  • Out and About (CIMP, 1996) - Steve Swell Quartet featuring Roswell Rudd w/Ken Filiano, Lou Grassi
  • Moons of Jupiter (CIMP, 1997) - Steve Swell Quartet w/Mark Whitecage, Dominic Duval, Jay Rosen
  • Atmospheels (CIMP, 1999) - Steve Swell Trio w/Will Connell, Lou Grassi
  • Flurries Warm and Clear (CIMP, 1999) - Steve Swell Trio w/Ned Rothenberg, Tomas Ulrich
  • Steve Swell presents Particle Data Group (Cadence Jazz Records, 2001)
  • The Implicate Order at Seixal (Clean Feed, 2001) - Steve Swell, Ken Filiano, Lou Grassi + Rodrigo Amado, Paulo Curado
  • Poets of the Now (CIMP, 2002)
  • Unified Theory Of Sound: This Now! - (Cadence Jazz Records, 2003) - Steve Swell, Jemeel Moondoc, Cooper-Moore, Wilber Morris, Kevin Norton, Matt LaVelle
  • New York BrassWood Trio: Still in Movement (CIMP, 2003)
  • Suite for Players, Listeners and Other Dreamers (CIMP, 2003) - Steve Swell, Roy Campbell, Charles Burnham, Will Connell, Kevin Norton, Francois Grillot
  • Invisible Cities (Drimala, 2004) - Steve Swell/Perry Robinson Duo
  • Not Just... (CIMP, 2005) - Steve Swell/Dave Taylor Quintet Billy Bang, Tomas Ulrich, Ken Filiano
  • Double Dipoid (CIMP, 2006) - Steve Swell/Dave Taylor Quartet w/Warren Smith, Chad Taylor
  • Swimming in a Galaxy of Goodwill and Sorrow (RogueArt 09, 2007)- Steve Swell's Fire Into Music w/Jemeel Moondoc, William Parker, Hamid Drake
  • Rivers of Sound Ensemble: News from the Mystic Auricle (Not Two, 2008) - Steve Swell, Roy Campbell, Sabir Mateen, Hilliard "Hill" Greene, Klaus Kugel
  • Magical Listening Hour (Cadence Jazz Records, 2009) - Steve Swell/Nate Wooley/Michael Attias/Louie Belogenis
  • Planet Dream (Clean Feed, 2009) - Steve Swell, Rob Brown, Daniel Levin
  • Feynman's Diagrams (Nacht Records, 2013)- Steve Swell/Kirk Knuffke Duo
  • Kanreki (Not Two, 2015)
  • Kende Dreams (Silkheart, 2015)
  • Soul Travelers (RogueArt, 2016)
with Slammin' the Infinite
  • Slammin' the Infinite (Cadence Jazz Records CJR-1174, 2004)- Steve Swell, Sabir Mateen, Matt Heyner, Klaus Kugel
  • Remember Now (NotTwo MW-772-02, 2006) - Steve Swell, Sabir Mateen, Matt Heyner, Klaus Kugel
  • Live @ the Vision Festival (NotTwo MW 780-2, 2007) - Steve Swell, Sabir Mateen, Matt Heyner, Klaus Kugel, John Blum
  • 5000 Poems (NotTwo MW-827-2, 2010) - Steve Swell, Sabir Mateen, Matt Heyner, Klaus Kugel, John Blum
with Ullmann/Swell 4
  • Desert Songs and Other Landscapes (CIMP, 2004) - Barry Altschul, Hill Greene
  • News? No News! (Jazzwerskstatt JW 068, 2010)- Barry Altschul, Hill Greene
  • Live in Montreal (CIMPoL 5013, 2010)- Barry Altschul, Hill Greene
with Nation of We
  • Live at the Bowery Poetry Club (Ayler Records, 2006)
  • The Business of Here (Cadence Jazz Records CJR-1238, 2012) - 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
with Inner Ear
  • Breathing Steam - (Kilogram Records 1 kg-021, 2010) Mikolaj Trzaska, Steve Swell, Per Ake Holmlander, Tim Daisy
  • Return form the Center of the Earth (Bocian Records, 2013) - Mikolaj Trzaska, Steve Swell, Per Ake Holmlander, Tim Daisy


  • The Trascendentalists: Real Time Messengers (CIMP, 2003) - Steve Swell, Daniel Carter, Tom Abbs, Dave Brandt
  • The Diplomats: We Are Not Obstinate Islands (Clean Feed CF-061, 2006) - Rob Brown, Harris Eisenstadt
  • International Trio: Donkere Golven (W.E.R.F.095, 2011) - Joachim Badenhorst, Steve Swell, Ziv Ravitz
  • Platform 1: Takes Off (Clean Feed CF-255, 2012) - Ken Vandermark, Magnus Broo, Steve Swell, Joe Williamson, Michael Vatcher
  • Dragonfly Breath (NotTwo MW 890-2, 2013) - Paul Flaherty/Weasel Walter/C Spenser Yeh/Steve Swell
  • Latecomers (Ictus Records 168, 2013) - Andrea Centazzo/Giancarlo Schiaffini/Steve Swell/Anthony Coleman
  • Estuaries (dEN Records 014, 2013) - Andrew Raffo Dewar/Garrison Fewell/Steve Swell
  • Window and Doorway (Driff Records CD1301, 2013) - Pandelis Karayorgis/Guillermo Gregorio/Steve Swell
  • New Atlantis Octet: Unto the Sun (NotTwo MW 873-2, 2013) - Ed Ricart, Roy Campbell, Steve Swell, Aaron Martin, Jason Ajemian, Vattel Cherry, Andrew Barker, Sam Lohman
  • Turning Point (NoBusiness NBCD 70, 2014) - Dave Burrell / Steve Swell
Digital Release

As sideman[edit]

With Joey Baron

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

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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