Steve Swell

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Steve Swell
Steve Swell by Thomas Hohlbein
Steve Swell by Thomas Hohlbein
Background information
Born (1954-12-06) December 6, 1954 (age 68)
Newark, New Jersey, U.S.
GenresJazz, free jazz
Years active1975–present

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

Music career[edit]

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

Swell 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 & 2020 by the Jazz Journalists Association. He was chosen Trombonist of the Year 2008-2010, 2012 & 2014-2021 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 New York City public school system and was selected by the Down Beat Critics Poll in the Trombone category 2010-2022. He also received the 2014 Creative Curricula grant from the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council. Steve earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Music from SUNY in 2016.


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, 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, 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, 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, 2009) - Steve Swell/Nate Wooley/Michael Attias/Louie Belogenis
  • Planet Dream (Clean Feed, 2009) - Steve Swell, Rob Brown, Daniel Levin
  • Feynman's Diagrams (Nacht, 2013)- Steve Swell/Kirk Knuffke Duo
  • Kanreki (Not Two, 2015)
  • Kende Dreams (Silkheart, 2015)
  • Soul Travelers (RogueArt, 2016)
  • Music for Six Musicians: Hommage À Olivier Messiaen (Silkheart, 2017)

with Slammin' the Infinite

  • Slammin' the Infinite (Cadence Jazz, 2004)- Steve Swell, Sabir Mateen, Matt Heyner, Klaus Kugel
  • Remember Now (NotTwo, 2006) - Steve Swell, Sabir Mateen, Matt Heyner, Klaus Kugel
  • Live @ the Vision Festival (NotTwo, 2007) - Steve Swell, Sabir Mateen, Matt Heyner, Klaus Kugel, John Blum
  • 5000 Poems (NotTwo, 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, 2010)- Barry Altschul, Hill Greene
  • Live in Montreal (CIMP, 2010)- Barry Altschul, Hill Greene

with Nation of We

  • Live at the Bowery Poetry Club (Ayler, 2006)
  • The Business of Here (Cadence Jazz, 2012)

with Inner Ear

  • Breathing Steam (Kilogram, 2010) Mikolaj Trzaska, Steve Swell, Per Ake Holmlander, Tim Daisy
  • Return from the Center of the Earth (Bocian, 2013) - Mikolaj Trzaska, Steve Swell, Per Ake Holmlander, Tim Daisy

With Marshall Allen


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

Digital Release

Trumpets: Roy Campbell, Lewis Barnes, Matt LaVelle Trombones: Dick Griffin, Peter Zummo, Steve Swell, Dave Taylor Piano: Chris Forbes Bass: Matthew Heyner, Todd Nicholson Drums: Jackson Krall-

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 Roswell Rudd

With Alan Silva

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]