Happy Birthday Steve Swallow

October 4, 1940

 

A tribute and a memorable performance by the inventive electric bassist

Bassist Steve Swallow was born October 4, 1940 in Fair Lawn, New Jersey.

He studied piano and trumpet before settling on the string bass when he was 14.

After studying composition at Yale, in 1960 he dropped out of school, settled in New York, and became a member of the Jimmy Giuffre Trio which also included pianist Paul Bley.

Always an adventurous player, Swallow recorded with Don Ellis, was a member of the George Russell Sextet (which on one record also included Eric Dolphy), made important recordings with Sheila Jordan and Paul Bley in 1963 and also worked with Benny Goodman.

Swallow was a member of the Art Farmer-Jim Hall Quartet in 1963-64, performed with Thelonious Monk at the 1964 Monterey Jazz Festival, and began a longtime association with Gary Burton that year, playing with Burton’s group on and off into the mid-1970s.

Other important associations for Steve Swallow in the 1960s include Stan Getz, Chick Corea and Steve Kuhn.

Swallow switched to the electric bass around 1977, becoming a pollwinner on the instrument where he often emphasized the upper register.

He began working with Carla Bley in the late 1970s and they later married.

Steve Swallow, who occasionally leads his own record dates, has a quiet and thoughtful style that has worked well on many occasions with Bley, Corea, Burton, Kuhn, John Scofield and Bob Moses.

Here is Steve Swallow featured on “Ladies In Mercedes” in 1989 with a group that includes trumpeter Lew Soloff, saxophonist Daniel Schnyder, harpist Emily Mitchell and drummer Danny Gottlieb.

-Scott Yanow

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