World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Steve Swallow


Steve Swallow

Steve Swallow
Photo by Natalia Dobryszycka
Background information
Birth name Steve Swallow
Born (1940-10-04) October 4, 1940
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
Steve Swallow, Moers Festival 2012

Steve Swallow (born October 4, 1940, Fair Lawn, New Jersey) 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.


  • Biography 1
  • Partial discography 2
    • As leader or co-leader 2.1
    • As sideman 2.2
  • References 3
  • External links 4


Steve Swallow in San Francisco 1981 (photo: Brian McMillen)

As a child, Swallow studied piano and trumpet 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 1964, 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 1974-76 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 of the same name, with the picture of a well-worn, coffee-stained Real 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

As leader or co-leader

  • Hotel Hello with Gary Burton (ECM, 1974)
  • Home - music to poems by Robert Creeley (ECM, 1980)
  • Carla (Watt, 1987)
  • Duets with Carla Bley (Watt, 1988)
  • Go Together with Carla Bley (Watt, 1992)
  • Real Book (ECM, 1993)
  • Deconstructed (ECM, 1996)
  • Are We There Yet? with Carla Bley (Watt, 1998)
  • Always Pack Your Uniform On Top (ECM, 2000)
  • Damaged in Transit (Xtra Watt, 2003)
  • L'Histoire du Clochard with Ohad Talmor (Palmetto, 2007)
  • Playing in Traffic with Ohad Talmor and Adam Nussbaum (Auand, 2009)
  • Into the Woodwork (Xtra Watt, 2013)
  • The New Standard with Jamie Saft and Bobby Previte (RareNoise, 2014)

As sideman

With Carla Bley

With Paul Bley

With Gary Burton

With Dave Douglas

With Don Ellis

With Art Farmer

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


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

External links

  • Watt/XtraWatt - the recording company run by Swallow and Bley
  • Jazz changes – a Conversation with Steve Swallow

Category Yale alumni

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.