I have always loved Steve Swallow’s bass playing. He is just one for those players whose voice is unmistakable from note one. He is a ridiculous improvisor, an important composer and historically very connected to many important jazz-evolutionary threads of the past 50 years.
I am by no means a completist here or an authority on his output or playing. In fact, I can’t say that I have directly stolen ideas or approaches to the instrument from him in the same way I have stripped parts off of others… but when I think about jazz music and bass guitarists who are real stylists, he is the first to my mind (other than of course Jaco Pastorius.) His genius on the instrument and unparalleled support harmonically are obvious but I think that it was his unapologetic use of the bass GUITAR in jazz that moved me first as a younger player. Something to hold onto in the Wynton-era when I was initially learning to play and unsure of myself.
This blog entry at The Folks Who Feel Jazz blogspot really covers him well in a way I am unqualified to do. It is a REALLY great post. Check it out HERE
His work in the early 1980’s with The John Scofield Trio was where I initially dug in. Especially the records Shinola and Out Like A Light. They were playing jazz with a real punk abandon at a time when Miles-y funk and smooth jazz was pretty locked in. My friend, the great guitarist Mike Castellana introduced me to those records with the fervor that only a 20 year old Berklee student could have and I was immediately hooked. Swallow was hammering away at the music with a pick and low voiced power chords and soloing very beautifully and deliberately. It is still influential music to me; I listen to those records often. This cut Holidays gets to the ideas and power pretty quick... (I really just initially wanted to post this track- there is so much about it that I love.)
There are many other places to dig deep: his early work with the sadly overlooked Jimmy Giufree, the beautiful records with Carla Bley, the continuing trio work he does with Sco, his own group and most recently a record with the wonderful pianist/organist Jamie Saft and the great Bobby Previte called The New Standard. (Check it HERE
I know that this post ( and many others) are probably too obvious for many of my muso friends, but I feel like shouting out about this hero.
Recent Steve Swallow with his own group of amazing players: Jorge Rossy, Chris Cheek, Steve Cardenas and the great Carla Bley.