Biography All Music Guide
All Music Guide:
Often associated with the New York downtown scene, Steve Swell is an underrated trombonist and a true team player capable of adapting to most situations. He incidentally picked up the trombone when he was ten. In 1973, he studied at Jersey City State College where he struck a long-lasting friendship with drummer Lou Grassi. He went on to study with Roswell Rudd who, alongside Grachan Moncur III and Bill Watrous, made the strongest impression on him. Swell then moved up through the ranks learning the ropes with Lionel Hampton, Buddy Rich, and Jaki Byard. In the early 80s, he spent a lot of time playing Broadway shows and at the Roseland. In the mid-'80s, he met Ken McIntyre and Walter Thompson, who reignited his interest in creative music. As for Herb Robertson and Hank Roberts, they gave him a first taste of Europe. In the early 90s, he gained some more exposure with Tim Berne's band as well as Joey Baron's Barondown and Phillip Johnston's Big Trouble. Continuing to enrich his experience as a sideman he later became a member of The Little Huey Creative Music Orchestra, Lou Grassi's PoBand, and Jemeel Moondoc's Jus Grew Orchestra. In 1996, he recorded his first album under his own name with saxophonist Chris Kelsey, Observations. He then took part in several cooperative bands, which include the Implicate Order, the Transcendentalists, and the Particle Data Group, and led various incarnations of his quartet and trio. Through the years, Swell has developed a special kinship with Ken Filiano and Lou Grassi, with whom he has shared a number of activities. In 2002, he started a new trio that included bassist Tom Abbs and drummer Geoff Mann. The following year saw the release of the first recording by his Unified Theory of Sound project featuring Jemeel Moondoc, Cooper-Moore, Wilber Morris, Kevin Norton, and Matt LaVelle.