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Seeing Steve Swallow live tonight!

Discussion in 'Bassists [BG]' started by DaveBeny, Nov 19, 2004.


  1. DaveBeny

    DaveBeny

    Mar 22, 2000
    London, UK
    I'm going to watch Carla Bley's Lost Chords (Andy Sheppard, Steve Swallow, Billy Drummond) at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London tonight. Am really looking forward to this gig, as I've been waiting for a few years now to see Steve live in the UK. I'm sitting slap-bang in the centre of the second row, so the band should be playing no more than a few feet from me.

    Unfortunately, cameras are not allowed in the venue. :(

    The first half of the concert is going to be broadcast on BBC Radio's 'Jazz on 3' show - this means that as I travel home tonight, I will be listening to a concert that I have just seen!

    Will post tomorrow with my thoughts on the gig for the other Swallow fans on here.

    DB
     
  2. wulf

    wulf

    Apr 11, 2002
    Oxford, UK
    I won't be there, but maybe I'll tune in on the radio - hope you enjoy the gig (and have a safe journey home).

    I'm not that familar with his playing but did pick up one of his albums about a month ago from emusic.com, with the Ohad Talmor sextet... sounds like a good reason to give it another spin this morning!

    Wulf
     
  3. wulf

    wulf

    Apr 11, 2002
    Oxford, UK
    How was the concert? I've not got round to listening to it yet but might do so later this weekend.

    Wulf
     
  4. DaveBeny

    DaveBeny

    Mar 22, 2000
    London, UK
    In short, a great concert - Joshua is right, Steve Swallow is a MONSTER! (in the most tasteful way!)

    It was a long night though - the concert finished at about 9:30, but my train ticket home was booked for 11:40! It was about 2.30am when I got back to my house!

    It was worth the journey though, both for the music and the thrill of meeting the legendary Robert Wyatt, who sat in front of me for the concert!

    We were in our seats early enough to see Steve come out and tune up before the show - unamplified, his tone was metallic and similar to an acoustic guitar - not surprising when he uses a copper plectrum on fresh strings. Amplified, his tone was very warm and round.

    Equipment:
    Steve played the latest version of his Citron AE5 (think this is his third or fourth). The bass has no magnetic pickups and no controls apart from a single volume knob mounted on the upper horn. The bass had a dark wooden scratchplate mounted both above and below the strings - the amount of wear he puts on instruments is strange, as his technique is so clean. :confused: The neck looked to be not much wider than a typical P-bass neck.

    He played through a Walter Woods amp (green-light model) into an SWR 4x10" cabinet, raised up to waist height.

    Technique:
    The cleanest plectrum-playing I have ever seen! He keeps the ring finger and 'pinkie' of his picking hand planted on the body at the end of the fretboard at all times. The picking hand looked completely relaxed. SS favours the 'up-pick'. Apart from the plectrum, his background in double-bass is clear in his fingering, note choices (uses open strings a lot, like a DBer would) etc. Perhaps this is why he is one of the few jazzers to play EBG so convincingly.

    The tunes:
    They began with a suite based on the American national anthem - nice, but it kept coming back to a funky rhythm (nice double-stops by SS) that, after 10-15 minutes, was beginning to get a little tiring.

    That was followed by an arrangement of 'Three Blind Mice', then a very nice reading of Monk's 'Mysterioso', with fiery tenor playing from Sheppard and some smooth walking from Swallow.

    There was then a three-part suite, 'The Girl Who Cried Champagne', which featured an impressive display of circular breathing from Sheppard. Swallow's up-tempo walking and solos were very impressive.

    The encore was 'Utviklingssang' - one of my favourite Carla Bley tunes - Swallow's solo got one the biggest rounds of applause of the night - it was exquisite.

    You can listen to the concert for until Friday here:
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio3/jazzon3 - Click 'listen to the latest programme'.
     
  5. I saw SS with Scofield in Cambridge, MA, USA, and all your description rings true. I highly recommend Sco's new live album, En Route. It's a great little trio, and the way Steve holds everything together continues to astound me on repeated hearings. He is just such an elegant player!
     
  6. DaveBeny

    DaveBeny

    Mar 22, 2000
    London, UK
    I would like to see this trio live. The annoying thing about 'En Route' is that Swallow sounds so low in the mix - I have to crank up my hifi to be able to hear his solos.
     
  7. wulf

    wulf

    Apr 11, 2002
    Oxford, UK
    Yep - definitely some nice playing on that one. Thanks for the heads up!

    Wulf
     
  8. emjazz

    emjazz Supporting Member

    Feb 23, 2003
    Boston, MA
    Thanks so much for letting us know about this show. Steve Swallow is such a beautiful player.
     
  9. elros

    elros

    Apr 24, 2004
    Norway
    Proprietor, Helland Musikk Teknologi
    I had a listen to the BBC webcast - very inspiring.

    Can anyone recommend a Steve Swallow album as an introduction to his stuff? These are available for me to buy:

    - Damaged In Transit
    - Always Pack Your Uniform On To..
    - Deconstructed
    - Real Book
    - Home
    - Swallow
    - Carla

    Where to start?
     
  10. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I don't like Steve Swallow's sound at all - but tomorrow, I'm going to see Jan Garbarek, who is bringing a quartet including Eberhard Weber - I'm really looking forward to seeing/hearing him play!! :)
     
  11. DaveBeny

    DaveBeny

    Mar 22, 2000
    London, UK
    'Damaged in Transit' is a sax/bass/drums trio - I don't listen to it much, as it can feel like one long sax blowing session. It's by no means a bad record though.

    Probably my favourite Swallow album is 'Always Pack Your Uniform On Top' - a top-quality live quintet album - some great tunes and playing.

    'Deconstructed', 'Real Book' and 'Home' are all worth investigating too.

    I have heard parts of 'Carla' and 'Swallow' and wasn't that impressed. A bit 'jazz-lite' or 'muzak' in parts.

    The duet albums that he's done with Carla Bley really show off his melodic sensibilities - I have 'Duets' and 'Go Together' and can recommend both.
     
  12. corinpills

    corinpills

    Nov 19, 2000
    Boston, MA
    Aww rats, I wish I had seen this post before the show. i've often seen Steve Swallow in interviews wondering whatever happened to his original '62 Gibson EB2. I actually ended up owning that bass for a while and it has these weird prototype pickups that I always wanted to ask him about. Unfortunately, said bass met a very messy end at a show in Boston about 8 years ago. it was a very air-worthy bass and looked magnificent soaring up towards the lighting rig. Unfortunately, I COMPLETELY flubbed the catch and that puppy exploded into a million small pieces.

    Take that, jazz history.
     
  13. emjazz

    emjazz Supporting Member

    Feb 23, 2003
    Boston, MA
    :scowl:
     
  14. emjazz

    emjazz Supporting Member

    Feb 23, 2003
    Boston, MA
    I liked his sound better when he had the magnetic pickups to mix with the piezo. It was a much more supportive sound.
     
  15. elros

    elros

    Apr 24, 2004
    Norway
    Proprietor, Helland Musikk Teknologi
    David Benyahia - thanks for the recommendations. I will definetly check out the live quintet album - I usually like live albums best when it comes to jazz.

    Ah, Jan Garbarek. I've seen him and his group once, it was in 1997 in Stavanger, Norway - it was absolutely fantastic! Please do tell about the concert afterwards, eh?
    And, Eberhard Weber is an amazing musician :eek: just like the rest of the Garbarek group. Wish I could be there :crying: - enjoy!
     
  16. winston

    winston Supporting Member

    May 2, 2000
    Berkeley, CA
    Probably my favorite Steve Swallow performances are on "Out Like A Light" and "Shinola", a couple of live albums from the '80's by John Scofield with Adam Nussbaum on drums. Great playing, and a wide variety of moods and textures. I also like his work with Paul Bley and Gary Burton. Plus, Steve's written many interesting songs and has wonderful phrasing, not to mention a unique approach to jazz bass.
     
  17. DaveBeny

    DaveBeny

    Mar 22, 2000
    London, UK
    :eek: I imagine that that bass might have been worth a tidy sum to the right collector today.
     
  18. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    So it was last night and the real stars of the show were Eberhard Weber and Marilyn Masur on drums/percussion - she had so much energy and was amazing!

    But Eberhard Weber was sitting in the middle of the stage and I had front row seats - so he was just in front of me! Fantastic sound all round and he did some amazing stuff throughout, as well as having a long solo spot, where he looped bowed parts to get an orchestral string sound!!

    His bowed sound was amazing - weird harmonics and very abrasive sawing - he bowed the B string really hard and got a really deep, but defined sound and his high register bowing was like a cello!

    His fingerstyle playing was as fast as any BG player I've seen - and with those thick strings on his 5 string electric upright!!

    I will run out of superlatives - so better stop now! ;)
     
  19. corinpills

    corinpills

    Nov 19, 2000
    Boston, MA
    Yeah, it turns out it's not worth very much in small pieces. Thanks for the photos, though, I've never seen those. For the record, the complete destruction of said historic instrument was not on purpose at all, but the looks of horror on the faces of all the musicians in the audience was more than amusing. Not quite amusing enough to dull the throbbing realization that I had lost my primary bass and has a show the next night, but...

    Besides, that's when I moved on to Guild Starfires and I like them much more, anyway. That's the lemonade from lemons angle.

    By the way, there are bits of that bass hanging on the walls of several repair shops in Boston if anybody needs to visit them.