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Discussion in 'Bassists [DB]' started by Futurebass, Aug 24, 2005.
Does anybody know why Steve Swallow switched from double bass to bass guitar?
Here's a small thing that has some info:
Seems like it sort of grew out of his collaboration with Gary Burton...? I dunno, the article could be wrong.
FEnder offered him an endorsement and a signature model bass...
Better yet . . . why does he use a pick? And sits when he plays?
...he sounds pretty good when he does it. Does he need some other reason?
No. Since we're asking trivia, I thought I'd add a few.
I attended a clinic with Steve Swallow back around 81 or 82 and he told us about switching from DB, playing with a pick, why and how he sits when he plays. I don't remember exactly why he said that he switched but it had something to do with him trying out an EB and liking the sound.
Yeah, I'd heard he went to the NAMM show or something and as a lark tried a Gibson bass. He like the idea of hearing himself clearly and incorporated the pick to get the precise articulation he needed for the type of music he played.
I'd say Steve has done okay on EB.
When I saw him at the Montreal Jazz Festival a few months ago he was standing. He was playing with the Tin Pan Aliens. He was definately playing electric with a pick though. His playing is so beautiful.
Have you guys visited the Bley/Swallow website? It's pretty strange -- I haven't decided if I think it's cool or not.
On the other hand, they probably don't care if I think it's cool or not. Nor should they.
He sure has some great hands. I love to watch him play.
I talked a little bit with Art Lande about playing with Steve...he's pretty fond of him.
"Hotel Hello", with Gary Burton...now that's a great album.
Stuff I've garnered from various interviews:
1. The Burton band was on a bill with Cream at one of the Fillmores and Steve dug what Jack Bruce was doing.
2. He picked up a Gibson EB2 at a NAMM show but soon realized (as Stanley Clarke also did) that it was way too muddy. He switched to a P-bass which was extensively modified over the years. Around 1980 he started using custom basses with piezo pickups, first a Fillipetti, later a Parker and now a Citron.
3. He decided the two axes were too different to play both. When Keith Jarrett asked him to join his band but insisted he go back to upright, he chose to stay with the electric for good and turned Keith down.
4. He chose to use a pick as he felt that the instrument called for guitar technique.
To me he seems like he approaches EB like bass Jazz Guitar rather than using double bass technique on the EB. Makes sense to me, you hold it horizontally, the Gibson EB-2 at least looks kind of like a jazz box, etc, and has a short scale. The EB-2 is a very thick sounding axe, so the pick probably helped with the articulation, otherwise he'd sound like Jack Bruce or something. My hat is off to him for doing his thing regardless of trends. He was one of my earlier influences on EB, but alas whenever I try to use his technique with a group, I am asked politely to "dispense with the pick please".
Maybe because he found his voice?
If you were Steve Swallow then . . .
I remember him talking about the pick and something about he felt that he could be more expressive with it. For whatever reason, it works for him.
I've recently turned into a Steve Swallow freak. To mine ears, I would say he sounds better on EB than DB. Sometimes I forget that he plays EB but I have an album where he does both with Carla Bley. There's also a Art Farmer "Jazz Casual" VHS out there that has both Steve Swallow AND Jim Hall. Yowzers!
I don't blame him for switching. Double stops, playing at high registers, all that stuff is easier.
Anyways, I remember reading somewhere that a part of his sound is that he only uses a metal pick and pretty much only up-picks. Someone else can probably verify that.
This was a long time ago and something in the back of mind says it was a felt pick. I don't know why I'm thinking that but that's what I seem to be remembering. I guess the only way to really verify would be to ask him. What he's using now . . . I have no idea.
He's a wonderful musician, no matter what instrument he plays. There's a couple of Art Farmer records he's on (same band as the Jazz Casuals series), he's on a great Zoot Sims record Two Jims and a Zoot (Jimmy Raney, Jim Hall) and on the Pete LaRoca record BASRA.
To me, his upright playing sounds like he had absorbed a lot of Scotty and a lot of Charlie Haden. Real open approach to harmony and form, but a big warm sound.
BTW: For you Bay Area folk, the Lost Chords are coming to Yoshi's in Oakland in a few weeks. I'm definitely not going to miss it!
Lemme tell youse a thing. There's a live John Scofield Trio disc called En Route with Steve and Bill Stewart that's KILLIN. Wide Open Blowing, Sco plays some unbelievable stuff, Bill Stewart is the man, etc, etc, etc,...
I've said before but I just really don't like his tone - so this made me think , as I bought John Scofield's "Quiet" which has some really nice tunes and arrangments with a kind of acoustic vibe - but Steve Swallow's tone is really jarring and out of place in this setting.
To me it sounds like synth bass or as if he's used a ring modulator - a sort of 'clangy' sound ?
No doubt he plays some interesting stuff - but I just can't get past that synthetic sound and it really stands out to me - like running your fingernails down a blackboard.... unpleasant!
I really wish he hadn't switched, as I'd love to hear this album with DB.