Uli Templin

Steve Swell Quintet

This configuration of world-class musicians who are all part of the legacy of the ongoing tradition of adventurous music whether it is called free jazz or improvised music have all worked together in various groupings of their own for several decades. The formation presented here has been together in this configuration since 2015 when they recorded for the Rogue Art label of France. That recording was chosen as a Best of 2016 recording in the New York City Jazz Record. They have performed in St. Louis, MO; Ann Arbor, MI; Buffalo, NY; and New York City.

The amalgam of decades of experience makes this ensemble unique in their ability to blend the many current improvising strategies with intelligence and energy that make for exciting performances. The compositions are by Steve Swell which are artfully realized by these legendary musicians.

Steve Swell studied trombone in the 1970s with Roswell Rudd in New York City after attending Jersey City State College. He then moved into professional music life in NYC joining Lionel Hampton’s Band in 1983 then Buddy Rich’s Band in 1984. After leaving the Rich band he joined Jaki Byard and the Appollo Stompers and Makanda Ken McIntyre’s small ensemble. He then joined Jemeel Moondoc’s Jus Grew Orchestra in 1989 and has been a leading voice on the trombone in the downtown scene, playing with numerous outstanding artists on this scene such as Elliot Sharp, Butch Morris, and William Parker. Swell leads several projects of his own such as his Unified Theory Of Sound, Fire Into Music, Nation of We and Slammin’ The Infinite which recorded for the Cadence label, as well as other projects on the Clean Feed, NotTwo, Silkheart and RogueArt labels. Steve's "Music for Six Musicians: Hommage à Olivier Messiaen" was released by Silkheart Records in the Fall of 2017.

Jemeel Moondoc studied music with Ran Blake in Boston 1970s, where he also played in the James Tatum Blues Band, and then went with Cecil Taylor to Wisconsin University and Antioch College, playing alto and soprano saxophones in Taylor’s student orchestras. He moved to New York in 1972, where he met and played with avant garde luminaries William Parker and Roy Campbell, and formed his decade spanning Ensemble Muntu. In 1984 he formed the 15 piece Jus Grew Orchestra. Moondoc’s approach combines the looseness of bar room blues with post-Coleman multi-key valency. Moondoc remains a strikingly individual musical mind in a jazz scene too often willing to conform to the standards of the past. He has numerous recordings on his own Muntu imprint, and the Soul Note, Cadence and Eremite labels.

Dave Burrell was a key collaborator to many of the revolutionary voices of the 1960’s “New Thing” and appeared on some of the most important recordings by the likes of Pharoah Sanders, Archie Shepp, Marion Brown, Sonny Sharrock and Sunny Murray. His own work as a leader is equally vital. He is a composer with a distinct and thorough vision. As free as his improvisational spirit is, his work displays a determined intellect that may be most explicit in his operas and research-based projects made in collaboration with writer Monika Larsson. Dave masterfully operates in a realm where rooted tradition and avant-garde freedoms function as poles of a single vision. From the craftsmanship of rag through free jazz’s radical peaks, his mastery and range through the music’s vernacular and history is unforced. It’s almost as if he is unaware these distinctions and categories, and by false designations of “inside” and “outside” that limit the rest of us.

William Parker was raised in the Bronx and made his early public and recorded appearances in the New York loft world of the Seventies, during which time he became a staple member of Music Ensemble (ca. 1974-78), Jemeel Moondoc’s Ensemble Muntu (1974-81) and Other Dimensions in Music (ca. 1978- present).Through working with Karen Borca, he became a regular in Jimmy Lyon’s groups and through working with Lyons, he became bassist for the Cecil Taylor Unit and was part of the Unit throughout Lyon’s last years (1981-87) and subsequently in Taylor’s Feel Trio and small groups until the early Nineties. In 1993 he launched his own ensembles, In Order to Survive and the Little Huey Creative Music Orchestra. Parker is one of the central stylists of the bass’s recent history and is a pillar of the musical community in New York City.

Although jazz drummer Gerald Cleaver has been known in the Detroit area as a great musician and educator since the early '90s, he was not so well-known to listeners outside of the Midwest until an explosion of recordings released starting in 1999 brought his powerful and tasteful drumming to the attention of jazz listeners everywhere. Born and raised in Detroit, Cleaver became deeply involved with the jazz scene there, working with respected area musicians including trumpeter Marcus Belgrave, guitarist A. Spencer Barefield, reedsman Wendell Harrison, and many others. An NEA fellowship allowed Cleaver to study with drummer Victor Lewis; Cleaver then earned a music degree from the University of Michigan. Splitting time between Detroit and N.Y.C., where he subsequently moved, Cleaver has worked with a long list of great jazz leaders including Roscoe Mitchell, Henry Threadgill, and Reggie Workman among others. Farmers by Nature, with William Parker and Craig Taborn, appeared from Aum Fidelity in 2009.

Current tour dates

Available for Festivals and Special Events


Contact us if you want to offer a date for this tour, and we will advise you on availability.

Steve Swell Quintet
Soul Travelers (Rogue Art)

...we’re ever so lucky to have friends like Steve Swell, who plays the damn thing as if that was the last day of his life, injecting the music with huge soul, gravitational pulls towards the right energy channels and astounding technical wizardry. Massimo Ricci, Touching Extremes


Steve Swell: Appreciating the Avant Garde Today
— All About Jazz Interview by Vic Schermer, July 2017

Steve Swell: 5049 Podcast, Episode 96
— Episode 95 by Jeremiah Cymerman, December 2016

Steve Swell: Unlimited Musical Possibilities
— All About Jazz Interview by Vic Schermer, July 2014

William Parker: 5049 Podcast, Episode 35
— Episode 35 by Jeremiah Cymerman, December 2013


Tags: Steve Swell Quintet, Soul Travelers, Jemeel Moondoc, Dave Burrell, William Parker, Gerald Cleaver
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