A lauded bassist and composer, Steve Swallow is an influential performer who helped define the sound of post-bop, fusion, and modern creative jazz. An individualist on his chosen instrument, Swallow is known for emphasizing high notes and often approaches the electric bass as if it were a guitar. Following his initial emergence in the 1960s playing progressive jazz with Jimmy Giuffre and George Russell, he established long associations with pianist Paul Bley, trumpeter Art Farmer, vibraphonist Gary Burton, and others. Swallow has issued albums under his own name, including 1987's Carla, 1991's Swallow, and 1996's Deconstructed. He is also a longtime member of a trio with his partner, pianist Carla Bley, and saxophonist Andy Sheppard, issuing albums like 2013's Trios, 2016's Andando el Tiempo, and 2020's Life Goes On. A gifted composer, he is also recognized for writing such songs as "Eiderdown," "Falling Grace," and "Hotel Hello."
Born in 1940 in New Jersey, Swallow originally started out on the piano and trumpet before taking up the acoustic bass as a teenager. He joined the Paul Bley trio in 1960 and with Bley was part of an avant-garde version of the Jimmy Giuffre 3 during 1960-1962. He also recorded with George Russell and worked with both Art Farmer and Stan Getz. Also during the mid-'60s, he became a vital member of Gary Burton's quartet, making early forays into fusion jazz alongside guitarist Larry Coryell. It was during this time that Swallow began primarily playing electric bass. As a solo artist, he made his debut as a co-leader on several sessions, including joining Burton for 1975's Hotel Hello. He also paired with poet Robert Creeley for 1979's Home.