Harvie Swartz Biography

6 December 1948, Chelsea, Massachusetts, USA. Swartz’s early musical background found him playing piano and he earned a degree in piano and composition at the Berklee College Of Music. He began playing bass in his late teens, first working in and around Boston before moving to New York. During the 70s and on through the next two decades, he played with many well-known musicians from the jazz world, among them Mose Allison, Al Cohn, Zoot Sims, Mike Abene, the Thad Jones - Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra, Gil Evans, Stan Getz, Lee Konitz, Jan Hammer and Eddie Daniels. He also enjoyed a long and fruitful musical partnership with Steve Kuhn. Additionally noted for his teaming with David Friedman, Swartz also attracted attention for his accompaniment of singers, working with Chris Connor, Jackie Cain and Roy Kral, Jackie Paris, Mary Pearson and, most notably, Sheila Jordan. With Jordan, Swartz recorded almost a dozen albums over a 14-year period. The sensitivity of Swartz’s playing in this setting, allied to Jordan’s individualistic singing won worldwide praise.

He has led his own groups, including Double Image, with co-leader Dave Samuels, and the Harvie Swartz String Ensemble. Swartz has shown a penchant for working in duos, achieving great rapport with a number of companions, sometimes arriving at unusual instrumental combinations. In the 90s he worked with many contemporary music figures including John Abercrombie, Mike Stern, Chick Corea, Mick Goodrick, Charlie Mariano and Michael Brecker. His own band, Eye Contact, in which a developing interest in Latin American music can be heard, played clubs in New York and appeared at the 1998 JVC Jazz Festival. His interest in Latin music drew him to play with Juan Formell’s band and he has also been a member of the band led by Virginia Mayhew in which his colleagues included Ingrid Jensen, Kenny Barron and Bruce Barth.

Early in 1998, he visited Cuba in order to advance his understanding of Latin music. An immensely talented musician with great technical proficiency, Swartz’s ensemble playing is of a very high standard. When his melodic playing is fully exposed, as it is in the many duos in which he has featured over the years, and in solos, he displays considerable imagination and flair. Also of great importance in assessing his overall standing in jazz is his skill as a composer; by the end of the 90s he had recorded some 60 individual pieces. He has written the themes for several broadcast documentaries, among them Trumpet Kings, Piano Legends, and John Coltrane. In addition to a packed performing schedule, since the mid-80s Swartz has also been active in music education in the USA and abroad.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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