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Canadian Heritage

Neil Swainson


NEIL SWAINSON (bassist) was born on November 15, 1955 in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. He began playing professionally there, backing visiting musicians including Herb Ellis, Sonny Stitt, and Barney Kessell. He started working with Paul Horn in 1975 and led his own band for a two-year period before relocating to Vancouver in 1976. He has lived and worked in Toronto since 1977.

Swainson has been a leading player on the Toronto jazz scene ever since, playing with local and visiting luminaries including Moe Koffman, Rob McConnell, Ed Bickert, James Moody, George Coleman, Jay McShann, Tommy Flanagan, Lee Konitz, Joe Farrell, Slide Hampton, and Woody Shaw. He worked with Woody Shaw internationally, too, frequently in New York and on several European tours. He has appeared on two Woody Shaw recordings: Solid (Muse 5329) and In My Own Sweet Way (In & Out 7003).

In 1986 Swainson began working with George Shearing, a relationship that continues today. Together, they have worked with many other great artists including Mel Tormé, Joe Williams, Nancy Wilson, Robert Farnon, and Diana Krall. They have travelled worldwide, playing in Japan, Hong Kong, Australia, Europe, Great Britain, and all across North America. He has made numerous recordings with Shearing, including: Dexterity (Concord Jazz 4346), Mel & George “do” World War II (Concord Jazz 4471), A Perfect Match (with Ernestine Anderson, Concord Jazz 4357), I Hear a Rhapsody (Telarc 83310), Walkin’ (Telarc 83333), How Beautiful is Night (with Robert Farnon, Telarc 83325), Paper Moon (Telarc 83375), That Shearing Sound (Telarc 83347), and Joe Williams: A Song Is Born (View Video).

Swainson’s own recording, 49th Parallell (Concord Jazz 4396), features Woody Shaw on trumpet, and Joe Henderson on saxophone. He has also recorded with a number of other great artists including Jay McShann, Doc Cheatham, Geoff Keezer, Sam Noto, Peter Leitch, Pat LaBarbera, Kevin Dean, Rob McConnell, Ed Bickert, Lorne Lofsky, Kirk MacDonald; and JMOG, a cooperative band featuring Don Thompson, Pat LaBarbera, and Joe LaBarbera.

He has recorded with pianist Gene DiNovi: So In Love (Marshmallow MYCJ30118) and Golden Earrings (Marshmallow MYCJ30185). He recently toured Japan with DiNovi and recorded Smile (Five Stars Records FSY-501) and Gene DiNovi at Red Brick Warehouse Live in Yokohama (Marshmallow MMEX-103). More recently, he has been touring internationally with singer Roberta Gambarini.

Neil Swainson continues to compose music and freelance extensively in the Toronto area.

In 2013, Neil Swainson and Don Thompson released "Tranquility" on Cornerstone Records. With Don on piano and Neil on bass, the recording includes jazz standards as well as songs by Neil Swainson, Charlie Parker, and Kenny Wheeler..


Five recordings on which Neil Swainson plays have won Canada’s JUNO Award:
Jon Ballantyne’s Skydance (Justin Time 30-2);
P.J. Perry’s My Ideal (Unity 128);
Free Trade. a cooperative band featuring Renee Rosnes (Justin Time 64-2);
Kirk MacDonald’s The Atlantic Sessions (Koch 8600);
Pat LaBarbera’s Deep in a Dream (Radioland 10015).