Trumpeter John Swana

Victor L. Schermer By

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AAJ: Tell us about the Joe Sudler Swing Machine.

JS: I was really young and excited to play with this big band. It was a great experience. I remember Freddie Hubbard, Clark Terry, Jon Faddis, Bob Minzer, Lockjaw Davis, J.J. Johnson, Slide Hampton all came in. There's even a video out with the band backing up Phil Woods. We were playing with all these great players, then suddenly the next thing I know we're playing weddings, and Bar Mitzvahs, with the same band! It was quite a shock.

AAJ: And Joe Magnarelli.

JS: What I love about Joe is that he's really soulful, warm, honest. I have a good rapport with him when we play: we're not trying to cut each other. I learn from listening to him. He's a beautiful person too, real warm. He's on the road at the moment with the Harry Connick Big Band. On June 15 at Chris' Jazz Cafe, Joe, myself, and Eric Alexander will be performing together for the Mellon Jazz Festival.

AAJ: Could you reflect on your own approach to living, and why someone with the talent that you have is living in this city, hanging out with local musicians, and not doing the fast track lifestyle?

JS: Well, truthfully and sadly, Philly is a kind of provincial city. But for me, there are a lot of reasons why I didn't move to New York. For one thing, there was a slight fear of just breaking ties in order to move there. I believe that there's a very real personality type that you need to have in the music business- it's a social thing, and part of it is what "looks good" to people. I chose Philly for a number of reasons: I'm comfortable here, I have friends here. There's something that I like and don't like about the music scene here. I like playing with Sid Simmons, Mike Boone, Byron Landham, Tom Lawton, Larry McKenna, Shirley Scott, Trudy Pitts, Bootsie Barnes, Steve Giordano, Tony Miceli, Pete Smyser, and Mickey Roker, to name just a few. Uri Caine came from here. There's a feeling about Philly that's "homespun," but not so homespun that it loses touch with what's happening in jazz. Philly's close to New York, and those guys come and perform with us. At the same time, there's something about Philly that can be rough. This is a hard bop town, at least at Ortlieb's and Chris'. You can't be a Dave Douglas. You can't do a Knitting Factory type of thing and expect to work a lot of gigs in Philly. But there is a homemade thing that really has a lot of heart in Philly. Philly has a certain vibe, and it's hard to push out of that. There is a Philly sound, really. I feel blessed to be accepted by the guys in Philly. And it's easier to live here, it's comfortable to live here. At the same time, I love New York, and want to get up there more. But I feel more at home here.

AAJ: To conclude, can you tell us your future goals, what's coming up?

JS: I'm recording in June with Sid Simmons, Byron Landham, Mike Boone, and Bootsie Barnes. I talked Gerry Teekens of Criss-Cross into doing something that these guys create. I've played with Sid for years. Also, I'll go to Taiwan with Uri. And in September, I'm to record with Horace Silver. I want to work on some compositions, take some chances on my next Criss Cross recordings. I also plan to keep exploring with my electronic equipment, to grow and get a stronger voice in that area.

AAJ: Well, we could go on and on- you're a musician's musician, that's obvious, and we'd like to hear a lot more of your thoughts. More importantly, I hope this interview will inspire readers to listen to your outstanding playing, whether live or on recording. But that's all we have time for, John. I can't thank you enough.

JS: It was a real pleasure doing this with you.

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