Jazz Night with Travis Swanson Trio
7pm Jazz Night – $5 Cover
A musician of rare depth and maturity
“When the time came to record his first proper album, Travis Swanson faced an unusual problem: Which side of himself to show the world? The blues and soul player would be a natural choice; his first love was blues. But Travis told me recently that whenever he listens to the originators of electric blues, he’s no longer inclined to compete. “The last thing the world needs is another jive blues record.” Not that a Travis Swanson blues record would be anything less than fresh: the award-winning soul blues singer John Németh encouraged him to cut a disc of T-Swanisms – his inspired, authentic, funky, instrumental concepts – and while touring the US and Europe in Németh’s band, Swanson was acclaimed by those in the know as the best guitarist in the world under the age of 30.
Swanson could have made an impressive jazz record in practically any style. He began his explorations, naturally, studying swinging players like Charlie Christian and Tiny Grimes, and before long, was immersed in the recordings of Kenny Burrell, Grant Green, Wes Montgomery, Jim Hall, and George Benson. Contemporary players like Peter Bernstein, Gilad Hekselman, and Jonathan Kreisberg have his ear. (That’s considering only the guitarists, probably the smallest segment of his listening.) Waxing a legitimately jaw-dropping album of standards and jazz classics would be second nature for Swanson after countless gigs, usually in a duo or trio format where his was the primary harmonic and melodic voice, including years of Sundays spent holding court in marathon sessions at the Landmark Hotel’s martini bar. He has broad-ranging experience, too, performing in contexts ranging from soul jazz to free jazz, country to hip-hop, university recitals to pit orchestras. Nor is the nylon string guitar safe; Swanson has adapted Bach fugues and inventions for guitar, and is collaborating with contemporary classical musicians in “some of the most challenging music I’ve played.”
Swanson, then, is a rare talent, and if he is very nearly a Jack-of-all-trades, the adage’s usual qualifier, “master of none,” is far from the reality of his musicianship. Since starting relatively late on the instrument, at the tail end of high school barely ten years ago, he has been driven to discover, learn, and create. Ultimately, Swanson became determined to make his recorded début with a set of his own compositions, pieces that reflect his own voice and his personal journey. He cut When It’s Time To Say Goodbye in a couple of days in the summer of 2017 with the sympathetic rhythm section of Aiden Cafferty and Nicholas Bracewell, and if its songs call to mind distinctive present-day stylists like Lage, Frisell, and Cline, it is absolutely informed by Swanson’s various interests, with the grand sweep of tradition distilled into its varied grooves.
I’ve written before that Swanson is a musician of rare depth and maturity, with exceptional instinct, taste, and intelligence, and the technique to express his creativity in American music with power, grace, and authority. He’s also a perceptive, thoughtful individual, and possessed of a keen sense of humor. We hear that, too, in the music. The dual ironies of calling his introduction to the world at large When It’s Time to Say Goodbye, and of having created it after returning home to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula from a high-profile gig in Memphis for just long enough to woodshed, write, and record it before moving away again to begin the next phase of his career, are hardly lost on him.
Say hello to Travis Swanson. It’s time.”