Zachary Swanson is a versatile bassist performing music in an array of styles, with focus on improvised, experimental, original and folk music. Using gut strings and a personalized technique, Zachary has developed a conception of the double bass that heightens the integrity of various musical environments; from playing adventurous improvised music to backing singer-songwriters.

In August 2022, 577 Records will be releasing Trio Xolo’s debut album ‘In Flower, In Song’. The album is a collection of improvised pieces with saxophonist Derrick Michaels and percussionist Dalius Naujo that seek to capture the essence of the moment through deep listening. January 2022 saw the release of Ayumi Ishito’s Open Question Vol. 1 (577 Records) which received critical acclaim from Downbeat’s Josef Woodard who says of the album, “the muse was with them.” Writer John Pietaro of the New York City Jazz Review noted during a live performance of Open Question that Swanson’s driving bass lines made him appear “more machine than man.”

Swanson and violinist Tom Swafford released a duo album in 2021 entitled ‘Scythe Paths Through The Nettles’ which was deemed a “fascinating exploratory free improvisation project” from World Of Jazz’s Bob Osborne. Avant Music News’ Daniel Barbiero offered that the album presented a ‘unique perspective on unpremeditated music’ and was ‘unlike much freely improvised music for strings’. Swanson also performed on a trilogy of 2021 releases from Playfield on Orbit 577 which were included on Gary Chapin of The Free Jazz Collective’s Top 10 albums of the year. 

In March of 2020, 577 Records released ‘Astroturf Noise’, a trio with Sam Day Harmet on mandolin and Sana Nagano on violin. This group explores the intersection between free improvisation and bluegrass. NPR called the project “fire music served up in a surrealist honky-tonk.” One year prior, in March of 2019, the band Harbinger with Jarvis Earnshaw and Daniel Carter released their self-titled debut album. The music occupies a unique realm, with Earnshaw on sitar, tape-delay, and voice, Carter on a rotating cast of wind instruments, and Swanson on double bass. 

In the summer of 2018, Swanson toured Italy and appeared at the Sile Jazz Festival with guitarist Nico Soffiato for their duo project, Dogwood, promoting their album ‘Hecate’s Hounds’ on the Italian label nusica.org. Dogwood features an introspective approach to composition and improvised music with focus on exploring space and timbre. 

Zachary is currently working on a forthcoming trio album with violinist Tom Swafford and drummer Dalius Naujo, among being active in many other projects in the greater New York area.

Swanson has appeared on albums released by 577 Records (Open Question, Astroturf Noise, Federico Ughi Quartet’s Heart Talk and The Listening Group), Falcon Gumba Records (Leonor Falcon’s Imaga Mondo Vol. II), Orbit 577 (Playfield Volumes 1-3) pfMentum (Sanctuary by Trumpets and Basses), Gaucimusic (Live At The Bushwick Series with Aron Namenwirth, Daniel Carter and Joe Hertenstein), Culture of Waste records (Gettin’ Hot with Aron Namenwirth & Joe Hertenstein and nusica.org (Dogwood’s Hecate’s Hounds). As an independent artist, he has been a part of many self-released albums over the years including Killing Time with Pluck & Rail (2022), Scythe Paths Through the Nettles with Tom Swafford (2021), Nicholas Horner’s Sans Sebastienne (2020), Ghost Narratives with Tomchess (2019), Harbinger (2019), Chamber Music, a duo release with guitarist Stelios Mihas (2016), Antenna (2015), the Movement Trio’s Back of the Room (2012) among others.

Photo by Douglas Lowinger

Zachary has performed at series’ and festivals such as the Red Hook Jazz Festival with Tomchess’ Moonship Quartet, the Inside Out music series at Brooklyn Conservatory of Music, the 577 Forward Festival, AE Randolph Presents, and was a regular performer at the Bushwick Improvised Music Series. He has also appeared at the Great Eastern Music Festival in Montauk, Falcon Ridge, Take me to the River, and Charm City Folk and Bluegrass Festival backing folk and Americana artists such as Letitia VanSant, He-Bird She-Bird, Greg Cornell, and Pluck & Rail.

As an educator, Zachary has visited McDaniel College and Towson University to give a improvisation workshops with Derrick Michaels, Stelios Mihas and Jon Seligman. He has also given performances and hosted Q&A’s at Marlboro College in duo with vocalist Amanda Bloom,  a duo with Rodney “Godfather Don” Champman, and again with the ensemble No Land Bands, a project that combines jazz and Syrian music to promote awareness of the Syrian refugee crisis.

Zachary began his bass studies at the age of 6 in his home state of Massachusetts, and is a graduate of the Peabody Conservatory of Music of the Johns Hopkins University. He can be seen performing regularly throughout New York City and beyond.

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