2010 is turning out to be an exciting year for me. I am playing in the up and coming rock band Emanuel and the Fear which will be releasing its first full length album in March. There is already quite a buzz about this record and I'm very proud to be on it. I'm also playing in the country/cajun/folk group Potbelly Gumbo. We have some exciting shows coming up, some of them involving Square Dancing! I'm continuing to play in the subways both as an official Music Under New York musician at places like Union Square and Grand Central Station and independently in Brooklyn, primarily at the 7th Avenue B/Q stop. This continues to be a tremendously gratifying way to earn extra money and I've made many friends with the morning commuters at this station. The experience inspired my first solo cd, 7th Avenue, which features music that I composed or arranged while busking over the last year or so. I am most excited about my concert, which will be presented at Roulette on March 19th. It is called The Real (?) Me and is a representation of my own search for a personal and musical identity. We performed the concert last November at the Douglass Street Music Collective and it was quite successful. Everyone performed terrifically and the second performance will be even stronger.
At 3pm on Sunday, November 15 at the Douglass Street Music Collective (295 Douglass St., Brooklyn) I will be presenting a full length concert of my compositions. The concert's revised line up is String Power performing a new composition about String Power. It will be a piece about the experience of creating and running that ensemble for the past two years and it will reference the various styles of music we have played. Second on the program will be my woodwind quintet piece "Times Square Shuffle." Then 18 Germs performed by the excellent pianist (and my mentor in composition at Tufts U.) John McDonald followed by my distilled opera "This is the Real Me" performed by the talented Gelsey Bell. The second half of the concert will feature a special guest performance by the exquisite spoken word artist Lee Todd Lacks and an expanded version of my piece Your (so called) 'Music' which uses a piece of hate mail I received in response to the last concert of my music that I presented (in Seattle). It will involve all the performers plus the audience. Because of time constraints I decided not to have The Golden Crackers perform but we will be playing a full set at 8:30pm November 24th at Freddy's Back Room.
I continue to have amazing life and music experiences here in New York. I am finishing up work on the musical Anthropomorphic with lyricist Timmy Young. It will be performed by the Puppetry Arts Theatre and the New York Symphonic Arts Ensemble in Brooklyn on December 12 and 13th. We have some terrific singers on board for this as well as a fine ensemble and an excellent orchestrator.
I am reaching an exciting new point in my artistic development. I feel that I am just beginning to find my own voice as a composer. I have tried many styles both as composer and performer. I feel that I can approximate many styles, like an actor who can do a convincing foreign accent, but none of them are really me. I have begun work on a performance piece, a "distilled opera," for solo voice that depicts this search for the "real me" both as a musician as a composer. The reality is, of course, that we all have many different selves and these are constantly changing. But I do believe that it is necessary to make some decisions about who I really am both as a person and a composer. The piece will be performed by the very talented soprano/songwriter/performer/scholar Gelsey Bell. It will be part of an evening length concert of my compositions that I am putting together for this fall. The concert will also feature my groups String Power, The Golden Crackers (with my friend and superb drummer Matt Crane) and a premiere of my solo piano piece 18 Germs by my friend, mentor and fine pianist and composer John McDonald. Stay tuned for more information about where and when.
I am continuing to have a productive and enriching time here in New York. I will be performing with drummer Billy Mintz and keyboardist Roberta Piket this Thursday, December 4th, at Le Grand Dakar in Brooklyn. I am excited to be working with Roberta and Billy, two great musicians who I have known for several years but never performed with. I am using the opportunity to try out some new tunes which are closer to jazz than anything I have written lately. Along with that is a tune I wrote while I was in high school, in 1990, called Unaware. We're also playing Billy's piece, Retribution, which I heard him play with saxophonist John Gross in Portland, OR about 5 years ago and I was very moved by it. It is one of my favorite pieces.
Lyricist Tim Young and I are nearly finished with songs for the musical Anthropomorphic for the
The Puppetry Arts Theatre . We will have a concert performance in December, 2009 with a full orchestra.
I performed in an exciting and inspiring composition by composer T.J. Anderson called Ivesiana last October. Also in October we had yet another rocking String Power performance at the Tea Lounge. I've also been playing fiddle with a great singer/songwriter Andy Mullen . He writes music influenced by bluegrass, Old Time, country and jazz. His songs are terrific and I am having a real blast playing with this band. I'm also playing violin with another great singer/songwriter Emanuel Ayvas and his 11 piece orchestra called Emanuel and the Fear. .
I'll be performing in Seattle on January 8th with Cipher at the Good Shepherd Center as part of the Is that Jazz? festival. I am so happy to continue my musical relationships with Jesse, Tari and Greg and Good Shepherd is a beautiful venue.
All in all I feel like I am still in a period of development and trying things out. I feel like I am in the best possible place to be doing that and I am looking forward to more.
As I head into my 12th month here in New York I am continuing to have many exciting, diverse musical experiences. I am writing several songs for The Puppetry Arts Theatre for a production on April 20th in New York. This has been a great challenge and I am quite excited about the project. The second installment of the musical I am writing with lyricist Sonya Sobieski will be performed in April. To see a great performance of the first scene we wrote, called "Monster Boyfriend," click here. I am also developing music with percussionist Matt Crane for our duo The Golden Crackers. We plan to record some material in the coming weeks. The second performance of my ensemble String Power will occur in April. Also in April is the premiere of a composition I wrote for the Tufts University New Music Ensemble entitled "Bad Old Songs" and based on a Robert Schumann song. In the next few months I will be performing with rock bands, improvisation ensembles, new music ensembles, jazz groups and all kinds of interesting, talented artists. For more information go to the "tour" section. Also, check out my blog which I have resolved to update on a regular basis.
I have had a productive first Fall here in New York. On September 28th my ensemble, String Power, had a successful debut at the Tea Lounge in Brooklyn. Our next performance will take place in early 2008. I have completed a short piece for woodwind quintet called "Times Square Shuffle," which references a particular traffic routing procedure that anyone who has driven in New York has experienced. I have written two film scores. One, called "Adam and Eve" is in a 1920's silent movie style, and the other one, "Room Service" is a thriller that takes place in New York City during the holiday season. I am beginning work on a one act musical called Monster Boyfriend with author Sonya Sobieski. We will have a reading of a scene from it at the Big Little Theatre in Manhattan on January 7th. I recorded piano parts and assisted with music preparation for the terrific singer and composer Sherry Boone's one act show, which premiers at the Zipper Theatre on November 30th. I also recorded violin parts for the band Numbers and Letters, who will be releasing their CD in the Spring. I will be performing with the Alan Ferber Nonet on December 16th at the Brooklyn Lyceum, who will add a 10 piece string section for this performance.
First of all, a huge thanks to my friend Tony Greaves who built this site. Without his efforts and talents you would not be looking at this.
I was the head of the music department this summer at Buck's Rock Creative Arts Camp in New Milford, Connecticut. It was my second year there and the first as music head. It was a challenging and rewarding experience, to say the least. I had a good time and now I'm happy to be back in New York and ready to start working on my own music.
I have two projects in the works for the fall. The first will be on September 28 at the Tea Lounge in Brooklyn. It music for strings that will feature many of the talented string players in the New York area. Not only are these players excellent readers, they are stylistically flexible and terrific improvisers as well. My intention with this project is to showcase the often overlooked expressive capabities of strings, which are too often relegated to playing smooth and pretty notes in the background. Go to the "tour" section for more information. The other project is to write a set of tunes for myself and drummer Matt Crane and an as yet undermined bass player. Matt and I formed The Golden Crackers in Seattle and one of my primary reasons for relocating to New York is to continue this collaboration. -Tom Swafford