Bassist Neil Swainson returns with long-awaited second album Fire in the West

B.C.-based jazz bassist and composer Neil Swainson has returned with Fire in the West, his first album as a leader since 1988.

Swainson has spent much of his life as one of Canada’s most dependably brilliant side players for musicians such as Woody Shaw, George Shearing, Jay McShann and Roberta Gambarini.

For his second release as a bandleader, the visionary bassist is joined by pianist Renee Rosnes, drummer Lewis Nash, trumpeter Brad Turner and tenor saxophonist Kelly Jefferson.

Swainson’s first album 49th Parallel was released back in 1988 (and newly reissued in 2020) and featured a quintet with Joe Henderson, Woody Shaw, Jerry Fuller and Garry Williamson.


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Swainson’s return to recording was inspired by a concert in Bamfield, B.C., where he fell in love with the tenor-and-trumpet duo of Jefferson and Turner. As a longtime fan of the front-line pairings of the 1950s bands of Miles Davis, Art Blakey and Horace Silver, Swainson went on to shape his compositions and the rhythm section of pianist Rosnes and Nash around that post-bop conception.

“For me, that’s a classic jazz sound,” Swainson says.

The album’s title came to Swainson while he was on a flight to Vancouver in the summer of 2021. “Although we were 2,000 feet up, we flew right through the smoke and over the widespread fires that were wreaking havoc in the Okanagan Valley at the time,” he recalls.

The quintet recorded the album — which features 10 original compositions by Swainson — at Pineapple Sound in Langley, B.C.

Here’s the track listing for Fire in the West:

  1. Fire in the West
  2. Fool’s Gold
  3. Cascades
  4. Standing Back
  5. Fell Among Thieves
  6. Kyushu
  7. Late Afternoon
  8. Near North
  9. Gone Away
  10. Silver Mine

Neil Swainson’s Fire in the West will be released Aug. 19, 2022.