Hi - I'm Al Swainger. Thanks for taking an interest. There's a more in depth biog below but here's the headline info.
I've performed, recorded and taught all over the country and internationally for more than 30 years. I've been lucky (and determined) enough to have an incredibly diverse experience musically during that time.
While no stranger to performing at venues including Ronnie Scotts and the Royal Albert Hall, I've also performed at national and international jazz festivals including Love Supreme, the London Jazz Festival and Krakow Jazz Festival. I have been awarded fifth place in the British Jazz Awards three times and performed with a who's who of jazz nobility during my career.
As a solo artist I've been developing and accumulating skills as a composer, improviser, producer, digital artist and FX enthusiast for forty years. I love combining elements from improvised music, mainstream jazz, pop, rock, funk and latin to write my own music and as a method for teaching others. My primary creative project since 2013 is Pointless Beauty but I still enjoy a very proactive freelance career for other people too.
Born in 1972, Al began playing the cornet and piano at the age of 6; he also tried the trumpet & tenor horn before finally settling on the french horn at 11. His teen years were spent in a wide variety of ensembles and stylistic settings – classical, jazz, pop and rock – often 4 or 5 days a week throughout his schooling. Mainly performing on french horn at this time but also on piano and self taught electric guitar and bass. He also developed an enthusiasm for computer music, composing & arranging extensively using sequencing software and home recording equipment.
Al earned his degree in music (BA) from Colchester institute in 1993 and a teaching certificate (PGCE) the following year from Bretton Hall. Whilst studying for his degree he held the piano chair in the university big band as well as continuing to play orchestral french horn.
After completing formal studies Al became a part time instrumental teacher for Devon Youth Music. At the same time he started to build a reputation as an electric bass player, musical director & arranger amongst the local soul & big bands, spent several years with world music improv band Rifiki and a short spell with heavy rock band Aesculus Hipp. With the collapse of the teaching arm of the music service in 2004 Al took the opportunity to become a full time self-employed musician and to expand his skills into playing double bass as well.
Since then Al has run a jazz jam session at the Globe in Exeter for 3 years, an improvisation / composition workshop called The Other Compass, the E.S.P. jam session in Bristol and the successful Blue Vanguard Jazz Club with Coach York & Craig Milverton since 2011. He toured his own bands The Art Trip (featuring Alan Barnes) in 2012 - 13 and Biophosmos in 2018 - 19 playing a selection of music by Chick Corea and his own compositions from the Pointless Beauty - After & Before album. The 8th studio album for the Pointless Beauty project, entitled 'Hearts Full of Grace', released in 2022 to rave reviews.
As an educator he has taught for Exeter College, the Academy of Music & Sound and the South West Music School for many years. He continues to tutor motivated pupils privately both for regular lessons and one off intensive consultation style sessions.
Al's reputation as a sideman and bassist for hire is formidable. Well known as someone able to slip easily into any context and sound like he's been doing it all his life at a moment's notice, he has been awarded 5th place in the British Jazz Awards three times from 2012-14. Currently he holds positions as part of Digby Fairweather's Half Dozen and Michele Drees Jazz Tap Project.
As a studio musician some highlights include several album recordings for Grice as well as with Siobhan McCrudden, Gary Bamford, Annika Skoogh, Dominic Ashworth & Craig Milverton.
In 2023 he joined the BBC National Orchestra of Wales for a special commission Nova Plexus by composer Derrick Skye. The piece was performed at the Royal Albert Hall as part of the 2023 BBC Proms season. He also performed with the orchestra for a 60th Anniversary of Doctor Who (broadcast on Radio 2 and due to be shown on BBC4 in early Nov) and Both Sides Now (Celebrating Joni Mitchell) featuring vocalists Charlotte Church, Laura Mvula, ESKA and Gwenno.
My goal for my students, and myself, at every stage is to be making better music. I spend my whole life thinking about methods for doing that.
As a performer and teacher it never stops because there's always a new wrinkle to keep things fun and interesting. Whatever stage of your music making you are at there's always great conversation waiting to happen.
I have been teaching for over 25 years and spent many years composing and arranging for varying ensemble sizes professionally. Beyond my ongoing provision of private tuition I have lectured improvisation and arrangement at Exeter College and taught musicianship skills and composition for South West Music School. I have also lead and worked collaboratively on a range of workshops and residentials for both. Since moving to Bristol I have been engaged in small group workshops for Bristol Pre-Conservatoire and with the Tommaso Starace Quartet as well as coaching Masters students for the Exeter Academy of Music and Sound. I currently direct, compose and arrange for the Marlin School Jazz Band, which performed at Cheltenham Jazz Festival in 2023.
My instrumental specialisms are bass guitar, double bass, piano and french horn but I welcome teaching musicianship skills to any instrument. As a bandleader, arranger and composer I enjoy encouraging groups of players to develop their ensemble skills through workshop situations. For specific composition and arrangement coaching I am an experienced user of paper and pen, Sibelius, Cubase & Ableton.
I received a BA (Hons) degree in Music from Colchester Institute in 1993 and subsequently a PCGE in Secondary Music from Bretton Hall in 1994. I have taught both privately (1994 – ), for Devon Youth Music (1994 – 2004), Devon County Council (2004 – 2009), Exeter College (2007 – 2016), South West Music School (2008 – 2014) and Exeter Academy of Music and Sound (2018 - ). I have also been engaged for freelance ensemble coaching by Devon Youth Jazz Orchestra, Bristol Pre-Conservertoire and as part of various touring jazz ensembles including the Tomasso Starace Quartet.
Everyone has their own ideas of who is famous and who isn't so here's a big list of everyone I've ever performed with on a paid gig just to be thorough. I'm sure you'll have heard of at least one of them!
Accordion: Mirek Salmon, Karen Street
Banjo: Eddie Edwards, Pete Sumner, John Whitlock
Drums/Percussion: Paolo Adamo, Gemma Allen, Miguel Andrews, Lee Beards, Will Beavis, Richard Blanchard, Sebastian Boleslawski, Stan Bourke, Tommy Bradascio, Robert Brian, Matt Brown, Rod Brown, Sam Brown, Steve Brown, Neil Bullock, Richie Burns, Ric Byer, Nick Carter, Tim Carter, Dave Cartwright, Pete Cater, Gordon Clark, Jon Clark, Mattia Collu, Craig Connet, George Cooper, Pete Cox, Scott Craig, Steve Crossen, Steve Douglas, Ted Draper, Michele Drees, Gary Evans, Jim Ferris, Matt Fishwick, Nick Good, Simon Gore, Tony Gullis, Andy Hague, Scott Hammond, Steve Hanley, Harry Harding, Dennis Harris, Mark Hayward, Colin Hedworth, Carl Hemmingsley, Arthur Hollingrake, Denny Hutchinson, Eddie John, James Keefe, Gary Kroll, Miles Levin, Holly Madge, Dave Mayne, Ben McCabe, Paul Magrath, Ursula Tuca Milan, Dusty Miller, Nick Millward, Tim Powell Morris, Roberto Nappi, Jim Newton, Chris Nickolls, Jimmy Norden, Eva Redman, Tony Orrell, Kevin O'Rourke, Chris Pope, George Prentiss-Povey, Ed Raynham, Jay Robertson, Steve Rushton, Keith Russell, Kristian Sharpe, Dave Sheen, Romain Siegel, Jonathan Silk, Graham Smith, Jamie Smale, Charlie Stratford, Roger Telford, Clark Tracey, Andy Tween, Steve Wads, John Watson, Billy Weir, Jon Whitfield, Mark Whitlam, Coach York
Flute: Greg Abate, Gareth Lockraine, Ruth Molins, Andy Panayi, Amy Roberts, Theo Travis
Guitar: Charlie Allen, Leo Appleyard, Dominic Ashworth, Andrew Barrett, Nick Boyd, John Broad, Neil Burns, Tim Carter, Bill Chugg, Dan Chugg, Graham Clow, Leigh Coleman, Nicholas Dover, Steve Dow, Steve Down, Ian Emby, John Etheridge, Matthew Grigg, Adam Holgate, Clive Hooper, Denny Ilett, Steve Jenner, Andy Hulme, Ant Law, Mark Lawrence, Rob Luft, Andy Mackenzie, Katie Marie, Tony Marshall, Jesse Molins, Jim Mullen, Harry Mundy, Mike Outram, Trefor Owens, John Parricelli, Gary Potter, Nigel Price, Phil Robson, Alex Roth, James Shipway, Mike Smith, Phil Smyth, Sean Snook, Rob Sporle, Jay Stapley, Andy Stevens, Roger Stiles, Adam Stokes, Antony Stylianou, Hugo Montgomery Swan, Marc Taylor, Joe Trudgeon, Hugh Turner, Christian Walsh, Sam Webb, Fraser Weekes, Andy Wild, Ryan Williams, Dave Wood, John Worth
Harmonica: Adam Glasser, Paul Jones, Rob Paparozzi
Harp : Emmy Broughton, Tara Minton
Keys: Gary Bamford, Andrzej Baranek, Paul Barnum, Andy Barton, Tom Berge, Paul Bingham, Jim Blomfield, Toby Boalch, Matt Carter, Liz Chugg, James Clemas, Philip Clouts, George Cooper, John Critchinson, Andrew Daldorph, Louis Scott Delaney, Tom Drewett, Paul Eldridge, Jonathan Elsender, Colin Frechter, Ralph Freeman, Tim Funnell, Jean-Paul Garde, Guy Gardner, Adam Glasser, Ana Gómez, Barry Green, Ruth Hammond, Paul Harris, Frank Harrison, Keith Harrison-Broninski, Mike Hatchard, Graham Hilton, Robin Holloway, Dave Jones, James Keefe, Tom Kincaid, Pete Kelly, Brian Kirkby, Adam Lane, Steve Lodder, Alex Maguire, Gav Martin, Rob Maxwell, Craig Milverton, Colin Mitchell, Tim Moore, Dhevdas Nair, Rebecca Nash, Ian Navran, Dave Newton, Dan Nicholls, Andy Nowak, Anders Olinder, Greg Painter, Will Penney, John Pierce, Graham Pinkney, Alfie Pugh, Tom Quirke, Justin Randall, Matt Rattcliffe, Jason Rebello, Neal Richardson, Louis Riley, Viv Rodd, Elliott Rooney, Dennis Rossi, Terry Seabrook, Pete Searle, Daryl Sherman, Gerry Swainger, Al Terry, Keith Tippett, Max Turnbull, John Turville, Tom Unwin, Jonathan Vinton, Andy Wild, Gareth Williams
Saxes/Clarinet: Greg Abate, Julien Alenda, Brandon Allen, Pete Allen, Gilad Atzmon, Iain Ballamy, Alan Barnes, John Barnes, Ray Beavis, Ned Bennett, Chris Biscoe, Peter Bradley, Frank Brooker, Steve Buckley, Chris Bundy, Pete Canter, Sue Capey, Otto Caretta, Gordy Carter, Alex Clarke, Benn Clatworthy, George Comer, Joel Corden, Craig Croften, Mark Crow, Renato D'Aiello, Martin Dale, Sarah Dean, Don Donally, Duncan Eagles, Ian Ellis, Richard Exall, James Evans, Jonny Faull, Jo Fooks, Mick Foster, Robert Fowler, Harry Fulcher, Jade Gall, Alex Garnett, John Gilbert, Fliss Gorst, Chris Gradwell, Chris Gumbley, Steve Hacking, John Hallam, Scott Hamilton, Ruth Hammond, Roz Harding, James Harris, Charlie Hearnshaw, Jonny Herbert, Graham Hilton, Hannah Horton, Jeremy Huggett, Claire Hurst, Daniel Janota, Andy Keenan, Martin Kern, Peter King, Duncan Lamont Jnr, Adam Lane, Ed Leaker, Pete Long, Pete Lowe, Ben Lowman, Jehan Malek, Stephen Mathers, Neil Maya, Dave McKeown, Jake McMurchie, James Morton, Dan Newberry, Joe Northwood, Yasmin Ogilvie, Dave O’Higgins, Dave Murphy, Al Nicholls, Andy Panayi, David Parr, Ken Parr, Dave Parsons, Roy Pellett, Mark Pembury, Ken Peplowski, Jamie Phippen, Hoagy Plastow, Terry Quinney, Raph Ravenscroft, Ken Rennison, Amy Roberts, Nick Robinson, James Russell, Zoltan Sagi, Matthias Seuffert, Karen Sharp, Dave Shepherd, Martin Speake, Simon Spillett, Greg Steland, Karen Street, Julian Marc Stringle, Carol Sudhalter, Art Themen, Jean Toussaint, Theo Travis, Lisa Tregale, Andy Tweed, Dimitri Vassilakis, Ben Waghorn, Chris Walker, Don Weller, Bobby Wellins, Geoff Westcott, Ric White, Andy Williamson, Trevor Whiting, Mike Wills, Laura Wright, John Wurr, Vassilis Xenopoulos
Tap Dancers: Scott Cripps, Will Gaines, Adele Joel, Junior Lanyan, Annette Walker
Trombone: Callum Au, Emma Bassett, Mark Bassey, Ian Bateman, Gordon Cambell, Bob Cronin, Andy Dore, Jamie Dove, Andy Fawbert, Andy Flaxman, Bobby Fox, Jim Fryer, Luke Gilbert, Tom Gill, Chris Gower, Dave Hankin, Andy Hillier, Pat Hogan, Jon Hopes, Graham Hughes, Terry Kelly, Richard Leach, Andy Letten, Dan Long, Roger Marks, Ron Milford, Dave Smallwood, Bob Martin, Paul Munnery, Mark Nightingale, Julian Pinn, Io Pugh, Sam Smith, Scott Stroman, Keith Thomas, Bill Watrous, Alistair White, Tom White, Roy Williams
Trumpet: Bruce Adams, Yazz Ahmed, Gary Alesbrook, Alan Bateman, Roger Bibbins, Mike Brewer, Jamie Brownfield, Jonny Bruce, Tim Carlstone, Guy Collins, Quentin Collins, Mike Cotton, Ben Cummings, Kev Cunningham, Paul Denegri, Andy Dickens, Callum Dowd, Digby Fairweather, Gabriel Garrick, Mark Gillbanks, Andy Hague, Duke Heitger, Dave Holdsworth, Martin Holland, Graham Hutton, Pete Judge, Noel Langley, Corben Lee, Gethin Liddington, Mike Lovatt, Nick Malcolm, Dave Martin, Jon Moakes, Brian Moore, Phil Nicholas, Dick Pearce, Robin Pengilley, Sue Richardson, Tim Sayer, Martin Shaw, Bobby Shew, John Shillitoe, Gareth Smith, Andy Stark, Pete Taylor, Becca Toft, Enrico Tomaso, Graham Treworgie, Steve Waterman, Neil Yates
Vibes: Roger Beaujolais, Ken Church, Tony Harris, Jim Hart, Nat Steele
Vocals: Jason Abrahams, P.P. Arnold, Jilly Banks, Belinda Rose Barnett, Zac Bauman, Esther Bennett, Charlotte Benson, Adam Binney, Gemma Bott, Rachel Brand, Becky Brine, Jeff Brown, Ruth Brown, Michael Campari, Sam Caralese, Leigh Coleman, Cate Cody, Linzi Collard, Sara Colman, Phillipa Cookman, Emma Cox, Scott Cripps, Joanna Eden, Lotty Ellery, Michaela Fedeczko, Tracey Germain, Phoebe Gorry, Maxine Green, Karolina Griškutė, Tiu de Haan, Katie Hamilton, Jacqui Hicks, Kai Hoffman, Claire Hoinville, Emma Hughes, Louise Innes, Phoebe Ions, Debbie Jones, Helen Jones, Paul Jones, Wayne Kennedy, Suzie Kennedy, Molly King, Victoria Klewin, Sally Knight, Patrick Kumah, Steve Laister, Roman Marek, Katie Marie, Claire Martin, Tina May, Hilda Monaghan, Lucy Moon, Adam Moran, Harry Mundy, Tim Murray, Penny Neilson, Annie Noel, Joy Parke, Louise Parker, Maggie Reeday, Sue Richardson, Noelle Rollings, Ella Rooke, Nick Roll, Ruth Royall, Sam Scott, Russell Shaun, Daryl Sherman, Annika Skoogh, Phil Smyth, Rob Sporle, Jay Stapley, Roger Stiles, Hugo Montgomery Swan, Nicky Swann, Clare Teal, Julie Tippetts, Lynn Thornton, Alex Walker, Ruby Washington, Heather Wensley, Jim Whitley, Toby Williams, Dean Winters, Val Wiseman, Kitsun Wolf
If I’ve missed you out, and I do have a fairly shoddy memory at times, I apologise. There’s no slight intended so please just drop me a line and I’ll be happy to add you in.
Groups: Aesculus Hipp, Agent Funk, A.J.’s Big Band, The Art Trip, The Artemis All-Stars, Jeremy Huggett’s Band Of Gold, The Bateman Brothers, Ben Cummings' Big Beat, Blue Harlem, The Bone Supremacy, Rachel Brand Trio, Becky Brine Trio, Neil Burns Trio, Michael Campari and the Solar System , Cantaloupe, City Steam Jazz Band, Martin Dale Quartet, Dave Can't Dance, Devon Youth Jazz Orchestra, Dodgey Practice, The Dratpack, Michele Drees Tap Project, Dysfunktional, Exe City Big Band, Format, Funkty Dumpty, Grice, Harry Fulcher Trio, Digby Fairweather's Half Dozen, Charlie Hearnshaw Quartet, Roger Marks’ Honiton Armada, The Jazz Company, The Jazz Worriers, Jivestar, Kick Ass Brass, Killer Whale, The Late Shift, Ed Leaker Trio, Lush Life, Mint Julep, Craig Milverton Trio, Harry Mundy Band, Monkey’s Uncle, Dave Murphy Quintet, Paper Moon, Louise Parker Quartet, Mother Popcorn, The Organisation, Paper Moon, Power Of Time Monkeys, Puravida Y Acustica, Rifiki, Sam Elliott Big Band, Scream Machine, James Shipway Quartet, Sketch, Snow Giants, Solar, Soul Station, Soul Vortex, South West All-Stars, The Supers, Swing 3, Ed Leaker's Swing Machine, Tipitinas, Threadbearz, The Tritone Subs, Brian Moore’s Wind Machine
Shows: Annie, Children Of Eden, Fame, Godspell, Jesus Christ Superstar, Legally Blonde, My Baby Just Cares For Me, Seussical, Songs For A New World, Spring Awakening
Touring Productions: P.P. Arnold - First Lady Of Soul, Bachelor Boy, Ego Mania, Ella & Louis, The ELO Experience, Magnificent Buble, My Winehouse, The Rat Pack – Vegas Spectacular, Rocking In Rhythm (with Paul Jones), Rocking With Laughter, A Tribute To Matt Monro, Unforgettable, Unity