For those who have seen The Sway Machinery in action, little explanation is needed. The band's combination of rhythmic power and potent folklore takes no prisoners. On stage the energy of submerged worlds is torn out into the light of day. And indeed, the historical tradition of Cantorial music, which is the focus of the band's work, is very much a lost world. The music of The Sway Machinery invites the listener to become like children wandering in the forest, discovering something mythic and wonderful.
The band's sound is rooted in the personal history of bandleader Jeremiah Lockwood, whose storied education included singing in the choir of his grandfather, Cantor Jacob Konigsberg and over a decade of playing in the subways of New York City with Piedmont Blues legend Carolina Slim. Lockwood's musical vision of worlds colliding in the experience of the individual has been aided and abetted by a stellar cast of band mates. Foremost in the collective of brilliant musicians that make up the band is drummer John Bollinger, of Barbez. Numerous illustrious alumnae of Antibalas helped found the group and make up the touring ensemble, including trumpeter Jordan McLean, bass player Nikhil Yerawadekar and guitarist Timothy Allen. The band is fortunate to boast Anthony Braxton and Arcade Fire sideman Matt Bauder on tenor saxophone. Past members of the collective have included bass saxophonist Colin Stetson, drummer Brian Chase, Israeli percussionist Tomer Tzur and saxophonist Stuart Bogie.
In January of 2010, The Sway Machinery traveled to Mali to perform at the legendary Festival of the Desert. While in Africa, the group recorded its second full-length album, The House of Friendly Ghosts Vol.1, which came out on JDub Records in March of 2011. The record featured collaborations with luminaries of Malian music, including Vieux Farka Toure and Khaira Arby. The band toured nationally and in Europe in support of the album, including numerous appearances with Khaira Arby.
In 2012 The Sway Machinery continued to burn up dance floors and festival stages around the world, including debuts in Australia, Israel, Warsaw and at prestigious festivals Montreal Jazz and Roskilde in Denmark. In 2013 the band released an EP of new songs entitled Monsters of the Ancient World, released as a free download on the band’s website.
In March 2015, The Sway Machinery will release their third LP, entitled Purity and Danger, on 3rd Generation Recordings. On this new album, the band delves deeply into dialogue with ghosts and saints, juxtaposing songs about the subway and dead lovers with 200-year-old Cantorial melodies performed for the first time in generations. This new record is the most lucid statement of the band’s foundational concept to date: driven but tender, ecstatic and serene. It is sure to turn heads around the world.
Hidden Melodies Revealed - Jeremiah says about the music...
When I was a boy my grandfather and I used to sit in his study listening to records of the great Cantors: Zawel Kwartin, Pierre Pinchik, Berele Chagy and other masters of Jewish music. In the dimly lit room, fragrant with pipe smoke and lined with huge volumes of the Talmud, their names resonated with a rich feeling of mythology and ancientness. On the wall was hung a framed print of a 16th century French map. In each corner of the map stood an image of one of the four races of the world, as was understood by the cartographers of the time. The images fortified the feeling that in that room the past and present and all of human kind were united in the study of some ancient wisdom. It felt to me as a child that there, in the dusky back room of my Granparents’ apartment in Queens, a passageway was opened into the heart of the world.
The music of the great Cantors is an astounding synthesis of personal creative innovation and total subservience to traditional art forms. In the work of the master Chazzans can be heard a knowledge of the modes and gestures of ancient synagogue art and the communication of an individual soul rooted in its particular time and place. One hears in the voice of the Cantor a deeply assured spokesman for the community telling a story that is both of the moment and beyond the ability of history to contain.
The Sway Machinery is currently at work on a project that seeks to reclaim the deep roots of Ashkenazic Jewish spiritual music. It is my belief that in the work of the master Chazzans of the Golden Age of Cantorial music there is a model for creative work that can be usefully employed today. In the Cantor’s balance of artistic authority and spiritual humility I see a perfect stance from which to speak to the emotional needs of the contemporary world. Together with my colleagues, I am revisiting the work of my heroes of Chazzanus, particularly the music of my grandfather, the legendary Cantor Jacob Konigsberg. In this way I am hoping to return to that place of childlike awe that he opened to me and share it with the world.
Son of composer Larry Lockwood and the grandson of the legendary Cantor Jacob Konigsberg, Jeremiah Lockwood began his musical career playing on the streets and subways of Manhattan performing with Piedmont Blues master Carolina Slim.
Jeremiah is the front man for The Sway Machinery, a band with a unique focus on mining atavisms and cultural memory to create new and exciting music. In 2010 The Sway Machinery performed at the legendary Festival of the Desert in Mali and recorded an album, The House of Friendly Ghosts Vol. 1, which features collaborations with legendary Malian artists like Khaira Arby and Djelimady Tounkara. In the years since, The Sway Machinery has performed internationally, debuting in 2012 in Australia, Israel, Warsaw and at the Roskilde and Montreal Jazz Festivals.
In 2007, Jeremiah was awarded the Six Points Fellowship for Emerging Jewish Artists to develop his unique concept for a concert-event to celebrate Rosh HaShana, the Jewish New Year, through a re-interpretation of the liturgical music of the holiday. In 2010 Jeremiah was artist-in-residence at the Jewish Daily Forward, creating a series of recordings based on historic Chassidic nigunim. Jeremiah was a 2011 composer fellow for the Brooklyn Philharmonic Orchestra and created new pieces of music for the orchestra.
In addition to his work performing and recording, Jeremiah is a composer for film and theater, notably scoring numerous award-winning shorts for director Paul Andrejco's Puppet Heap production company. Jeremiah has also toured the world extensively with Balkan Beat Box. Jeremiah’s blues-oriented solo album, American Primitive, was released by Vee-Ron Records in 2006. A follow up solo blues album is coming soon on System Dialing Records!
Jeremiah Lockwood lives in Brooklyn, NY with his wife Shasta and their sons Moses Lion and Jacob Ulysses.
John Bollinger - drums
John Bollinger is known in the New York scene as an explosive force, his fearsome groove and bone shattering bursts of energy adding an incredible excitement to his wonderful feel for a multiplicity of genres. He has worked with, among others, Barbes, Nanuchka and Guignol. John debuted with The Sway Machinery in 2009 and is featured on our new album The House of Friendly Ghosts Vol.1.
In addition to his work as a musician, John is an accomplished visual artist in a variety of media. His video compositions, which walk the line between comedy and high concept performance art have astounded an ever growing circle of cognoscenti. Check out this sample of his work:
Jordan McLean - trumpet
Charter member, lead trumpet, featured soloist and contributing composer, Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra; founding memeber, Fire of Space, Piano Music and Song Trio, and Droid; featured solo and ensemble work with Medeski Martin and Wood, Cyro Baptista, Butch Morris, Daniel Carter, Roy Campbell jr., Shoko Nagai, Jeremia Lockwood, Volney Litmus, Chin Chin, Eternal Buzz Brass Band, Akim's Dhafusion, Pransemble, Velour Music, and countless other NYC based and international musical personalities.
The past three years have seen Jordan completing a BMA in orchestral composition at SUNY Purchase, under the guidance of 21st Century American/Cosmic music luminaries Dary John Mizelle and Joel Thome.
Jordan has most recently completed a studio recording of concert works including pieces for solo piano, percussion quartet and Seeking Celestial Frequencies for string quartet. Fire of Space will be releasing it's first album, Handbasket, this summer on 482 music.
Nikhil Yerawadekar - bass guitar
Queens, NY’s own Nikhil P. Yerawadekar began playing bass in The Sway Machinery in the summer of 2010. Nikhil stays busy playing in a number of other NYC-based projects such as Antibalas, Akoya Afrobeat, Superhuman Happiness, Team B, occasionally subbing on guitar in the Fela! Broadway musical, and spending a lot of time teaching. Nikhil's new project, Low Mentality, has been gaining popularity in the NYC scene for the last few years.
Matt Bauder - tenor saxophone
Matt Bauder is a saxophonist and composer who has studied with Ed Sarath, Anthony Braxton, Ron Kuivila and Alvin Lucier. He has been an active member of the new music scenes in Ann Arbor, Chicago and New York, where he has performed with, among others, Braxton, Andrew D'Angelo, Jeff Parker, Chad Taylor, Jim Baker, Ken Vandermark and Phil Minton. He appears on recordings with Jason Ajemian (Locust Music), Warn Defever (Perforate My Heart), Neil Michael Hagerty (Drag City), His Name is Alive (4AD/Time Stereo), Saturday Looks Good to Me (Polyvinyl) and Bill Brovald (Tzadik).
Matt has been associated with The Sway Machinery for years and has been the principle instrumental soloist with the band since 2012.
Colin Stetson - bass saxophone
Woodwind player Colin Stetson can play powerfully while circularly breathing for long periods, can draw multiphonics out of a sax with great skill, and can command an audience's attention with his focus and melodic improvisations. Stetson was born and raised in Ann Arbor, MI, where he became proficient on assorted saxophones, clarinet, and flute. He earned a degree in music from his hometown school the University of Michigan in 1997, studying with Roscoe Mitchell, Donald Sinta, and Christopher Creviston; afterward, he went on to study with Steve Adams and Henry Threadgill as well. While still in college, he co-founded Transmission (which later became Transmission Trio), and in 1998 he played with progressive Detroit-area jazz-rockers Larval on their Knitting Factory album Larval 2. He moved to the San Francisco Bay Area that summer along with the rest of Transmission, which released its first album in 1999. Stetson also branched out to play live with the likes of Fred Frith, Peter Kowald, Ned Rothenberg, and Kenny Wollesen, and kept up his Detroit/Ann Arbor connections as well. Before moving west, he had played on his friend Recloose's debut EP for Planet E, and their collaborations continued over the years, culminating in the DJ's acclaimed full-length Cardiology in 2002. Also that year, Tom Waits tapped Stetson for reed work on his Alice and Blood Money albums, which led to significant exposure and a live performance on David Letterman. His most recent appearance with Waits has been on the soundtrack to the animated feature Shrek 2. Stetson had a limited edition 3" CD release of a 2002 performance at the Artship in Oakland, and his full-length debut as a leader came in the summer of 2003 with the quintet recording Slow Descent. Since relocating to NYC in 2004, Stetson is performing regularly with the Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra, Jeremiah Lockwood's Sway Machinery, Zemog El Gallo Bueno, and the ever present Transmission as well as performances with Sinead O'Connor, Burning Spear and Medeski, Martin, and Wood and Anthony Braxton. In 2007 Stetson was hired by indie-rock mavens Arcade Fire to play an arsenal of woodwinds and brass instruments (with a focus on French Horn) on their world tour. www.colinstetson.com For more information.
-Steve Huey, All Music Guide (allmusic.com)
Brian Chase - drums
Brian Chase is perhaps best known as the drummer with the New York rock band Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Chase grew up in Long Island and attended Friends Academy in Locust Valley, and Oberlin Conservatory of Music, Oberlin, Ohio. Now living in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, he also plays for the rock band The Seconds. Chase has always been an adventurous player and has sat in with many other groups, including Oakley Hall and Blarvuster. He has also performed in a number of experimental duos with other musicians such as Stefan Tcherepnin and Seth Misterka. Other musicians he has played with recently are Jessica Pavone, Mary Halvorson, Matt Elliot, and klezmer-fusion band The Sway Machinery.
Brian played drums with The Sway Machinery from 2007-2009 and is featured on our debut EP and on Hidden Melodies Revealed.
Stuart Bogie - tenor saxophone
Volney Litmus, Antibalas, The FunkeyMonkeys, TV on the Radio, Madeski, Martin and Wood, Burning Spear, Sinehead O'Conner, The Wu-Tang Clan, Rana, Dub is a Weapon, Congo Ashanti Roy, Tony Allen, Kologbo, Tunde WIlliams, The Sway Machinery, Jeremiah Lockwood, Paul Cox, Renata, Transmission, Colin Stetson, Matt Bauder, Matthew Lux, Toby Summerfield, Crush, Kill, Destroy, Fire of Space, The Eternal Buzz Brass Band, Geoff Mann, Recloose, Evan Hause, Reverend Vince Anderson, Chin Chin, The Sharp Things, The El Michels Affair, Sharon Jones and the Dapkings, The Fu Arkist-Ra, Dick Griffin (of Sun Ra's Arkistra), Vincent Chancey, Steve Swell, Joe McGinty, Tom Abs, Shoko Nagai, Jeremy Welms, Larry MacDonald, Brian Jackson, Butch Morris, Bill Brovold and Larval, Caural, Victor Rice, Gomez, Dragons of Zynth, Baaba Maal
Volney Litmus, Antibalas, The FunkeyMonkeys, , TV on the Radio, Madeski, Martin and Wood, Josh Sitron (composer of "Dora the Explorer)", Massive Attack, Chin Chin, Daptone Records, Sharon Jones and the Dapkings, Various Soul Fire/Truth and Soul tracks, DJ Logic, Chris Lee, The Eternal Buzz Brass Band, Geoff Mann, Recloose, Evan Hause, Dub is a Weapon, Congo Ashanti Roy, Fire of Space, Toby Summerfield, The Sway Machinery, Jeremiah Lockwood,The Dragons of Zynth, Dave Sitek, Celebration (Formerly LoveLife), The Fu Arkist-Ra, Paul Cox, Renata, Jeremy Welms, Dennis Ferrer, Butch Morris, Dr. Evan Hause, Bill Brovold and Larval, Caural, Tiklah, Victor Rice
Transmission, Antibalas, People's Bizarre, Renata, Paul Cox, Jeremiah Lockwood, Volney Litmus, The FunkeyMonkeys, Dennis Ferrer, Original Ultra Violets (w/Caurel), Fire of Space, Dave Sitek
Tomer Tzur - drums and percussion
Tomer’s up bringing in Israel has been the essential ingredient in shaping his musical style. Tomer moved to Manhattan to study composition and performance. He received his BFA from the New School. The vibrant music scene in New York exposed Tomer to Brazilian and Afro-Cuban music, which he played with Beat the Donkey led by the premier Brazilian percussionist Cyro Baptista. Tomer adapted his native Mid Eastern percussion, the darbukah and tof-miriam (tambourine) to his new musical landscape. Tomer has recorded with Artists such as Pharaoh’s Daughter, Amos Hoffman, Anistar orchestra, Avishai Cohen (Bassist), Shira Kline, StorahTelling, and has worked extensively with the Moroccan Jewish and Syrian Jewish community of musicians. He is a performer in residence at Congregation B'nai Jeshurun. Tomer has composed music for animated film and theatre, and gives workshops on Mid-Eastern percussion.
Selected performances: Central Park's Summer Stage, the Stockholm Jewish theater, Carre in Amsterdam. Hasidic Blues directed by BBC veteran filmmaker Robert Mullan. Lincoln Center's Damrosch Park, Smithsonian FolkLife Festival and Kennedy Center Washington D.C.
In 2007, Tomer moved back to his native Israel, currently residing in Jaffa, and is bringing his years of experience in NYC back to the Old World. He remains associated with The Sway Machinery, returning for the Hidden Melodies Revealed concert/event last September, and for recording sessions.
Circle of friends and intimate associates
in addition to the core members, The Sway Machinery expands and contracts on record and in our live shows to include many of our brilliant friends. Among them are:
Kenny Warren - trumpet - hailing from Denver, CO, Kenny has been bringing his winning tone to many NY projects for the last several years, notably as a member of Slavic Soul Party. He has been on tour with The Sway Machinery frequently in the past two years and can be heard on our new album. Kenny leads the experimental Americana group Laila and Smitty, that also features Jeremiah Lockwood.
Sarah Neufeld - violin - Sarah's unique voice on her instrument had a great impact on our first album, Hidden Melodies Revealed, and has been heard at numerous live dates. Sarah is well known to the world as a member of the illustrious Canadian rock bands Arcade Fire and Belle Orcheste and is currently pursuing a solo violin project.
Dean Buck - tenor saxophone - Young Dean Buck is a powerful fledgling voice on his instrument, gradually gaining notoriety in NYC underground circles. When not tearing it up on the saxophone, he conducts opera as a founder and music director of LoftOpera.
Other players who have graced the band with their presence include: Stefan Schneider (drums), Nick Movshon (bass and drums), Kelly Pratt (trumpet), Ed Rosenberg (tenor saxophone), Yuli Yael Be'eri (voice), Dan Cantrell (accordion).