Winnipeg's Jazz Magazine

November/December 2013: Omer Avital

Mike Swickis

Written by:

Guitarist Mike Swickis started listening to 8-tracks in his big brother’s bedroom when he was just a little kid. He graduated to his own record player at 8, and began to play guitar as a young teen. At first he wanted to be Ace Frehley from Kiss, then got interested in blues, classic rock, jazz, and fusion. A veteran on the jazz cruise circuit, Swickis is poised to launch his first recording.

What appeals to you about the guitar?

Guitar is such a diverse instrument. You can play many styles of music with it, write with it, accompany yourself singing, and play rhythm or lead. I guess the main reason any of us gravitate toward a particular instrument is because the sound it makes resonates with us in a deep way—playing guitar is fun and it’s a big part of who I am.

Which jazz artists are your biggest influence?

For jazz guitar, there’s John Scofield, Pat Metheny, Wes Montgomery and Pat Martino. I also really like modern fusion players like Wayne Krantz and Oz Noy. Beyond the guitarists, I am influenced by guys like Miles Davis, Keith Jarrett, John Coltrane and Keith Carlock.

Give us a glimpse of the jazz cruise experience.

On my many contracts, I have had the opportunity to meet and play with some outstanding jazz players from all over the world—Israel, New York, Australia, England, and elsewhere. Growing up in Kenora, I never dreamed that I’d have the opportunity to collaborate with musicians like this! On the Queen Mary 2, Rodney Jones from the Juilliard School gave me a great lesson. Pretty cool to have a lesson with a guy who played with Dizzy. Pat Metheny was on board on another occasion. You certainly get to meet some interesting people and see some fascinating places.

You have a CD release coming up. Tell us about that.

The CD is called Songs I Wrote on the Plane and contains all original material. Its a mixture of jazz, fusion and funk and was recorded in Australia and Winnipeg.

When I was doing the world cruise on the QM2 in 2012 we were in Sydney a couple of times so a friend of mine, a fantastic pianist named Gavin Ahearn, helped arrange a session with engineer Richie Belkner to record some of our originals. Miles Thomas joined us on drums and Brendan Clark was on upright bass. These guys are unbelievable—I still can’t believe I recorded some of this album with them in Australia.

The Winnipeg sessions were engineered and mixed by Howie Rissin and were recorded in his home studio as well as at Mid Ocean Studio. I had the good fortune to work with guys like Will Bonness, Rick Boughton, Julian Bradford and Richard Moody.

My release show is November 28 at The Loft on Corydon. I’ll be joined by Dan Roy and Julian Bradford. I’m looking forward to sharing this new music with Winnipeg friends!

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