The Kennedy Center

Mary Ann McSweeney



Biography

Mary Ann McSweeney's acoustic bass is found at the melodic heart of her jazz compositions. The California-born artist has developed a sound that is colored by her early classical roots and inspired by her mentors, Ray Brown, John Clayton and Richie Beirach.

McSweeney's performance work has taken her from jazz clubs and festivals in the US, Europe and Asia and onto the symphony stage. She tours with her own jazz quintet that includes Donny McCaslin on saxophones, Mike Fahn on valve and slide trombone, Henry Hey on piano and Tim Horner on drums. Thoughts of You, her debut recording as a leader with this quintet, will be released in early 2001 (Jazz Magnet).

Mary Ann has performed with Dizzy Gillespie, Jimmy Witherspoon, Betty O'Hara, Stacy Rowles, Rick Margitza, Lynn Ariel, Maiden Voyage Big Band, and the Ed Palermo Big Band to name a few. She has recorded with the Jim Cifelli New York Nonet, the Diva Big Band, Gene Burkert, Nana Simopoulos and Manhattan Vocal Project among others. On the classical side, she has worked with conductors Leonard Bernstein, John Williams and Lalo Schifrin.

The upright bass was Mary Ann McSweeney's fourth instrument, but it was the one she fell in love with "at first sound". Her early training was directed by her mother and was primarily classical. Starting with piano at age five, and moving to the violin at eight, she performed a number of piano concertos as a teen. When she picked up the electric bass in junior high, her mother raised an eyebrow. But by high school, she'd found the acoustic bass and jazz, and her musical identity solidified.

Chosen to perform at the Monterey Jazz Festival at age 16, the young bassist appeared with the All Star Big Band fronted by Thad Jones and Mel Lewis. McSweeney moved to Los Angeles to study at California State Northridge with Dr. David Young. She met Ray Brown through Dr. Young and studied with him for about a year. Next, she studied with John Clayton.

McSweeney worked for ten years on the Los Angeles scene in jazz clubs, festivals and studio sessions. 1993 brought a move to New York where she records, plays jazz and blues clubs and has performed on 17 different Broadway shows. She has appeared at jazz festivals such as the Jazz Kaart in the Baltic States and the Brau Nau festival in Austria and, most recently, the Festival Lent in Slovenia. In May 2000, Mary Ann performed at the Mary Lou Williams Jazz Festival at the Kennedy Center.
Photo of Mary Ann McSweeney

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