The past few years have been a process of growth for Philadelphia sax player, composer, and producer Max Swan.
In the early 2010s, he was a recent graduate of UArts with a jazz saxophone performance degree, gigging around town. We first encountered him at Philadelphia’s Center City Jazz Fest in 2015, playing a set at Time that mixed soaring instrumental leads with electronic and hip-hop synthesizer textures. We heard more of it that autumn in his elegant single “So Much Chime,” a song driven by Swan’s R&B style vocals. As is happened, this was just the early stages of his dabbling in genre fusion; the beginning of his push to do more with his schooling than the humdrum traditional route.
This year, Swan released an album called The Fisherman, and it finds him stepping further away from jazz and into suave singer-songwriter multi-instrumentalist mode. It features moody synthesizer textures, a warm and understated croon, and layers of guitars, beats, bass drops and horns. “The Waters” was the first single from the project, a celebration of weed, sex, and desire, and as we saw this summer at Firefly Festival, Swan’s new body of work found him firmly embracing his inner Frank Ocean.
For this week’s Key Studio Session, Swan makes The Fisherman come to life in WXPN studios, with the help of his live band: guitarists Simon Martinez and Josh Nussbaum, bassist Nick Perri, drummer Lenny Mobley, keyboardist Matt Keppler, and the trombone line of Sam Gellerstein, Nick Lombardelli, and Chris Mele.
In addition to an expansive, eight-minute take on “The Waters,” we hear the band bring a ton of energy to the uplifting “Steady,” which opens the set, while the drama simmers on the closer “Backing Up.” All three songs can be heard on The Fisherman, which is out now on all streaming networks.
Swan’s next Philadelphia gig happens on Black Friday, November 23rd, at MilkBoy in Center City. Tickets and more information can be found at the XPN Concert Calendar; below, watch Swan and his band perform “Steady” and listen to their entire Key Studio Session via Soundcloud.