A tribute to Tom Swift

Volume 123, No. 8September, 2023

Tom Swift, 66, a Grammy-winning sound engineer who was a member of Local 802 in the 2000’s, died on July 6, 2023.

Tom studied percussion and sound technology at SUNY Fredonia and the Eastman School of Music. During his college days, he performed with the Erie and Buffalo Philharmonic orchestras, the Tommy Dorsey band, Spyro Gyra, and the Eastman and Fredonia jazz ensembles.

From 1978 through 1980, he taught sound technology at the Center for Audio Studies alongside his mentor David Moulton. In 1980, he joined the staff at Record Plant Studios in NYC, where he worked on hundreds of albums, both live and in the studio.

In 1984, Tom started his own recording business, Swift Kick Productions. Over the years, he worked with top names in every genre, including Robert Palmer; Eric Clapton; Don Henley;  Buddy Rich; Mark Knoffler; Robbie Roberson; AC/DC; Miles Davis; Pat Metheny; Tania Maria; Madonna; Caetano Velosa; Peter, Paul & Mary; the Rolling Stones; Bob DeVos; Don Friedman; the Pizarelli Brothers; Fernando Otero; Nick Danielson; Udi; the NYU Jazz Orchestra with Teo Macero; and The Vanguard.

As a sound designer, his film credits include “The Devils Own,” “Beautiful Girls,” “Postcards From the Edge,” “Tieta,” “Flirting With Disaster” and “The Color Of Money.” He also worked on recording and mixing the move “Ishtar,” which he also appeared in.

From 2009 to 2011, Tom served as chief engineer for Fame Studios in Alabama, the well-known birthplace of the Muscle Shoals sound. While there, he worked with James LeBlanc, Jason Isbell, Gary Nichols, Matt Stell and the Crashers, Angela Hacker, The Ugli Stick and Eddie James Ministries.

In 2011 he returned to his home base in NYC to continue new projects with Paquito D’Rivera, Yaron Gershovsky (of Manhattan Transfer), the David Eastman Band and the Mingus Big Band.

According to Tom’s resume, he was nominated for a Grammy eight times (for his work with Miles Davis, the Mingus Big Band, Donato Poveda and others) and for an Oscar for his work on the “The Color of Money” soundtrack.  His collaborations resulted in a 2008 Grammy win with Paquito D’Rivera for Best Latin Jazz album and a 2011 Grammy with the Mingus Big Band for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album.

Tom is survived by his wife Ana, daughter Carolina, son-in-law Sou (Hirai), son Sean, sisters Nancy (Dennis DeVito) and Sue (Sharcot), and his brother Ron (Sandy).