Jazz pianist and composer Nelda Swiggett is a Seattle native and University of Washington graduate. She formed her first band, the Room to Move Sextet, in 1990, and has since headlined her own group performing her original music at many of the Northwest’s top jazz venues. See Selected Past Performances.
“… a bright palette, a sinewy execution and a powerful, assertive command… the sound is all Swiggett’s: refined and confident, open and inviting.
– All About Jazz
Listen to more excerpts from Nelda’s four CD recordings.
Nelda’s melodic originals draw from her long list of influences, from jazz to Afro-Cuban, to gospel, classical and more. She has recorded four CDs of her music. Room to Move | No Time for Daydreams (1993) features sextet arrangements for trumpet, tenor and trombone. “Inspired arranging … infectious rhythms …” (Earshot Jazz Magazine). In 1998, her talent for composition was recognized by an Artist Trust Fellowship funded by the Washington State Arts Commission and the National Endowment for the Arts. Her second release as a leader followed — Nelda Swiggett Quartet | Hands On (1999). “Best Northwest Jazz CDs of 1999” (Jim Wilke, Jazz After Hours, NPR).
In 2006, Nelda founded the Nelda Swiggett Trio with bassist Chris Symer and drummer Byron Vannoy. In 2010, she released her third recording — Nelda Swiggett Trio | This Time (OA2 Records).
“ … a stunning project, put together by three imaginative swingers … held together by the highly original mind of Ms. Swiggett.”
Nelda’s fourth CD, Blue-Eyed Painted Lady (OA2 Records 2014), features Stringtet, a collaboration between her jazz piano trio and veteran Seattle Symphony musicians Rachel Swerdlow (viola) and Walter Gray (cello).
“… a rolling thunder of a set that smokes along mightily …”
– Midwest Record
In 2015, Nelda and her husband Clif Swiggett formed the Megabopolis sextet, a return to Nelda’s “mini big band” roots. Megabopolis features Travis Ranney (tenor saxophone), Michael Van Bebber (trumpet), Clif Swiggett (trombone), Nelda (piano), Michael Glynn (bass), and Max Wood (drums).
Clif & Nelda’s little BIG Band features Nelda on piano and vocals and her husband Clif Swiggett on trombone and percussion. Their duo performs classic swing and jazz standards, lively Brazilian and Afro-Cuban rhythms, and funky hits by Stevie Wonder, Pharrell Williams and more.
Nelda’s Alaska Suite: a story of beauty, loss and hope debuted at the Seattle First Baptist Church on Earth Day weekend 2017. This multimedia performance piece highlights the impacts of climate change in Alaska using narrative, images, poetry and original live music.
Winner of 2015 International Jazz Composition Contest
In 2015, Nelda won SWOJO’s international Jazz Composition Contest for Women Composers, and her big band arrangement, “Cat Dreams,” was debuted with special guest guitarist Mimi Fox at Seattle’s Triple Door as part of the 2015 Earshot Jazz Festival. Nelda’s original big band arrangements have been performed by Seattle’s nationally recognized Garfield High School Jazz Band I, the Seattle Women’s Jazz Orchestra (SWOJO), and others.
Nelda also works as a freelance pianist, private piano teacher, and clinician.