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donnie with The Keith Little Band, Rome May 2006
donnie with Pan Leggo 2000
donnie performing at Brecon Jazz 2007
donnie joe Sweeney is a highly active and in demand Guitarist, Singer, and Double Bassist living just outside of Cardiff in South Wales, UK. He Specialises in Swing Jazz, Jump 'n' Jive, Rock & Roll, R&B, Country, Blues, and Funk.
His moto is, ’Music should be fun.’ As he always says, 'If the music ain’t fun and entertaining, for the folks standing around, dancing and watching it, then what’s the point?’
As well as running his own Bands;
donnie joe's American Swing
donnie joe's Roots&Rock&Roll Band
donnie can be seen and heard playing with;
The Matt Sage Trio
A New Old Fashioned Jazz Band
Kitty's Little Big Band (The Purramours)
Chapter Arts Jazz & Swing Quartet
As well as sitting in regularly with;
Five Star Swing
The Red Hot Pokers
Keith Little Band
and many many more ....
His wide ranging influences start in the Swing Jazz world with Mel Torme, Carmen McRea, Blossom Dearie, Dave Frishberg, Louis Prima, Etta Jones, Louis Jordan, Duke Ellington, Lambert Hendrix & Ross, and end elsewhere with the likes of Ernest Tubb, The Meters, Johnny Cash, Flat&Scruggs, Emmylou Harris, Jesse Fuller, The Allman Brothers, George Clinton's Parliament/Funkadelic, Steely Dan, Graham Central Station, Solomon Burke, Bob Dylan and a .... you get the idea. The list could go on and on and on ...
Coming to South Wales
After migrating to the South Wales in early 2003, the first thing donnie did was attend the local jazz jam session. At the now infamous Jazz Attic Sessions of the early noughties, hosted by the Cardiff Jazz Society at the Cafe Jazz, St Mary’s Street, Cardiff, he began the networking process. He quickly acquired a temporary double bass (a ‘plywood plunker’) with a little amp, as all his gear was in a container on a ship crossing the Atlantic. It wasn’t long before his name got around and he was working regularly on the local scene in clubs, pubs, restaurants, at regional festivals, and all sorts of functions gigs.
In 2004, donnie joined the Keith Little Band after doing a couple of gigs with them. Since arriving in the UK donnie has played with Linda Gail Lewis’ rock & roll outfit, played in entertainer Mike Doyle’s backing band, been featured in BBC commercial for the Brecon International Jazz Festival 2004, appeared with Celtic Manor Trio on Chris Evan’s ITV1 show, “OFI Sunday”, and appeared on S4C's afternoon chat show "Wedi 3" with the Welsh Jazz Trio ZWZAZ. From Inverness to Cornwall, Llandudno to Cardiff, he as already toured throughout much of the UK. The Keith Little Band has also taken him across the channel to festivals in Germany, Switzerland, and even playing for the Queen’s Birthday in Rome at the residence of the British Ambassador.
College & University Life
In 1993, donnie attended College of the Redwoods, in Northern California. Under the guidance of Dr. Jerry Moore, his study of music and jazz really took off. It is also where his lifetime affair with the bass began. When his first music class filled up with 20+ guitar players but no bass player, he immediately went to his local music shop and bought an electric bass. He swapped his guitar for a bass because he didn’t want to sit on the sidelines, he wanted to play. He also found himself playing piano in the College Big Band, which was lead by trombonist and band leader Frank ‘Dr Bone’ Brown. He also studied trumpet and saxophone. In his 3 years at College of the Redwoods, he received the scholarship in Music, played piano, trumpet, and bass in the big band, as well as playing in, arranging for, and running jazz combos. He also performed with Ed Macan’s Progressive Rock outfit ‘Hermetic Science’ and appears on their debut CD for the Magnetic Oblivion label. He also ran his own jazz quintet ‘Willie & the Moonbeams’ as well as the funk band ‘Stir Fry’.
In 1997, donnie attended the Jazz Studies program at the University of Washington, Seattle. It is there where the head of jazz studies and his mentor, Marc Seales, coined him ‘donnie joe’. Once arriving at the UW, he found himself thrust into the Studio l Jazz Ensemble. Ran by the late, great Roy Cummings, donnie was schooled in the role of the bass in the rhythm section of a big band. It also inspired him to take up the double bass. With careful guidance from the jazz bass teacher Doug Miller, within the year he was playing a double bass full time. He then began to study with internationally renowned orchestral double bass player, Barry Lieberman.
Studying at the UW was a life changing experience. As well as the stellar faculty like Marc Seales (piano), Doug Miller (jazz bass), & Barry Lieberman (orchestral bass), it frequented visiting faculty like Jay Thomas (trumpet), Julian Priester (trombone), & Larry Coryell (guitar). It also featured special guests Artist Teachers in residence Rufus Reid (bass), Jessica Williams (piano), Dave Friesen (bass), Kenny Werner (piano), John Patitucci (bass), Billy Taylor (piano), Chip Jackson (bass), Conrad Herwig (trombone), John Clayton (bass), and none other than the granddaddy of them all, the late and possibly one of the greatest bass players of all time Ray Brown.
Donnie graduated in 2002 with a BA in Music and a BM in Jazz Studies Performance on Double Bass. While at the UW, donnie received a scholarship in music each year he attended. He performed in the big band, and with varying sized jazz combos, even helping to start a nonet with piano, guitar, bass, drums, vibes, and string quartet. He also played regularly with the University Wind Ensemble.
Outside the UW, donnie played in the band ‘Reckless Pedestrian’, Pan Leggo Steel Band, featuring internationally known steel pan man, Ray Holman, Jay Thomas’ Big Band, Christian & Miho’s Mallet Jazz, Banda del Sol, and many other Projects.
The early years
Donald ‘donnie joe’ Sweeney was born in Portland, Oregon, and raised in Southern California. He had his first music lessons at age 6, when his mom took him to Pasadena City College for Suzuki Piano Lessons. Soon he was taking private lessons, and with the Suzuki Method’s emphasis on playing by ear, donnie began to develop a good one. With a firm foundation set, his interest in music only grew stronger. He taught himself how to play guitar by junior high, and during his high school teen years, he wasn’t to shy to busk a little during the lunch times. It was at this age that he was first exposed to jazz. He was mostly inspired by his older brother, who played guitar in the high school big band, and who taught him how to voice those rich jazz chords on his guitar. He loved that big band sound. It wasn’t long before he began teaching himself about this great art form, and he was learning the art of improvisation.
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