June 13, 2024


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Anton Schwartz approaches jazz as a vehicle for reaching the heart and the head: Video

16.07. – Happy Birthday !!! “What I require for music to really captivate me,” Anton says, “is groove and intellect working in tandem. Music that gets into your bones, into your head and into your heart.”

From Louis Armstrong and Lester Young to Charlie Parker and John Coltrane, jazz’s greatest improvisers create music that carries an emotional wallop. It’s a lesson that tenor saxophonist Anton Schwartz learned well. Like the giants from whom he draws inspiration, Schwartz approaches jazz as a vehicle for reaching the heart and the head. At a time when many of his contemporaries seem to be making music more for their musical colleagues than a wider audience, Schwartz stands out as a player determined to communicate with his listeners. Tenor sax legend Illinois Jacquet summed up Schwartz’s artistry succinctly when he told him, “You play the tenor sax like it’s meant to be played.”

His latest album, Flash Mob, surged to the sixth spot on the jazz radio charts and earned a coveted four-star review in Down Beat magazine, reinforcing his reputation as a passionate but poised improviser and smart purveyor of well-wrought melodies. Schwartz credits an upbringing immersed in jazz and adventurous popular music with shaping his approach to improvising, which melds irresistible rhythmic momentum with emotionally charged lyricism.

“I feel lucky because the music I grew up on was Earth Wind & Fire, Jimi Hendrix, The Police, Muddy Waters and Steely Dan… as well as Charlie Parker, Stanley Turrentine, John Coltrane, Lennie Tristano and Wes Montgomery,” says Schwartz. “I’ve never really been interested in making music for other musicians. I want to create music that conveys something complex and intriguing—through the rhythm, the structure, the interplay of melody and harmony—and distill all that into something clear and beautiful.”

Schwartz comes to his populist sensibility via a heady path. He took the full- time plunge into music relatively late when, at the age of 27, he decided to step away from high-level research in Artificial Intelligence. Since then he’s forged ties with some of jazz’s heaviest hitters, including pianists Russell Ferrante, Taylor Eigsti, Randy Porter, Josh Nelson, Art Lande and Eric Reed… guitarists Peter Bernstein, Bruce Forman, Ed Cherry, Julian Lage and Dan Balmer… Trumpeters Dominick Farinacci, Thomas Marriott and Scott Wendholt… and vocalists Ed Reed, Jackie Ryan, Denise Donatelli and Rebecca Kilgore.

Born in 1967 and raised in New York City amidst a family known for intellectual ferment, Schwartz began playing clarinet at 12 and switched to the saxophone at 14. Enthralled by jazz, he found invaluable mentors early on, studying with reed masters Warne Marsh and Eddie Daniels. In high school he had the chance to perform with the likes of Lionel Hampton and Woody Herman.

In college, however, Schwartz pursued other passions. He earned a B.A. in Mathematics and Philosophy at Harvard, graduating magna cum laude in 1989. Despite his demanding studies, he played first tenor sax in the Harvard Jazz Band, a chair he held after Don Braden and before Joshua Redman. As a National Science Foundation fellow at Stanford, Schwartz dove into doctoral research in Artificial Intelligence, but after several years he couldn’t resist the pull of music, plunging headlong into the Bay Area jazz scene in 1995.

His 1998 debut album When Music Calls earned national attention, and established Schwartz as a captivating new voice. Focusing on his engaging original compositions, the album earned effusive praise, with The San Francisco Bay Guardian declaring that Schwartz “has everything you want to hear in a modern jazz saxophonist—an appealing, consistent tone, an abundance of ideas fueling both his compositions and his improvisations, and superb taste in musical collaborators.”

He followed up in 2000 with The Slow Lane, a project that displayed his growing confidence as a composer while also including jazz standards by Wayne Shorter, Benny Golson and Billy Strayhorn. The album also earned rave reviews, with Billboard leading the way: “Schwartz savors the implications of each note, allowing the listener to delight in the endless melodies created by his stirring improvisations.”

Schwartz relocated to Seattle in 2010, but maintains a strong presence performing and teaching in California. He’s a longtime faculty member of the California Jazz Conservatory, where he has designed courses ranging from “Improvising Eighth Note Lines” to “The Physics of Musical Sound.” He is also a clinician at the Brubeck Institute, and has been Artist in Residence at Harvard University and the Brubeck Summer Jazz Colony, in addition to numerous jazz festivals and workshops.

“It’s especially gratifying to see so many people reacting so wholeheartedly to my music,” Schwartz says. Indeed, longtime aficionados and jazz newcomers alike rave about his performances.

A consummate self-starter, he hosts popular loft jazz concerts in Oakland and Seattle in which he performs with masters such as Julian Priester, Ken Peplowski, Taylor Eigsti and Lorraine Feather. He is also the author of a popular blog about jazz and music theory and has released five albums on his own Antonjazz label.

Over the past two decades Schwartz has performed at jazz’s most prestigious clubs and festivals, from the Blue Note in New York City and Yoshi’s in Oakland to Washington D.C.’s Blues Alley and the Monterey Jazz Festival. Recent highlights include two sold-out shows at Jazz at Lincoln Center and a feature as soloist with the Boston Pops in Boston Symphony Hall.

Minding his muse has led Schwartz to verdant musical fields, but he’s earned his avid following by heeding E.M. Forster’s timeless imperative, “Only connect!…Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted.” Marrying probing intelligence to a soulful and celebratory spirit Schwartz meets listeners where they live and takes them on an enthralling journey.

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