Reg Schwager - guitar
Michel Lambert - drums
Jon Maharaj - bass
recorded August 10, 2010 in Toronto at The Magnolia
recorded and mixed by Jesse Capon
mastered by Jeff Elliott
design by Kim Chua
a review by Peter Hum from Jazzblog.ca:
Chromology (Rant Records)
Reg Schwager Trio
I can't think of another Canadian jazz player who deserves more recognition abroad than Toronto guitarist Reg Schwager.
If jazz lovers elsewhere know the boyish 49-year-old, the explanation would most likely be his performing credits with George Shearing and Diana Krall. In Toronto, Schwager's been a sideman of choice for decades, playing, for starters, in the groups of Don Thompson (his fellow Shearing bandmate), the singer Emilie-Claire Barlow and trombonist Darren Sigesmund. But then, he's been an old-soul player since his late teens. By the early 1980s, he had enough together to have performed with Pepper Adams, Jon Hendricks, Hank Jones, Junior Mance, Jimmy McGriff, Zoot Sims, J.R. Monterose and Chet Baker.
Discs under Schwager's own name are not so easy to come by -- most are on his own label -- but I recently received his latest trio CD, Chromology. It's a pleasing, substantial disc that reveals more with every listen and is a testament to Schwager's diverse interests and mature artistry.
Chromology consists of 11 concise and well-defined tracks, most of which are Schwager compositions. Some tracks -- the versions of Wayfaring Stranger and Indian Summer that bookend the CD, for starters, Schwager's tunes Yesterday's News and the onomatopoeic Tickety-Boo -- are lean swinging tunes in a standard vein. They're what you might expect from a Shearing/Krall colleague. But Schwager also writes tunes with more modern harmonic content such as the pretty waltz May Days, the plaintive straight-eighth tunes Lowlands and Nocturne, and the upbeat, contemporary pieces Crop Cycle and Chromology.
More evidence of Schwager's broad musical passions: Blue Baiao nods to folkloric Brazilian music (as does the now dormant Brazilian Music Treasure Hunt blog, which he maintained for many years), and Beautiful Dreamer unfolds as a sweet rubato piece reminiscent of Montreal guitar icon Sonny Greenwich.
Regardless of the material, Schwager's a forthright, melodic improviser, a pure player who never seeks to impress with flashiness but is all the more impressive as a result.
With strong and sensitive support from bassist Jon Maharaj and drummer Michel Lambert, another distinctive Canadian original deserving wider recognition, Schwager's simpily shining on Chromology.
Reg Schwager bio:
Reg Schwager was born in the Netherlands in 1962. When he was three his family moved to New Zealand where he studied Suzuki violin. When he was six his family moved again, this time to Sudbury, Ontario, Canada. There he took music lessons in recorder, flute and piano before settling on the guitar as his main instrument. By age fifteen he was playing jazz gigs in big band and small group settings and in duet with his sister Jeannette.
It was at two jazz workshops conducted by Phil Nimmons - at the University of Toronto (1978) and the Banff Centre (1979) that Reg met some of the musicians he would begin working soon after he moved to Toronto in 1979. These included fellow students Renee Rosnes and Ralph Bowen and faculty members including Nimmons, Dave McMurdo, Herbie Spanier and Pat Labarbera. Since then he has been working steadily on the Toronto jazz scene and in other musical areas including new music (New Music Concerts, Hemispheres and Sound Pressure, among others) and improvised music (with musicians such as Misha Mengelberg and Han Bennink).
Reg has toured across Canada and worldwide with George Shearing, Diana Krall, Peter Appleyard, Rob McConnell and many others. He appears on over 80 commercially released recordings with such artists as Junior Mance, Gary Burton, George Shearing and Mel Tormé. CDs released under his own name include "Resonance", "Border Town", "Live at Mezzetta"and "Chromology"
Recently he has been touring and recording with Emilie-Claire Barlow, Diana Panton, Jeannette Lambert and Darren Sigesmund.
Reg was the recipient of the Guitarist of the Year award from Canada's National Jazz Awards for four consecutive years (2005-2008).
reg schwager: press kit
He alternates imaginative, if relatively straightforward, melodic ideas with long, high-falutin' phrases of great harmonic complexity, pausing here and there to let float a handful of those lighter-than-air chords so beloved of jazz players . . . Schwager's solo is a relaxed (not to be confused with lazy) concentration of long, tortuous phrases that cohere as magnificently as they succeed in flouting our expectations. Which, in addition to swinging, is about all you can ask from jazz.
- Eye: Jazzola, Tim Powis
Schwager is a fierce Canadian guitar player. Very descriptive and lush, doesn't shy away from danger.
- Jazz Central Station: JazzTrack, Jill Maxi Schreibman
This Toronto guitarist is a very hip musician- hip, in a cool, offhand way that belies his remarkable technical proficiency... His trio on Border Town (Pat Collins or Dave Young, bass; Michel Lambert, drums) swings loosely and rather restlessly through seven of his own tunes and five standards, blurring the line between the traditional and the contemporary- as jazz guitar goes- very effectively.
- Globe& Mail, Mark Miller
Border Town showcases his impressive, lyrical versatility in fluent, nimble originals like "Firefly" and the bright, vivacious "Bay Street Bounce" as well as ballad standards like "They Say It's Spring" where his relaxed invention recalls Ed Bickert. He gets impressive support from bass player Pat Collins in "Firefly" and "Border Town" while Dave Young's prowess is showcased (Snowpea/Mister Lucky) and drummer Michel Lambert brings "Kiki-San" to a dramatic climax.
- Cadence, David Lewis
JAZZ GUITARIST TALKS WITH HIS FINGERS
He gives the impression, whether playing or not, of always listening intently, and that may be the key to his growth and attainment as a musician.
"I have never thought twice about being a musician," he says, "And, as a musician, what is important is to find your own identity."
Given the extent of his search in a mere decade, and despite his single-minded dedication to it, it may be impossible for Schwager to put into words what he has found. Possibly his identity is best understood by accepting that what he plays is in essence what he has to say.
- The Toronto Star, Val Clery
From his early work in the melodically subdued, harmonically rich manner that has come to be expected of this city's guitarists, he has moved toward something more assertively his own...
If the tunes late Thursday were familiar, the trio's perspective was nevertheless fresh. The three musicians established an informal flow in each, replacing the boppish stricture with a freer, aggressively conversational approach in which transitions between solos were gradual when they weren't altogether oblique. It is music that would rightly be measured in degrees of density rather than the degrees of heat more traditional to jazz parlance. Piltch's booming bass and Lambert attentive, texturally varied drumming established a low rumble of sound; Schwager, with his thin, incisive tone, and lively phrasing, was not intimidated. He's turning into a real scrapper.
- The Globe and Mail, Mark Miller
Schwager is in relaxed, sympathetic form throughout, but leads his own trio forcefully on Know Your Zones, cuts culled from brisk live sessions at George's with bassist David Piltch and Lambert. He weaves intensely melodic lines while Lambert's prodding propulsions give his instrument solo status.
- The Toronto Star, Geoff Chapman
String Bean: The tall thin figure of Reg Schwager is inescapably prominent at the centre of the jazz spectrum.
He plays guitar as naturally and unselfconsciously as he breathes. He can improvise from a repertoire of tunes that were standards before he was born, and when he is working off charts of his own compositions they serve as launching pads from melodic flights of fancy from himself and fellow soloists.
The final set at George's Tuesday showed off splendidly not only the guitarists' talents but the commonly venturesome spirit of his colleagues - Brian Murphy on piano, Michel Lambert on drums and Steve Lucas on bass. The untitled opening original gave each of them freedom to play fast and loose; next, also untitled was a piece as lively as the Celtic folk tune. Then a ballad "Hannako" followed another nameless original as forceful and wayward as the generation and passage of a hurricane.
- Toronto Star, Val Clery
Only in Canada, you say?
Certainly, Reg Schwager's recent Resonance album deserves a much wider audience. The entire session is a worthy addition to any collection. Schwager's deft and delicate swing is refreshingly appealing.
CANADA'S HOTTEST NEW JAZZ STAR AT PEPE'S
Reg Schwager, at twenty-four, is one of the many things about Canada that cannot be explained to anyone, maybe not even ourselves. He grew up in Sudbury, surrounded by "moonwalk" country, as he calls it, listened to a lot of jazz and after learning Suzuki violin, recorder, flute, sax and piano, finally settled seriously on guitar. And although he had teachers, he learned most of the really important things about music from himself. Maybe it was the isolation of the Northern Ontario mining town. And maybe it is true that none of the really important things of music can be taught anyway. But somehow Schwager has managed to become the hottest of rising Canadian jazz musicians at just barely the midpoint of his third decade of life...
Schwager's solos sprout like vines in the jungle, tangled and tough, and winding through everything. His fluency and jazz literacy are encyclopedic. And his tasteful elaborations of the changes all seem to end too soon.
- Halifax Chronicle, Steve Pedersen
Reg Schwager has made his mark on the Canadian scene very quickly. The guitarist played Toronto and Montreal clubs as a teenager and now at twenty-three is embarking on a promising recording career.
Building on a bop base, this self-taught musician has recently moved farther afield musically and now also works in various contemporary situations, including a trio, a free-improvisational duo with drummer Michel Lambert and an ensemble known as Plectrum Spectrum, inspired by his experiences in a Cecil Taylor orchestral project at the 1985 Banff Jazz Workshop.
Reg is a fine guitarist with a quiet but swinging style all his own. Unlike many young musicians, Reg has no trace of rock in his playing and is not interested in impressing you with technical feathery. This is an excellent album that swings along and maintains interest throughout. Well worth seeking out.
- Cadence Magazine, Shirley Klett
Meanwhile, up at George's Spaghetti House, Reg Schwager demonstrates that age may have little to do with maturity...The beanpole guitarist, born in the Netherlands, seems to arrive at every new gig with more vitality and versatility.
The number of local musicians at the set I attended early this week is token to the appreciation he stirs. The Reg Schwager trio, in which he is supported by the warm bass of Dave Piltch and the drums of Michel Lambert, has recently recorded an album called Resonance. For anyone interested in marking the growth of a jazz star, it should count as a collector's item.
Toronto Star, Val Clery
Jazz Sabbatical: Jazz fans who attended the Dave McMurdo Big Band's recent return engagement at the Montreal Bistro may have noticed the absence of the young guitarist/arranger/composer who was being praised from the bandstand and cheered by the audience on their last gig. Reg Schwager is currently in Amsterdam on a Canada Council grant.
- The LeadSheet
When established musicians rave about a young newcomer and eagerly look for opportunities to play with him, you know you've got a talent worth watching.
That describes Reg Schwager, a much-travelled native of Holland who has called Toronto home for the last several years.
Polished, mellow, confident, all these apply to Schwager. His playing is melodic in focus but he does some inventive things with harmony and swings hard on upbeat tunes.
After a string of club and touring engagements, and recording sessions with other jazzmen, it was only a matter of time until Schwager led his own session. It's a solid beginning.
- Ottawa Citizen, Lois Moody
SCHWAGER LP DEBUT IMPRESSIVE
Resonance represents an impressive recording debut for Reg Schwager...like Jim Hall, Ed Bickert, Herb Ells and Jim Raney, Schwager prefers to locate himself within a tradition and push out from there, using his axe as a medium to explore the full melodic and harmonic conceits of a particular composition.
This isn't to say that Schwager's a young old fogey - a tune like Ne Me Quitte Pas, for instance, features some impassioned "free" playing among the guitarist, bassist David Piltch and drummer Michel Lambert - it's just that Schwager hugs close to such verities as precision, lyricism, focused improvisation, love of melody...
...he's at his best in a six minute reading of Ghost of a Chance. Using a quiet, discreetly shaded attack rife with pregnant pauses, Schwager displays an astonishing maturity here, letting his tunes rueful lyricism breathe through his six strings.
- Edmonton Journal, James Adams
Whoever else you go to hear, try not to miss Jimmy McGriff at East 85th and Front. McGriff is reigning king of jazz organ...With him McGriff has D.T. Thompson on tenor and Jerry Fuller on drums. And on guitar Reg Schwager.
Reg who, you may mutter. Well, Schwager is a shy, beanpole who looks too young to be up playing so late, but during the two final sets on Tuesday's opening night he played like a veteran.
Between sets McGriff and Thompson agreed that playing guitar against an organ is exceptionally demanding. "In a year, if he gets to play enough," McGriff added, "this kid could be a star."
Toronto Star, Val Clery
His lines are always beautifully fluid, and he never sounds like he is on the verge of extending past what his incredible technique allows. In addition to his extraordinary playing, Reg happens to be one of the best songwriters around. Many of his tunes are based on sophisticated, modern chord progressions, with simple, motivic, hummable melodies.
-Central Park North, Dan Cross
It is in this trio setting that one gets to really hear the subtlety, lyricism and warm tone of his playing.
-Jazz Canadiana, Hal Hill
In an item published in NOW on Thursday, John Scofield noted that he hadn't heard many younger guitarists that he liked. There was, however, someone in Toronto, when Scofield visited a few years ago to play the du Maurier summer jazz festival. "I never got his name," Scofield told NOW, "which has bugged me ever since because I'd really like to find him."
His name is Reg Schwager and he could have been found Thursday night at the Bermuda Onion along with a couple of dozen other young Toronto musicians.
- Globe & Mail, Mark Miller
CANADIAN MASTER OF JAZZ GUITAR
At the age of eighteen, jazz guitarist Reg Schwager began playing the Toronto club scene. Schwager, who appeared at the du Maurier International Jazz Festival, is rapidly becoming one of jazz's finest guitarist. One of the few Canadians to place in the 1985 Downbeat Critics Poll, Schwager has already played with greats like Zoot Sims, Pepper Adams, Ed Bickert, Hank Jones and Peter Appleyard.
Schwager's wide exposure to listening and playing with many diverse influences has made him a musical chameleon, though he makes the colours his own. "There's no way around it. You have to be influenced by people." said the Sudbury-raised Schwager.
Spending three summers at the Banff School of Fine Arts served to confirm Schwager's feeling about his own music. Helping Schwager out at Banff was free-jazz pianist Cecil Taylor. Far removed from some of the mainstream influences Schwager had been exposed to, Taylor made an impression.
"Cecil Taylor is the most powerful musician I have come in contact with. He helped me to confirm things I had been feeling with regard to different ways of organizing music. There are other ways of putting music together that are valid."
With his trio, Schwager is free to stretch out his music. The sound is poetic, light in touch and loaded with ideas.
"In the trio, everybody has a different perspective on the music abut we move onto common ground and follow each other to different places without worrying where it is going." Schwager says. Playing with mainstream artists - who are often much older -Schwager is sometimes constrained by the music. But the self-effacing Schwager remains philosophical: "If you play with different people, you begin to appreciate the way they make music and gain a different perspective on it."
That perspective is the future of jazz guitar.
- The Georgia Straight, Vancouver, Grant Shilling
Reg Schwager is the hottest young jazz player in town. A guitarist, only twenty-two years old, he's had solo gigs at Lytes...etc...and perhaps more to the point he has worked alongside such jazz heavyweights as Ed Bickert.
What's most startling about his playing is that there's not much that's startling about it. His control is remarkable and to find his true talent you have to listen into the music for detail and the most subtle of textures. But if ever there was a young man coming down the pike to scare the older players out there he's it. He already has their attitude - cool, steady, studied. In time, he'll have their reputations.
- Performance, Peter Goddard
Does absence make the music better? Reg Schwager (with drummer Michel Lambert) took his guitar on tour to West Berlin and Cologne this winter. At George's Spaghetti House this week he seems at a new high, marvellously in charge.
- The Toronto Star, Val Clery
As if to prove the old adage that good things come in small packages, saxophonist J.R. Montrose returns to this city after a twenty-four year musical absence.
This time around he'll be in the front line company of Reggie Schwager, one of the largest talents looming on the horizon anywhere, a guitarist to be reckoned with.
- Montreal Gazette, Len Dobbin
This city's guitarists divide neatly into two groups: the self-possessed purists and the self-propelled careerists. On this spectrum, Schwager falls in with the former group, yet he is a stylist unlike most others already hereabouts, combining the best of the Toronto and Montreal "schools" - one harmonically advanced and the other linearly daring.
Thus, his solos have a sharp, melodic clarity that is not clouded by harmonic ambiguity of the Toronto style. They are also headlong, and their articulation is crisp, as is the Montreal style but they have a certain graceful logic as he roles them out, long phrase after long phrase.
- The Globe and Mail, Mark Miller
The audience was small for Tuesday's second set, as the Hendricks family form California played host to the Schwager family of Toronto. It began as gifted young guitarist Reg Schwager sat in with Hendricks' backing trio for All Blues and Body and Soul, and soon had the other musicians shaking their heads at his confident inventions. Schwager remained on the stand through the 90 minute set and handled easily all the challenges thrown his way, including a smart bit of bebop and a moving ballad duet with Jon Hendricks himself.
- The Globe and Mail, Mark Miller
Both he (Don Thompson) and Schwager have an inexhaustible and lyrically sumptuous melodic sense and they literally filled St. C.'s with a tireless flow of gorgeous music last night. But both can also light the fire with a ferocious brand of swing and they spent the evening alternating between the two mood for an evening of jazz that can hardly be bettered anywhere in the world.
- The Spectator, Hugh Fraser
JAZZ AS NATURAL AS BRUSHING HIS TEETH: UNDER QUIET EXTERIOR IS CANADA'S NEXT JAZZ STAR
Jazz critics have picked up on 22 year old Reg Schwager's beanpole size, pale youthful face and amazing command of his electric guitar and large repertoire. Schwager, called "one of the largest talents looming on the jazz horizon anywhere" by the Montreal Gazette's Len Dobbin, is expected to be Canada's next jazz star.For the quiet musician, though, performing and composing jazz is as natural as brushing his teeth...
Composition for him has always been a part of performing since part of jazz is improvisation, which Schwager calls "instant composition".
"Right now, I'm in a very good period, a very productive period. A lot of opportunities seem to be opening up for me, and everything has sort of been ascending."
The Chronicle Herald, Halifax, Elissa Barnard
GUITAR BELIES PLAYER'S AGE
...Schwager is the model of restraint: volume set low, attack gentle. His solos are consistently advanced, to the extent that the level of invention is easily taken for granted. He picks out clear, fleet lines with only the occasional sudden detour..Schwager's playing makes enough references to other, more worldly matters, both in techniques and quotes, to display a good grasp of both the tradition and the literature.
- The Globe and Mail, Mark Miller,
Le guitarist torontois, Reg Schwager et son ensemble en sont à leur première aventure discographique avec "Resonance", enregistré au Studio Victor à Montréal en décembre dernier. En sorte, il s'agit d'un disque digne de la lignée dite "light-jazz" qui englobe Jim Hall, Wes Montgomery, etc... On est bien servi des pièces originales de la plume de Schwager en plus d'une version assez touchante de "Ne Me Quitte Pas" de Brel et "Jitterbug Waltz" de Fats Waller. Bref, un travail franc et parsemé de bonnes vibrations.
- Le Journal de Cornwall
Voilà ce qui s'appelle un trio dans le vrai sens du mot. Si, par exemple, la contrebasse se permet d'être parfois à l'avant-plan et même de mêler ses graves aux accents de la guitare aèrienne de Schwager, elle est avant tout un merveilleux soutien pour le guitariste. Quant à la batterie de Lambert, elle est d'une belle discrétion tout en brillant d'un vif éclat, même si cela peut paraître contradictoire. A d'autres moments, elle se fait cristalline tout comme la guitare de Reg.
Et quel guitarist celui-la. Quelle virtuosité et quelle âme aussi. Quand la virtuosité s'affirme dans Eso Es ou Crow's Cry, le sentiment prend le dessus dans Forgotten, Ghost of a Chance ou Ne Me Quitte Pas. Voilà une guitare vivante. Et un excellente disque pour le tout.
- André Gaudreault
YOUNG BUT ONE OF JAZZ'S BEST
Schwager has been playing professionally since he was fifteen, playing a traditional-style jazz in restaurants and bars across Canada and in Europe.
Appearing at Pepe's Upstairs last week, the young talent sounded perfectly at home as he led the older and more experienced musicians through original compositions and old pop tunes.
"I'm always trying to fit into whatever environment I'm in," he says. But Schwager, who listens avidly to all types of music, including classical and punk and lately a lot of R&B, says he "oscillates" between traditional jazz and the experimental music he performs under the title "Plectrum Spectrum". During his last visit to Halifax, in a concert at Wormwood's Cinema, Schwager led four other young guitarists, two drummers and a synthesizer player in a series of surprising, "oddly-rhythmed" compositions unlike anything ever played at Pepe's.
Schwager says he hopes that as his music develops the contrast between his styles will seem less important.
"The first things that are obvious are the differences between things," he says, "but actually as time goes on it becomes more and more the same thing, with less separation."
What will bring them together?
Schwager thinks a moment. "I don't know," he says, "Just time."
- The Monitor, Halifax, Craig Benjamin