Anton Schwartz (tenor sax)
Paul Nagel (piano)
John Shifflett (acoustic bass)
Jason Lewis (drums)
Josh Jones (percussion on tracks 3, 4, 8)
Recorded November 4 & 5, 1997, Bay Records, Berkeley, CA.
Produced by Anton Schwartz with Bud Spangler
Recording Engineer: Bob Schumaker.
Mastered by Paul Stubblebine.
All arrangements by Anton Schwartz
Liner notes by Dan Ouellette
LINER NOTES FROM THE CD
Recently I asked Horace Silver, one of jazz’s most esteemed composers, what he thought of today’s young generation of players. He expressed enthusiasm for those who exhibit brilliant musicianship but bemoaned the absence of compelling compositions. “The players are strong, but the tunes are weak,” Silver said. “You can get the best musicians in the world to support you, but if the compositions are sub par, the recording won’t be very good.” A couple weeks later I asked Charlie Haden the same question. His answer was identical. Jazz youngsters can blow all they want, but they need strong material.
I’m sure both jazz elder statesmen would be impressed by tenor saxophonist Anton Schwartz, who makes his auspicious recording debut with When Music Calls, a straightahead collection of captivating melodies. With the exception of a gorgeous rendition of Rodgers & Hart’s “Where or When” and a splendid twist on Sonny Rollins’ “Doxy,” Schwartz opts to steer clear of relying on standards for his premiere. When Music Calls features eight of his originals that swing with graceful elegance, effervesce with spirited vigor and romance with soulful emotion.
“Including so many of my own compositions wasn’t my intention when I set out to do this project,” says the 30-year-old New York-born, San Francisco-based artist. “My main goal was to play great music with great musicians. But shortly before we went into the studio, I began to write new tunes that felt right, that felt important to me. I had something personal to express. Recording this album gave me the opportunity to turn my ideas into well-crafted, well-executed numbers.”
Influenced by Ben Webster, John Coltrane and Stanley Turrentine and mentored by Warne Marsh and Eddie Daniels, Schwartz has strong tenor sax credentials. He gigged in the Harvard Jazz Band (he attended the university from 1985-89 and graduated magna cum laude), holding the first tenor sax chair after Don Braden and before Joshua Redman. Early in his career, he performed in groups with Redman, guitarist Peter Bernstein and pianist/organist Larry Goldings and in recent years has done sideman duties with Smith Dobson, Mark Levine and Kitty Margolis. He’s also led his own bands that have performed throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.
Joining Schwartz on this date is a solid group of improvisers with whom he has worked extensively: pianist Paul Nagel, bassist John Shifflett, drummer Jason Lewis and on three tracks percussionist Josh Jones. “I have the utmost admiration for these guys. I love the quality of interaction we had. Just like on a gig, unpredictable things happened in the studio that confirmed to me we were onto something.” Schwartz also enlisted the services of Bud Spangler, whose friendship and wisdom as producer proved invaluable.
There are several highlights on When Music Calls. “Dénouement” is a melodic beauty flavored with Brazilian musical influences. “Tidepool,” played in 6/8 time with an Afro-Cuban sensibility, features an infectious bass line hook and ebullient, angular tenor sax blowing. “Rabbit Days” catches a cool and swinging groove and concludes serendipitously with the band agreeing on the same final note. And another swing-driven piece “Poketown” captures the essence of classic mainstream jazz. “That title stems from a nickname a friend gave me,” says Schwartz. “It has to do with my pace of doing things. Sure, I love uptempo tunes, but I’m not a fiery, scorching, New York-type saxophonist. My playing has more in common with a Dexter Gordon or Wayne Shorter. I think of this tune as a place you can go where life happens at that slower pace.”
The CD ends perfectly with the wistful “When Music Calls,” another compositional gem that Spangler likens to a tone poem. “It’s a simple melody I wrote on the piano one day,” Schwartz recalls. “At first I didn’t even think of it as a tune. The piece reminds me of what it’s like when you feel the need to have a heartfelt conversation with an old friend. The music is calling. It’s time to respond.”
Indeed, the music has beckoned and Schwartz has answered the call, documenting on disc the first chapter of what promises to be a vital career.
-- Dan Ouellette
Down Beat, Stereophile, San Francisco Chronicle