Anton Schwartz (tenor sax)
Paul Nagel (piano)
John Shifflett (acoustic bass)
Jason Lewis (drums)
All tracks arranged by Anton Schwartz
Produced by Bud Spangler and Anton Schwartz
Recording Engineer: Paul Stubblebine
Liner notes by Becca Pulliam, producer of NPR's JazzSet
"Schwartz's playing is the highlight. Saving his vibrato for just the right moments, he's strong in his expressiveness. His tone is remarkably consistent, making his command of the instrument come across as second nature. With so many tenor players out there still trying to tackle "Giant Steps," it's nice to listen to someone who sounds more like Trane doing "Naima."
-- Ed Enright, Down Beat
"There have been many young tenor saxophone players before Schwartz, but very few have his naturalness, his musical presence and command of the instrument."
-- Donald Adderton, Biloxi Sun Herald
"Unlike many up-and-coming musicians who cram every lick and trick they know into their performances, Schwartz has the confidence to rely on his round-bodied tone and elegant compositions to make his mark, concentrating on slower tempos and expensive melodies... Schwartz, too, savors the implications of each note, allowing the listener to delight in the endless melodies created by his stirring improvisations. Schwartz unhurriedly embellishes five original compositions and an equal number of covers with energetic lines that mark him as both a creative improviser and a master of economy. "
-- Steve Graybow, Billboard
"Good saxophone players can make their instrument talk to you. Anton goes a step farther... his music communicates with your soul. The warm, sensuous 'Curve of the Earth' is a lively samba-influenced piece. It is one of the tunes from this release that I had the joy of hearing performed live when Anton was last in the Portland area and it is every bit as beautiful on the CD as it was live... The uptempo 'Don't Ask' is a fast-paced rollicking ride. 'Then again', another original, is a bit long at 9 minutes but it is a pensive, uplifting ballad that shows the range and talent for intonation that makes Anton special. That same talent is also apparrent on his cover of the Strayhorn classic 'Chelsea Bridge'... Other covers include the classic 'Along came Betty' and 'Come Rain or Come Shine'. Both of these tunes have strong vocal melodies, which are deftly and melodiously handled by Schwartz' smooth sax styling. Anton Schwartz has done one of the hardest things in the music world... followed up a good album with another that is comparably good. Be sure to keep an eye on this young performer/producer, he'll be around for some time to come."
-- Ray Redmond, Jazz USA
"The Slow Lane" is Anton Schwartz's second album. As I've become familiar with it, I've imagined Anton living in San Francisco, shuttling to and from his gigs around the Bay Area. I picture him in his car, heading out in the late afternoon, coming home after midnight. Willing to battle traffic, but--in his words--"I savor the rare moments when I can slow to a comfortable 55, roll down the windows, and appreciate the effect of the light on the rolling hills."
Anton is a transplant. His jazz sensibility grows from early experiences growing up in Manhattan. This is his working band, and it's carefully chosen. Of bassist John Shifflett, Anton says he "has a big sound. His groove is hard to beat, this side of New York." Drummer Jason Lewis "is a musician first and foremost, and a jazz drummer second. He's played mostly jazz for a long time, but he hasn't copied anyone." Through John and Jason, Schwartz met pianist Paul Nagel, a member of Bobby McFerrin's Bang!Zoom band through most of the 1990s. Nagel, Shifflett and Lewis record as the trio NLS. They also completed the quartet on Anton's first CD, "When Music Calls," recorded in late 1997 with the same talented co-producer, Bud Spangler.
Nagel shines with a freely dancing solo on the opening prelude, the beautiful "Miyako" by Wayne Shorter, and Anton's answer is spontaneous. More music comes over the horizon on "The Curve of the Earth," with a sunrise feeling, a splash of light from the cymbal. Lewis drives but he doesn't push. The drums roll distant thunder on "Don't Ask," and slow down for "Then Again," with its gently sloping melody. "I love making music at a speed where every phrase becomes a statement... I don't want to just blow smoke at the tempo of standard bebop lines," says Anton. His big, warm sound and phrasing make me think of Stanley Turrentine.
Next come three standards, chosen for their melodies. The quartet starts "Along Came Betty" as a cha cha (I can dance to it!), then lets it loose, freeing up the groove during the solos before finally reestablishing it solidly. Enjoy Paul Nagel's glissandos! I love the way Anton gently touches and retouches some of the notes on the B section of "Chelsea Bridge," and his harmonic twist on the last note of "Come Rain or Come Shine" saves a naturally swinging melody from its own corny ending. There's a little "Mr. Magic" in it as well.
"Peace Dollar" comes from an experience that is at the heart of this album. In 1984, the 17 year old Anton went down to Sweet Basil in New York (with his friend, guitarist Peter Bernstein) to hear Abdullah Ibrahim's group Ekaya. Anton stayed for all three sets, his ears glued to the horn players-- who included saxophonists George Adams, Charles Davis and Carlos Ward--side by side in narrow folding chairs, soloing down the line. At the end of every piece, Ibrahim would improvise a piano connection to the next. "Some were high energy, South African beat tunes, and others were very spacious. Very spacious. This was one of the spiritual experiences of my life."
"It's gratifying to play in front of people in a setting like that, which has you exposed," continues Anton. "Open time stretches in front of you, and you're going to have to carve it into something, to contribute to the cause. It's such a challenge... and so much fun!" The rock ballad "The Slow Lane" is a summation of this approach--an unrushed melody in the composer's confident voice.
Anton's father is the urban folklorist (and famous audio producer) Tony Schwartz. The first floor of his home on West 56th Street in Manhattan is a studio and tape library. Years before Anton was born, Tony recorded children's street games, people at work in his postal zone ("New York 19" on Folkways Records), and an entire album of conversations with cab drivers. Patience and a good ear come naturally to Anton. I met him when he was a fakebook-toting high school student, willing to sightread pieces like "Miyako" with a woman pianist twice his age. I can't remember too well anything we said to each other, but his sunny smile and serious mind came through just fine. He went on to Harvard and then Stanford, and was five years into a Ph.D. in computers, studying Artificial Intelligence, when he opted for the more sociable life of a serious tenor saxophonist. After the gig, stay and say hello because he's a friendly and probing conversationalist who listens to you as intently as you have been listening to him.
-- Becca Pulliam, Producer of NPR's JazzSet