Anton Schwartz
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Anton Schwartz

Oakland, California, United States

Oakland, California, United States
Band Jazz Acoustic


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"Billboard Magazine"

DOING IT FOR HIMSELF: Saxophonist Anton Schwartz personifies the do-it-yourself work ethic. He composes, performs, and produces his own music, releasing it on his own AntonJazz label, for which he handles marketing and promotion duties that extend to designing print advertisements. Most recently, Schwartz released "The Slow Lane" (Feb. 15), which follows his 1998 AntonJazz debut, "When Music Calls."
"The advantage of doing it myself is that I can make music exactly the way I like to," says Schwartz. "That doesn't mean that I can be self-indulgent or play 14-minute songs that will get me blacklisted at radio. I want to get airplay and sell records as much as someone on a major label does. But at the same time, I have a strong belief in my music and its ability to reach people, and I get to run with that belief rather than compromise."
A San Francisco resident by way of New York, Schwartz describes himself as an "uninspired" high school clarinet player whose life changed when he discovered jazz. "I got my hands on a tenor sax and began listening to jazz, just trying to figure out what it was all about," he says. Inspired by Charlie Parker, Dexter Gordon, and Charlie Rouse, Schwartz quickly made the saxophone his main instrument.
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 expansive melodies.
"It is a shame that a lot of jazz music sort of flies by on momentum," he says. "When you start swinging, it is like the music is barreling down a long tunnel. While that can be very compelling, I love what happens at slower tempos, where every note has its own meaning. It leaves you exposed, and that can be very enticing."
Schwartz credits Wayne Shorter, whose composition "Miyako" appears on "The Slow Lane," for inspiring his melodic approach to his instrument. "Wayne was a big influence on this album," says Schwartz, "particularly the resolve with which he plays individual notes and lets them resonate with all of their idiosyncrasies."
Schwartz, too, savors the implications of each note, allowing the listener to delight in the endless melodies created by his stirring improvisations. "The Slow Lane" is a vivid reminder to savor the small, sweet things in life, as 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.
His rich, bold tone, once praised by Lionel Hampton, speaks volumes for his unflappable confidence in his music.
"More musicians should realize that they, along with the labels, the distributors, and the club owners, are all on the same side," says Schwartz. "We all just want to bring jazz to the people, and we all want to make a living. Everyone needs to work together to make it happen." - Steve Graybow

"JAZZIZ Magazine"

Anton Schwartz
"Radiant Blue"

Remember the tag line from the Mel Brooks movie Spaceballs, "May the Schwartz be with you"? That catchphrase takes on new meaning after listening to this sparkling mainstream album by tenor-saxman Anton Schwartz. On Radiant Blue, Schwartz explores the blues from various angles with stimulating side trips into New Orleans funk, Brazilian samba, and South African marabi.

Like Joshua Redman, Schwartz was an honors student at Harvard, where he preceded Redman in the first-sax chair with the school's jazz band. A math and philosophy undergrad, Schwartz later abandoned a Stanford Ph.D. in artificial intelligence to become a full-time musician. You'd expect a brainiac like Schwartz to make brainy jazz, and indeed he does. What surprises are the upbeat vibe, stong melodies, and unflagging sense of swing that he brings to this music.

Consisting of nine originals and one cover, Radiant Blue in vitalized by contributions from young piano phenom Taylor Eigsti, underrated guitarist Peter Bernstein, and the robust Bay Area rhythm section of bassist John Shifflett and drummer Tim Bulkley. Whether tackling the blues straight on ("Blues for Now") or sidelong ("Slightly Off Course"), this ensemble shines.

Schwartz blows with a warm, fluid tone, and great economy. From his trills on the minor-blues tune "Slightly Off Course" to the simple theme on the South African groover "Life & Times," his decisions all sound right. He and Bernstein exhibit a special chemistry reflecting a shared musical history that dates to their high school days in New York City. Eigsti also impresses with one tumbling run after another.

The music bins are full of bluesy jazz albums. This one brims with optimism and intelligence. - Ed Kopp

"San Francisco Chronicle"

"Anton Catches On"

Scoring a top 10 hit on the jazz charts isn't quite the same thing as
ruling the pop charts. MTV doesn't call, and you can walk down most
streets unmolested by fans. But for Oakland tenor saxophonist Anton
Schwartz, whose third full-length album on his AntonJazz label, "Radiant Blue," is cresting near the top of the JazzWeek listings, the ranking is an impressive feat by a musician who is running his own show, from booking his own gigs to overseeing the CD's design and production.

"I look at the other people in the top 10, and they're nationally known,
established musicians like Diana Krall, Dave Holland, Regina Carter," says
Schwartz, 38, over lunch at a Solano Avenue cafe in Albany. "That's the
exciting part of doing it yourself. You get to imagine something and make
it so."

Featuring 21-year-old piano star Taylor Eigsti, ace New York guitarist
Peter Bernstein and the highly responsive Bay Area rhythm section tandem of bassist John Shifflett and drummer Tim Bulkley, "Radiant Blue" features some of Schwartz's most focused playing yet. Released in August, the album features a diverse array of original tunes all based on the blues form. While Schwartz has clearly internalized blues feeling, the CD isn't an exploration of what he calls the "emotional vocabulary" of the blues.

"When you're a jazz musician, you spend so much time with the blues that it's like home," says Schwartz, whose playing is distinguished by his
penchant for spinning long, graceful lines and a sinewy, middleweight
tone. "The blues form is the thread running through the album. Some people might see it as a really obscure point to make, but it wouldn't be an
obscure thing to write a collection of short stories that are all varied
aspects of the place you grew up in."

Perhaps Schwartz's interest in abstract structures stems from his
background in mathematics. Raised in Manhattan's Hell's Kitchen, he
developed an interest in jazz early. His even, flowing rhythmic attack was
shaped by his teenage studies with the brilliant but often-overlooked
tenor saxophonist Warne Marsh, to whom Schwartz dedicated his 1998 debut CD, "When Music Calls." Music took a backseat while Schwartz studied math and philosophy at Harvard, though he found time to play in the school's jazz band, holding down the first-saxophone chair in a section that included future jazz stars Joshua Redman and Don Braden. Schwartz moved to the Bay Area in the mid-'90s and completed all the course work in an artificial intelligence doctorate program at Stanford, but decided to forgo the degree and devote himself to music full time.

Part of Schwartz's DIY success comes from his canny propensity for surrounding himself with accomplished and capable collaborators both on
and off the bandstand. For instance, drummer and longtime jazz radio
personality Bud Spangler has co-produced all of Schwartz's albums.
Spangler is not surprised that Schwartz's music has found an audience outside the Bay Area.

"It's very accessible," he says. "For lack of a better term, it's a catchy
group of compositions. They grab you and stay with you. I do a certain
amount of gigging with Anton, and the growth in his playing has really
been impressive. He works really hard, and he's swinging his fanny off."

Schwartz's gift for communicating through his horn may be most evident in an unlikely context: sacred music. Though raised in a secular Jewish household, he's become the player of choice for sacred concerts in the Bay Area, like his jazz vespers gig this afternoon at Peace Lutheran Church in Danville, where he'll be joined by vocalist Inga Swearingen for a duo set. He'll be with his quartet when he makes his eighth annual appearance at Old First Church's jazz vespers series on Dec. 3. And he plays another jazz vespers service with his quartet at Noe Valley Ministry on Dec. 17.

"They're only a fraction of what I do, but jazz vespers are some of my
favorite gigs," Schwartz says. "Music can be one of the deepest, most
profound expressions. I love the fact that these churches are not afraid
to make an improvisational art form part of what they do. When you allow
that, it's taking a gamble."

Schwartz's whole DIY project is a gamble, one that seems to be paying off, judging by the rapid rise of "Radiant Blue" on the charts. While he played a series of well-publicized album-release gigs at various festivals and Yoshi's, he also presents himself in low-profile performances at his
Oakland loft. Often taking advantage of the availability of musicians
coming through town, such as last month's performance with New York
pianist Art Hirahara, the house concerts provide a rarefied musical
experience to a word-of-mouth audience.

"We make it really homey, but we charge at the door," says Schwartz, who gives his next loft performance on Oct. 13 with powerhouse pianist Joe Gilman, bassist Shifflett and drummer Jason Lewis. "Afterwards, I'll often get a couple of notes from people thanking me for inviting them to my party." - Andrew Gilbert

"All About Jazz"

"The Slow Lane"
[publisher's pick]

With his second release, West Coast-based saxophonist Anton Schwartz walks his tenor saxophone down the Slow Lane. Here, the Harvard and Stanford University graduate exhibits style, wit and a predilection for sublime, thoughtful phrasing amid a slightly hard edge, which counters any semblance of saccharine or smooth jazz ideologies. A nice blend indeed as Mr. Schwartz pursues the classics and a few nicely arranged originals augmented by a tight-knit ensemble who vividly demonstrate an acute awareness of Schwartz' stylistic attack.
Besides Schwartz' shrewd articulation as a soloist, his comprehensive approach to each composition deserves a certain degree of praise. On Wayne Shorter's "Miyako", Schwartz doesn't overwhelm yet digs deep within the fundamental aspects of this piece as though he is living the experience from a personal viewpoint via lush, sonorous lines with a well-balanced attitude! Here and throughout, Schwartz and his fine band make every note count. Schwartz pursues a dash of Bossa Nova along with fluid, breezy phrasing as the rhythm section maintains the undulating flow on the saxophonist's composition, "The Curve of the Earth". The saxophonist's keen sense of melody and subdued yet well-stated style of execution continues onward, especially on Billy Strayhorn's "Chelsea Bridge" as Schwartz' husky tone melds nicely with the subtle and at times introspective blues lines on "Peace Dollar". The title track, "The Slow Lane" is a soft even-tempered stab at Gospel-Blues featuring a crisp yet thoroughly soulful piano solo by Paul Nagel as Schwartz' tenor work seems silvery or at times, quietly forceful.

The Slow Lane is a study in contrasts as Anton Schwartz won't overwhelm you with heated post-bop firebrand soloing although, he is fully capable of stepping it up a few notches in commanding fashion. However, the beauty of it, resides within Schwartz' distinctly personalized faculties and understanding of where to go with a tune as a soloist and leader. Schwartz' seemingly uncanny abilities and sensibilities enable him to render even the quietest or calmest of tunes with a meticulous and often understated sense of urgency. Needless to state, Anton Schwartz is a young man with a horn who delivers the goods in artful and persuasive fashion!
- Glenn Astarita

"Jazz Times Magazine"

Radiant Blue could make an excellent introduction to jazz for someone on the outside looking for a way in. Because it is based on the blues, it is accessible. And because tenor saxophonist Anton Schwartz and his capable sidemen are deadly serious about their fun, there is enough musical substance here to make sure the jazz neophyte is exposed to the real thing.

Those sidemen are guitarist Peter Bernstein, pianist Taylor Eigsti, bassist John Shifflett and drummer Tim Bulkley. They are all adept at staying in the pocket while stretching it. As for Schwartz, he has a classic clear-throated tenor sound and kicks like a mule. His zeal to communicate is fervent yet sophisticated.

Some of Schwartz’ blues grooves and melodies (“Phantom Dance,” “Blues for Now”) sound generic (although carried off with flair). More often, his tunes reveal the vast variety of emotional and intellectual content that can be expressed in the 12-bar-blues form. “Marcel Marceau” is music about silence, full of spaces. “Life & Times” is a floating suspension that eventually (powered by Eigsti) takes off and flies. A blues concept of Jobim’s “Wave” goes through a similar pattern, where the intensity sneaks up on you.

Those aforementioned neophytes with DVD-Audio capability in their systems should go for the high-resolution special DVD-Audio edition of Radiant Blue. - Thomas Conrad

"JazzWeek Magazine"

MUCH LIKE CHRIS POTTER, Anton Schwartz is a nice and unassuming guy to talk to, yet both turn into modern day tenor titans as soon as they put the mouthpiece between their lips. Here on Schwartz’s third album (not including his Christmas EP), he’s joined by a quintet that includes high school buddy Peter Bernstein on guitar and pianist Taylor Eigsti for a collection of nine hard bopping originals with one Jobim bossa nova thrown in for good measure. There a lot to like here with sharp arrangements and crisp straight ahead playing that seems to hit all the right notes. Highlights include the urgently swinging “Slightly Off Course” and the straight down the middle and melodic “Phantom Dance.” Five years between proper albums has been way too long, but this album proves that Schwartz wasn’t sloughing off in the interim.
- Tad Hendrickson


When Music Calls (1998)
The Slow Lane (2000)
Holiday Time (2004)
Radiant Blue (2006)



Jazz saxophonist Anton Schwartz has been drawing listeners in with the power, spirit and subtle complexity of his music since he bounded onto the San Francisco jazz scene in 1995. At 27, Anton was answering the call of his long-standing passion for jazz, stepping away from the high-level research in Artificial Intelligence he'd carried out at Harvard and Stanford. Quite a career change. Once in action as a musician, Anton quickly gained an enthusiastic following as music fans responded to what the San Francisco Chronicle recently called his "warm, generous tone, impeccably developed solos and infectious performance energy."

In the years since, Anton has won over listeners and critics at high-profile jazz venues across the country, including the Blue Note in New York, Washington D.C.'s Blues Alley and the Monterey Jazz Festival. His frequent appearances at Yoshi's in Oakland draw sellout crowds; one such concert was broadcast nationwide on NPR's JazzSet with Dee Dee Bridgewater in December, 2005. Each of his four CDs has earned sterling reviews and strong airplay, with his most recent Radiant Blue landing Top Five on the national jazz radio charts. While his own writing earns consistently high praise, Anton remains as much at home with the great jazz standards as he is with his own compositions.

"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. I want to create music that conveys something intriguing--through the rhythm, the structure, the interplay of melody and harmony--and distill that down into something clear and beautiful."

Anton was born in 1967 and raised in New York City. He began playing clarinet at twelve and switched to the saxophone at fourteen. He quickly became enchanted with jazz, and his early development got a jump start when he came under the tutelage of jazz masters Warne Marsh and Eddie Daniels. While in high school, Anton formed a group with future stars Peter Bernstein and Larry Goldings and got a taste of the big time, appearing in concert with both Lionel Hampton and Woody Herman.

In college, however, Anton pursued other passions. He earned a B.A. in Mathematics and Philosophy at Harvard, graduating magna cum laude in 1989. Next came Stanford, where, as a National Science Foundation fellow, Anton performed doctoral research in Artificial Intelligence. But all the while, Anton continued to play music. He held the prestigious first tenor sax chair in the Harvard Jazz Band, after Don Braden and before Joshua Redman. And inevitably, Anton's heart drew him to a full-time jazz career. In '95 he jumped feet first into the San Francisco jazz scene that has remained his home, even as he's traveled the country.

Praise for Anton's performances and recordings has been unceasing. Jazz Improv Magazine called Anton's 2004 Christmas CD, Holiday Time, "A superb album, bubbling with a combination of imaginative and sweet sounding playing--enjoyable year round." Of his 2000 release, The Slow Lane, Billboard Magazine wrote, "Schwartz savors the implications of each note, allowing the listener to delight in the endless melodies created by his stirring improvisations." Anton's first CD, When Music Calls (1998), inspired the San Francisco Bay Guardian to report, "Anton 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."

Perhaps famed saxophonist Illinois Jacquet put things most succinctly when he told Anton, "You play the tenor sax like it's meant to be played."

A well-rounded professional, Anton is also in great demand as a teacher. He's a faculty member of the Stanford Jazz Workshop and The Jazzschool, where he has designed courses ranging from "The Physics of Musical Sound" to "Improvising Eighth Note Lines." He is also a clinician at the Brubeck Institute.

"It's especially gratifying to me to see so many people reacting so wholeheartedly to my music." Indeed, longtime aficionados and jazz newcomers alike rave about his performances. That ability to capture hearts and minds at all ends of the jazz spectrum has made Anton a force to be reckoned with in the world of modern jazz, now and for years to come.