Anton Schwartz – Radiant Blue

Anton Schwartz
Radiant Blue
(AntonJazz – 2006)
by S.H. Watkins, Sr.

Anton Schwartz proves that real jazz lives! Since his debut CD “When Music Calls” in 1998 Anton has always delivered A-1 compositions, performances and production. One of my all-time favorites is his “The Curve of the Earth” from the CD “The Slow Lane”. This new CD is filled with memorable tracks like the sassy opener “Phantom Dance” and the snazzy, jazzy “Slightly Off Course” with Schwartz’ sax running up and down and all around the bassline.

“Blues for Now” exposes a blusier side of the talented writer as he works his tenacious tenor alongside some rollicking guitar from newcomer Bernstein. “Hooking Up” is another case where Anton and his group of merry men bend the genre border to deliver a toe tappin’, bass infested, blues encrusted jazz track. “Sneaking Suspicion” is my favorite track (today) because the band puts the song across like an old story teller. You can feel the emotions; the suspicion and worry implied in the title are delivered wordlessly but surely by the musical phrasing and interaction.

The band includes two longtime bandmates of Anton’s: John Shifflett on bass (The Slow Lane,When Music Calls) and Tim Bulkley on drums (Holiday Time). On piano is Taylor Eigsti, a ferociously talented twenty-one-year-old and frequent collaborator of Anton’s over the past five years. Changing the recipe a bit from his three prior CDs, Anton adds a guitar to his classic sax-piano-bass-drums quartet in the persona of Peter Bernstein. Long associated with artists such as Joshua Redman, Lou Donaldson and Diana Krall, Peter has also co-led his own trio for many years with Larry Goldings and Bill Stewart. Peter and Anton played together growing up in New York in the 1980’s, so this CD marks a reunion for them.

From an emotional perspective, this is a CD that moves you and moves in you. From a technical stance Anton explains it like this… “The ten tunes on Radiant Blue are all variants of the classic blues form — nine originals by Schwartz and an unusual arragement of the Jobim composition “Wave”. The blues form, a sequence of chords twelve measures long, is the structure underlying many of the great songs of blues, jazz, and rock music. Despite its name, the blues form is not particular to blues music, and this CD is not a blues CD — in fact, most of the tunes wouldn’t even be called “bluesy”. Rather, the styles span a wide gamut: fast straight ahead jazz; New Orleans second line; afro-samba; angular funk; relaxed swing; feel-good South African; greasy shuffle. Likewise, the forms and the harmony are playfully varied from tune to tune — several tunes have a bridge or an additional section, and almost all have altered harmony of one sort or another.”

Whatever the secret formula is, this stew is cooking and you ought to get yourself a taste.