“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.”
From Louis Armstrong and Lester Young to Charlie Parker and John Coltrane, jazz’s greatest improvisers create music that carries an emotional wallop. It’s a lesson that tenor saxophonist Anton Schwartz learned well. Like the giants from whom he draws inspiration, Schwartz approaches jazz as a vehicle for reaching the heart and the head. At a time when many of his contemporaries seem to be making music more for their musical colleagues than a wider audience, Schwartz stands out as a player determined to communicate with his listeners. Tenor sax legend Illinois Jacquet summed up Schwartz’s artistry succinctly when he told him, “You play the tenor sax like it’s meant to be played.”
His latest album, Flash Mob, surged to the sixth spot on the jazz radio charts and earned a coveted four-star review in Down Beat magazine, reinforcing his reputation as a passionate but poised improviser and smart purveyor of well-wrought melodies. Schwartz credits an upbringing immersed in jazz and adventurous popular music with shaping his approach to improvising, which melds irresistible rhythmic momentum with emotionally charged lyricism.
“I feel lucky because the music I grew up on was Earth Wind & Fire, Jimi Hendrix, The Police, Muddy Waters and Steely Dan… as well as Charlie Parker, Stanley Turrentine, John Coltrane, Lennie Tristano and Wes Montgomery,” says Schwartz. “I’ve never really been interested in making music for other musicians. I want to create music that conveys something complex and intriguing—through the rhythm, the structure, the interplay of melody and harmony—and distill all that into something clear and beautiful.”