With Flash Mob, his first new recording in seven years, the expressive and swinging tenor saxophonist/composer Anton Schwartz delivers a disc notable for its well-crafted tunes, riveting ensemble work, and abundance of attitude. Schwartz's Antonjazz label will release the CD, his fifth since his 1998 debut When Music Calls and first since 2006's Top 5 radio staple Radiant Blue, on January 28. An audiophile recording, Flash Mob is available as a standard CD and also from HDtracks in high-resolution 96kHz 24-bit digital.
Presenting a diverse program of original tunes, plus one each by Kenny Dorham and Thelonious Monk, Schwartz is joined by a superlative cast including Grammy Award-nominated pianist Taylor Eigsti, rising Bay Area drum star Lorca Hart, big-toned New York trumpeter Dominick Farinacci, and the imperturbably grooving South Bay bassist John Shifflett (who has anchored just about all of Schwartz's recordings). As usual, the saxophonist creates unabashedly appealing music that bristles with intriguing ideas, unbridled energy, and unexpected rhythmic juxtapositions.
"I always aim to write the music I'd like to hear," says Schwartz, who for the last three years has divided his time between Seattle and Oakland. "A lot of great music out there doesn't hold my attention the way Stevie Wonder does. I like music that goes someplace. I write for my own impoverished attention span, and it seems to serve me well."
The drummer and longtime jazz radio personality Bud Spangler, who's co-produced all of Schwartz's albums, including Flash Mob, is not surprised that Schwartz's music has found a national audience, noting his gift for crafting "catchy compositions. They grab you and stay with you. He works really hard, and he's swinging his butt off."
One reason that Schwartz sounds more lyrical than ever is that he's keeping company with some of jazz's most accomplished vocalists. He plays a key role on Ed Reed's 2011 album Born to Be Blue and his well-received new release I'm A Shy Guy, serving as a thoughtful foil to the late-blooming octogenarian balladeer. He's worked extensively with the crystalline improviser Inga Swearingen, collaborated with many others such as Judy Wexler and young phenom Laila Smith, and, since moving to Seattle, has forged potent ties with the supremely soulful vocalist Gail Pettis and the highly versatile Greta Matassa.
The native Manhattanite (b. 1967) caught the jazz bug early and as a teenager studied with the brilliant but oft-overlooked tenor saxophonist Warne Marsh and the renowned clarinetist Eddie Daniels. Schwartz went on to study math and philosophy at Harvard University, though he found time to play in the school's jazz band, holding down the first tenor saxophone chair after tenorman Don Braden, in a section that included future jazz star Joshua Redman. Schwartz moved to the Bay Area in 1989 and had nearly completed a Ph.D. in Artificial Intelligence at Stanford when he decided to forgo the degree and devote himself to music full time.
An active teacher, Schwartz maintains a strong presence in both Seattle and the Bay Area, mentoring jazz ensembles and private students in both regions. He has been Artist in Residence at Harvard University and the Brubeck Institute Summer Jazz Colony and is a dedicated clinician, giving frequent master classes and workshops on an impressive range of subjects, from advanced music theory to the physics of woodwind instruments, to the fine details of swing and phrasing, to the business of music.
"It's such a fun challenge to get inside another musician's head, figure out how they understand things, and help build them a ladder that will take them to where they want to go," says Schwartz. "Each time I make an album, the writing and the execution get more and more fun for me, as the process of creating and realizing a vision becomes more and more fluid. It's been a heck of a journey, refining my musical craft over the years -- and amazingly rewarding. To be able to help others along their journey too is doubly gratifying."
Schwartz will be working the following dates with his quintet in support of Flash Mob (East Coast dates are being planned for the spring):
3/1 San Jose Jazz Winterfest
3/1 Pacifica Performances
3/2 Sonoma Jazz Society
3/4 Yoshi's, Oakland
3/6 Kuumbwa, Santa Cruz
3/7 Vitello's, Los Angeles
3/9 JB's, Sacramento
3/11 KPLU in-studio performance, Seattle
3/11-3/12 Jazz Alley, Seattle
3/13 The Cellar, Vancouver BC
3/14 Ivories, Portland