Hear KPLU's 19th Annual Christmas Jam (Again)

Dec 25, 2015

KPLU presented its annual holiday concert on December 10 with special guest, saxophonist Anton Schwartz, who performed with the Pacific Lutheran University Jazz Ensemble under the direction of Dr. David Deacon-Joyner.  Anton's quartet — including Dr. Deacon-Joyner on piano, bassist Clipper Anderson and drummer Mark Ivester — also played a few festive tunes.  The KPLU Christmas Jam was hosted by Kevin Kniestedt and broadcast live from the Karen Hille Phillips Performing Arts Center on the campus of PLU.

Holiday selections included "Have a Cool Yule," "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear," "Let it Snow," and "I'll Be Home For Christmas."   Student vocalist Cassie sang "Santa Baby" and dueted with Dr. Deacon-Joyner on "Baby, It's Cold Outside."

About Anton Schwartz

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 Anton Schwartz learned well.  

Schwartz draws inspiration from giants like Louis Armstrong, Lester Young, Charlie Parker and John Coltrane.  Like them, 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 DownBeat 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.

Born and raised in New York City, Schwartz began playing clarinet at age 12 and switched to the saxophone at age 14.  Enthralled by jazz, he found invaluable mentors early on, studying with reed masters Warne Marsh and Eddie Daniels. In high school he had the chance to perform with the likes of Lionel Hampton and Woody Herman.  In college, however, Schwartz pursued other passions. He earned a B.A. in Mathematics and Philosophy at Harvard, graduating magna cum laude in 1989.  Despite his demanding studies, he played first tenor sax in the Harvard Jazz Band, a chair he held after Don Braden and before Joshua Redman. As a National Science Foundation fellow at Stanford, Schwartz dove into doctoral research in artificial intelligence, but after several years he couldn’t resist the pull of music, plunging headlong into the Bay Area jazz scene in 1995.

He took the full-time plunge into music relatively late when, at the age of 27, he decided to step away from high-level research in artificial intelligence. Since then he’s forged ties with some of jazz’s heaviest hitters, including pianists Russell Ferrante, Taylor Eigsti, Randy Porter, Josh Nelson, Art Lande and Eric Reed; guitarists Peter Bernstein, Bruce Forman, Ed Cherry, Julian Lage and Dan Balmer; trumpeters Dominick Farinacci, Thomas Marriott and Scott Wendholt; and vocalists Ed Reed, Jackie Ryan, Denise Donatelli and Rebecca Kilgore.

Schwartz relocated to Seattle in 2010, but maintains a strong presence performing and teaching in California. He’s a longtime faculty member of the California Jazz Conservatory, where he has designed courses ranging from “Improvising Eighth Note Lines” to “The Physics of Musical Sound.” He is also a clinician at the Brubeck Institute, and has been artist-in-residence at Harvard University and the Brubeck Summer Jazz Colony, in addition to numerous jazz festivals and workshops.

About the University Jazz Ensemble

The University Jazz Ensemble is a jazz big band, varying in instrumentation according to repertoire. The ensemble performs regularly on the PLU campus, at jazz venues in the Puget Sound area, regional high schools, and national jazz festivals. The ensemble performs jazz big band repertoire from all eras of the music, from Duke Ellington to Maria Schneider, and covers all styles of jazz from early swing to jazz/rock.