Interview by Joe Montague
the end of February, I had a chance to visit and dine with
“Not in a million years did I think I would be on the chart at all. I just
wanted to get my music recorded and out to some people so the fact that it is
accepted on some levels, I am not really sure what to make of that yet. It is
certainly exciting and I am certainly happy about it. It is affirming to me. I
would continue what I am doing anyway but it is nice to have somebody say, ‘yes
you are on the right track, I like your sound.’ That certainly feels good and it
is nice to know that you are communicating with people,” says the affable
For the most part straight ahead jazz, university, National Public Radio and
satellite radio stations have been the biggest cheerleaders for Here Today.
“When I am going to buy a CD of an artist that I don’t really know I like to listen to somebody improvising over standards because that is a framework that I identify with a little bit better. I like to hear new voices singing or playing over a form that I can relate to because it gives me something that I can judge. That is the reason that I wanted to put some standards on this CD,” says Antoniuk.
“I have always loved Monk and I picked “Four In One” because I love the humor in it. I always appreciate anyone whose music reflects his or her personality. We hear his (Monk’s) quirkiness in this tune. Some of his tunes are complicated and hard to play as a musician but they have a simple quality however “Four In One” is just this sheet of notes. It is very unlike Monk and yet I am intrigued by the tune because there are so many notes in yet while still (retaining) that cockeyed Monk flavor to it. Monk’s tunes have been recorded a trillion times but this is one of the less recorded ones,” says Antoniuk.
Antoniuk (tenor/soprano sax) and his quartet The Jazz Update consisting of Wade Beach (piano), Tom Baldwin (bass) and Tony Martucci (drums/percussion) have created a CD that pushes the boundaries out much further than standards. The ensemble was joined by trumpeter Dave Ballou who also played his flugelhorn.
In describing the mix of tunes that found their way onto Here Today Antoniuk says, “Noah’s Little Play Song”, is a kid’s song with classical counterpoint and we play it in an almost free jazz kind of way. There is a free jazz tune “Blues For JD Salinger” that covers a lot of stylistic territory and the Monk tune is straight ahead swinging. To me the unifying thing is the band. I thought with The Jazz Update that we developed a group sound in the way that we approach material. When we play a straight-ahead standard, we try to bring a freedom, a width and a breadth to it. We are not trying to be between the lines (but instead) to be expansive in the way that we look at a standard tune.”
“Blues For JD Salinger” as one might suspect was inspired by the author and his writings. “I found out that he was a hermit and an eccentric guy. When I wrote the tune, it had an off kilter feel to it. It is a free tune so once the melody is stated it can go anywhere. We have played it where it becomes a funk tune, played it where it becomes a dirge and everything in between. There is no telling where it is going to go. That is the flavor of his (Salinger’s) stories to me.”
Antoniuk says, “As I was thinking about a ballad to put on the album I wanted to have something from Duke Ellington and I just kept coming back to “Prelude To A Kiss”. I am comfortable with it and I feel that I have a connection to it. It is a dream piece for me to play.”
There are various ways to approach a song previously composed and written by another artist. Laughing Antoniuk says, “One way is to ignore the original. When you are covering a piece, you are painfully aware of the brilliant original versions of it. I think one thing that is particularly helpful when we think of Duke Ellington is (we associate him) with the big band, the orchestrations and colors that they had. Here (with “Prelude To A Kiss”) I am doing it as a quartet so in a sense I am not even competing on that level. They (Ellington’s band) were seventeen people and in mine, there are four. “
Continuing the discussion concerning covering an original work Antoniuk
philosophizes, “I think the idea is to be really in the moment with the great
musicians that you have. We shouldn’t worry about if are we reinventing
something or are we being new. That is a valid concern and my hope is with these
four musicians that we will react in the moment and there will be something
different in this performance from the thousand other performances.”
The sax man has over the years performed as a sideman
for artists as diverse as Ray Charles, Natalie Cole and Kenny Rogers.
Playing behind someone like Ray Charles who
had a particular feel, groove and accent is very different than playing with
Natalie Cole. There are little things that you do with the notes and how you
bend them. You may lie back in time or play forward in time. I love that
challenge. There are people who are fabulous at it (playing in different styles)
and there are people who do not like that challenge. I personally love the
One of the challenges that Atoniuk faces in the
tightly formatted radio market is the length of the songs that comprise Here
Today. Only one of the tunes is under six minutes.
“When I recorded the CD I was vaguely aware
concerning airplay but I must say that I was more interested in having the best
One of my favorite tracks and a favorite of others is
the second track “Rain”.
It is almost eleven minutes long.
Interestingly we have been getting a lot of
radio airplay,” he says. A decision was made to promote four of the songs from
Here Today to radio, “
Jeff Antoniuk first picked up a saxophone in a junior high jazz band. He was
initially inspired by the music of
Interview by Joe Montague, all rights reserved,
protected by copyright © February 2007
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Interview by Joe Montague, all rights reserved, protected by copyright © February 2007 Return to Our Front Page