hard to find the perfect metaphor for the music of jazz violinist
Antoine Silverman. He is a definitive new voice in the world of
contemporary jazz, but that doesn't begin to convey the power, or
the subtlety, of the man and his music. You could call it a burst of
light in a gradually graying sky, or perhaps the sudden eruption of
white water around the bend in a gently flowing river.
one need only check out Blue Moods,
Antoine's stunning debut on Nashville-based Hillsboro Jazz, and let
the music itself create its own metaphors and magic. Whatever the
imagery, Antoine and his four-piece band offer a perfect, engrossing
and irresistibly entertaining mix of three Silverman originals,
leavened with a seamless serenade of shimmering reinterpretations of
both jazz standards and instrumental takes on some of popular
music's most enduring standards.
A few particular
stand-outs on an album filled with stellar work are Harold Arlen
& Johnny Mercer's evergreen, Come Rain Or Come Shine, which gets
a sweet and slightly sassy treatment. Duke Ellington's In A
Sentimental Mood makes a graceful bow to the grand master before
taking flight in the inimitable hands of Antoine, ably supported by
bassist Roger Spencer, drummer Chris Brown, guitarist Pat Bergeson
and pianist Stefan Karlson. Antoine's own Bee's Bounce takes flight
with a brief-but-bedazzling burst of solo violin with the ensemble
cast providing cool, yet swinging bee-bop dynamic interplay.
singular gifts as a musician, as well as his choice of the violin as
his musical voice, lend his work both a freshness and a familiarity
that reaches well beyond a traditional jazz audience.
is such an unusual instrument for jazz that it almost inherently
lends itself to new approaches and ideas in whatever I play,"
Antoine explains. "At the same time, because of the prominence
it's always had in country and bluegrass music, it's an instrument
and sound that is very familiar and recognizable to most
musical tastes of his mother, a native of France, and even more so
of his father, the well-known musicologist and author, Jerry
Silverman, an aficionado of American folk and blues music, Antoine
grew up in his New York City family home hearing and absorbing a
rich, diverse mix of indigenous American music and many world sounds
just one part of many in my musical upbringing," Antoine
recalls. "I can't say I was a jazz kid, per se, listening to
Miles Davis in the crib. I did, however, have an early love for the
violin, and began classical lessons when I was only three. I was
hearing and acquiring so many kinds of music constantly, hearing and
watching my father playing guitar, mandolin and banjo. He would
teach me the melody lines to old fiddle tunes sometimes, and we'd
play together. And the folk/blues tradition that he loved so much
really stuck with me. Jazz is such a broad and all-encompassing
genre, and it shares a fair bit of common ground with the blues.
Blue Moods is very much a bluesy approach to jazz."
academic education throughout his youth and high school years was
supplemented strongly with private violin lessons, as well as
ongoing, weekend musical classes and instruction for gifted children
at the Manhattan School of Music. Antoine's love for both jazz and
hard rock (he laughingly admits to this day a teenagers' undying
affection for genre superstars AC/DC to Led Zeppelin), and his
dazzling improvisational gifts, were in full force by the time he
graduated New York's Columbia University. Though majoring in history,
he also carried a large course load of music classes as well at the
world-renowned Julliard School of Music, through a unique program
that allowed the Columbia students with strong musical credentials
to divide their academic and music courses between two institutions.
But even as a
highly trained and skilled classical violinist, he found his own
tastes and instincts leading him further afield. With a nearly equal
proficiency in, and love for, classical, jazz, blues, rock and
bluegrass music, Antoine spent several years after college as
something of a fiddler for all occasions and tastes, before feeling
all the while a tug to Nashville and an excursion into bluegrass.
Though his eclectic tastes have never waned, he did indeed establish
a very respected place for himself in the Nashville country/bluegrass
scene. His singular way with jazz --particularly the highly melodic
school forged by such giants as Stan Getz, Chet Baker, Johnny
Hodges, among many-- remained strong, leading into circles that
included most of Music City's top jazz players.
It would be
hard-pressed for any player or violin enthusiast to not have been
touched by Stephane Grappelli, easily the preeminent jazz violinist
of the 20th century. His deft mixture of instrumental virtuosity and
ready accessibility brought a widespread popular appeal that often
eluded even some of jazz's greatest talents. Antoine was no
exception, as he recalls the late maestro, "Grapelli was a
tremendous influence on me," says Antoine. "His sense of
timing, phrasing and flair...and just the notes he chose to play
were striking. I saw him perform in Paris and it was like a veil was
lifted as I understood the violin in ways I never had before. You
could call it a life-changing moment. I sent him some early demo
tapes of mine, and he actually replied, complimenting me and
encouraging me to keep going. I have always listened to so many
great musicians in so many styles, and such an array of instruments.
But when it came to jazz violin, there's no question that he was the
relocating to New York in 1999, in addition to the completion of Blue
Moods and club dates in and around New York,
Antoine has found himself a sought-after session player, landing big
name gigs - in typically diverse fashion - everywhere from Broadway
shows to the Sesame Street Band, to tours playing with DJ/Dance
sensation Moby, and multi-platinum modern rockers, Sinead O'Connor
and Sixpence None The Richer.
artists themselves struggle for words to describe their music,
Antoine expresses a very strong sense of self-awareness in what he
does, with a very concise yet broad description that could also read
quite accurately as a statement of purpose for his label, the new,
Nashville-based Hillsboro Jazz.
"My goal as
an artist is to have and continue to develop a strong voice of my
own," he says, "and to express that in musical settings
and contexts that, without modifying or compromising my artistry, my
style, my uniqueness...play music that people enjoy listening to.
I've never been one to over-intellectualize music. I know what I
like, and I play it from my heart."
opening bars of Blue Moods
to the fading of the final note, it's safe to say Antoine Silverman
has accomplished his goal splendidly. And just as anyone who hears
him would agree, is clearly having a rollicking good time every step,
and every note, of the way.