The Antfarm Quartet      -   r e v i e w s / a r t i c l e s


The Antfarm Quartet "Dialogues, pt. 2" in review:

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From AllAboutJazz.com (New York)
By John Barron / Published: November 07, 2007

The Antfarm Quartet is an ultra-hip ensemble of seasoned east coast jazz musicians with like-minded ideals. On Dialogues, pt. 2, vocalist Paul Jost, pianist Jim Ridl, bassist Tim Lekan and drummer Bob Shomo demonstrate a collaborative penchant for soulful experimentation on a solid set of originals and standards.

In an era of male jazz vocalists jousting for position as Rat Pack wannabees and angst-ridden, twenty-something posers, Jost is a sigh of relief. He possesses an abundance of convincing vocal qualities, most notably his ability to deliver fresh, uncontrived readings of overdone standards like “The Days of Wine and Roses,” “Girl From Ipanema” and “How Insensitive.”

Jost’s somber rendering of Rodgers and Hart’s “I Didn’t Know What Time It Was,” complimented by Ridl’s minimalist accompaniment, is drenched with pathos and is astonishingly compelling.

Ridl is a dynamic force on the keyboard. The North Dakota native demonstrates dexterous command on the up-tempo “Put on a Happy Face,” and dense lyricism on his own ballad “Sun on My Hands.” Lekan and Shomo swing along with unremitting energy, elevating the intensity of each groove and providing a relaxed foundation for Jost and Ridl to shine. Lekan also contributes as composer with the bouncy title track, an engaging group-improv piece that maintains a relaxed pocket.

High-level musicianship aside, the real charm of The Antfarm Quartet lies in their communal sensibilities—they sound like a real band. Dialogues, pt. 2 is full of give-and-take, humility and warmth.

Style: Mainstream | Published: November 07, 2007

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From AllAboutJazz.com (Philadelphia)
By Victor L. Schermer / Published: October 20, 2007

While this CD contains some fine straight-ahead jazz by a group of excellent musicians, the name of the group, The Antfarm Quartet, combined with cover photos of the group hanging out on a cloudy day at the beach and seen through the window of a diner, evokes a connotation of funk and grunge. Just as ants do their work tirelessly without a leader, this dedicated group has no designated leader. However, more like a bee hive than an ant farm, the entire album is dominated by the singing of the multi-talented Paul Jost.

The only “grungy” thing about this otherwise mainstream recording is Jost’s voice. This is not a criticism; it is a categorization. Jost belongs to two classes of jazz vocalists: those like Chet Baker, Jon Hendricks, Kurt Elling, and J.D. Walter, who utilize scat and vocalise(Baker was an exception), rhythm, and inflections to convey a sharp “instrumental” and “existential” feel; and those like Satchmo (Louis Armstrong), Louis Prima, and Jimmy Durante, whose gravelly voices we constantly forgive because they communicate something important musically—a grunt by Armstrong was worth a thousand notes; Prima caught something of the Italo-American soul; and Durante’s version of “I’ll Be Seeing You (In All the Old Familiar Places)” and other songs conveyed a deep pathos.

At first, Jost’s slightly disturbing vocal persona of a pleading loser is off-putting. But within a short time, the listener becomes absorbed in his highly intelligent, richly emotive, and musically sophisticated renditions of several standards and two originals—“Sun on My Hands” and “Dialogues, Pt. 2,” by band-members Jim Ridl and Tim Lekan respectively. Jost uses rhythm and dynamics to great effect to evoke the variety of moods suggested by the tunes, and the degree of swinging force that such a human “failure” can bring to the music is surprising.

As always, Ridl’s piano playing is superb throughout. “Sun on My Hands,” from his CD Door in a Field (Dreambox Media, 2003) is lyrical and sensitive. Throughout Dialgoues Pt. 2, he livens things up with assertive comping and brilliant solos. Ridl is one of the most remarkable and creative jazz pianists on the scene. Bassist Tim Lekan and drummer Bob Shlomo stay mostly in the background, but they provide both interesting ideas and outstanding rhythmic support. The entire group shines on Joe Henderson’s bebop tune “Tetragon,” a stimulating composition that deserves to be performed much more often.

This album is going appeal both to seasoned lovers of mainstream jazz and younger audiences who like their music with a touch of twisted-ness. Its singular virtue is the way it synthesizes these two idioms and makes something interesting out of the mix.

Style: Mainstream/Bop/Hard Bop/Cool | Published: October 20, 2007

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From The Philadelphia City Paper (citypaper.net), Jan. 10, 2008

The Unsung Singer
The Antfarm Quartet doesn't pander to its vocal minority.
by Shaun Brady

     In jazz, the second a singer enters the picture, the picture itself tends to change. Landscape becomes portrait, with the vocalist front and center, the instrumentalists a supporting blur in the background.
     The New Jersey-based Antfarm Quartet runs wholly counter to that concept. If jazz music and vocal jazz can be looked at as completely different genres — and for the most part, they are — then Antfarm falls squarely into the former category, despite the fact that most of their repertoire consists of vocal tunes.... read the article

A lot of the credit falls at the feet of vocalist Paul Jost, who, even when singing well-known lyrics, wields his voice like an instrumentalist — which, in fact, he is. He contributes harmonica and guitar to the Antfarm Quartet, and is a drummer and composer whose songs have been recorded by The Band and Carl Perkins, as well as in a slew of TV commercials.

In a world accustomed to thinking of singers as "frontmen," Jost's approach may seem self-effacing. But his efforts aren't so much magnanimous as an integral part of a four-way whole; this is a collective (hence the name), each member of which is keenly attuned to the others, a trait most valuable when it comes to knowing when to get out of the way.

In fact, the group didn't start out as a vocal quartet. Their eponymous debut, released by Philly label Dreambox Media (as is their new CD, Dialogues, pt. 2, which they're celebrating this weekend at Chris'), saw pianist Jim Ridl, bassist Tim Lekan and drummer Bob Shomo joined by trumpeter Bob Meashey, who was replaced about four years ago by Jost. Ridl recalls seeing Jost perform with Shomo and Lekan as a trio in South Jersey at a time when the original Antfarm's schedule was slackening.

"I was really moved by how great it sounded without a chordal instrument," Ridl says. "It had all this freedom in it, and I dug it so much that I wanted to get into that, too."

The gray, overcast sky dominating what appears to be a chilly Jersey shore scene on the cover of Dialogues, pt. 2 well represents the music contained within, which is remarkably unified despite the presence of Lennon and McCartney next to Rodgers and Hart next to Jobim, Joe Henderson, and originals by Ridl and Lekan. Like the emptiness of the off-season beach, the Quartet's take on often-familiar material finds an inviting loneliness once the clutter of expectations is cleared away. The overall feel is restrained but not off-putting, finding a casual warmth inside a frequently downbeat approach.

"I think we create a lot of, to me, beautiful-sounding music," Ridl says. "Even though it can get aggressive, it always has a sense of beauty to it, which I really dig. I don't want that all the time, because I like stretching, but I think it's a very welcoming vibe; it's intelligent and it's heartfelt, but there's also a lot of sweat involved, so it's not fluffy."

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••• From Women's Journal   August, 2007
SOULFUL CONVERSATIONS
by Buster Maxwell / August, 2007

As published in the nationally syndicated Women's Journal, written by Buster Maxwell,
this is a wonderful feature about The Antfarm Quartet's new recording.

click here for a PDF version of "SOULFUL CONVERSATIONS"

Buster Maxwell is a PIttsburgh performer, songwriter and playwright who discovered the Antfarm Quartet performing in Stone Harbor in 2005, and has been a fan ever since.

"How do you create a great jazz album? You could start with some standards, inject a few inspired and unexpected choices, add a couple of perfectly lovely originals, dress them all up in inventive and supremely tasteful arrangements, and produce every track with clarity, subtlety and style. And oh, yes - somehow, somewhere, in a cold, unforgiving, digital recording studio, you must perform, on cue, with so much naked openheartedness that your songs all magically reveal an entirely other, much deeper level of artistry. That indefinable quality - feel, groove, soul - is what is mostly missing in modern midi-machine-made MP3’s.

Jazz musicians pride themselves on their ability to attain this magic mojo, and a prime prerequisite is to closely listen to your fellow players, so that the form of the song can be transcended with spontaneous human interaction. The truth is that rarely in even professional jazz ensemble playing is a confident collective vision summoned up so solidly that the performance is elevated to the legendary Grooveland. However, on this new release by The Antfarm Quartet, there is a rare kind of communication, both inner and outer, on display. An...attunement. No small wonder that the CD is entitled Dialogues.

Basically, this is a delightful piece of work, a true collaboration by accomplished musicians who obviously love what they do. The playing is sweet, polished and tasteful - reminiscent at times of the classically based chamber jazz of The Jacques Loussier Trio. And within the instinctive interplay that great groups thrive on, The Antfarm Quartet creates imaginative interpretations that make us listen to old songs with new ears.

But can you dance to it? Or is that a banal parameter to impose on contemporary jazz? Not if you want your audience to snap fingers, tap feet and bop heads, responses which this CD generates with ease. You can samba, slow dance, or just relax to this one. Regardless of its deep and nourishing complexity, Dialogues never refuses to speak to the body.

This relentless romanticism comes courtesy of Paul Jost’s stunning singing. His burnished, soulful vocals are remarkable - rhythmically and tonally spot on, daringly inventive and freely expressive in true jazz tradition, but uniquely his own. With ever-sensitive instrumental accompaniment throughout, including two fine originals featuring wordless vocals, Antfarm carries the torch of classic vocalization to sweeter heights, as Jost’s voice becomes the band’s true fourth instrument (his gutsy blues harmonica playing notwithstanding). In both the charted vocalization and his improvised scatting, Jost’s musical soul shines, and it's simply thrilling to hear. Today, when the true male jazz singer has taken a media back seat to hordes of semi-talented Sinatra soundalikes and R&B wannabes, Jost nearly single-handedly reclaims the male voice as a valid and critically important jazz instrument. Owing little to classic lyric balladeers like Johnny Hartman or seminal masters of rhythmic scat like John Hendricks, Jost, a true musical child of the 60’s, stands alone in his own heartfelt melodic lines and powerful exhortations, some nearing explosiveness. With none of the overwrought songwriting and mannered arranging that at times hinders the listenability of the reigning king of jazz vocals, Kurt Elling (his old band mate and perhaps his only generational equal), Jost swings breezily, scats with ease and authority, and softly seduces the listener with a catchy combination of the crystalline soulfulness of Sting and the fearless inventiveness of Mark Murphy. If that comparison seems somewhat glib, just listen to him soar and you’ll soon realize what a remarkable accomplishment it is for an original jazz vocalist today to be both accessible and deep.

And though he may occasionally treat the lyric as a simple steppingstone to an uplifting flight of melodic invention, Jost’s dramatic, whispery recitative during the band’s surprising deconstruction of the Rogers and Hart chestnut, I Didn’t Know What Time It Was, is a subtle example of how a sensitive singer can literally breathe new life into the words of an outdated tune that has been somewhat flattened by time.

Underneath all this lyric romanticism, a trio rambles along in a series of graceful grooves. Bassist Tim Lekan, pianist Jim Ridl, and drummer Bob Shomo play in relaxed harmony like the old friends they are. And although the polished arrangements (credited to Jost, Lekan and Ridl) are elegant examples of jazz trio invention, the listener is often surprised by small touches - the soft cymbal crash that instinctively punctuates a line of improvised scat, the piano phrasing that pushes and pulls the band along a wave of orchestration, and ringing bass tones that can immediately create a brooding atmosphere.

Ridl is a true trio keyboardist, and his playing is noteworthy here for what he doesn’t, as well as does, play. Confidently sublimating his ample chops for the overall craftsmanship of each track, he’s happy to let bass, drums and vocal sail along while he slips in sly punctuation with spare phrasing and chunks of delicious chords. But when called upon to solo, he delivers: one whimsical piano intro recalls the stuttering stride of Phineas Newborn, Jr., yet gives no hint of what’s to come - who knew that Put On A Happy Face could swing so mightily? Antfarm might have taken a cue from Tony Bennett’s lighthearted 1962 Carnegie Hall arrangement, but shoots the song straight into the swing stratosphere, propelling the musical comedy war-horse wildly forward under their own rhythmic delirium. Ridl, surfing the sizzling pace set by bass and drums, executes a furious and fun series of runs during his solo.

Upright bass is sometimes an under-appreciated instrument, yet, in the hands of great players, it can be commanding in rhythm as well as melody and harmony. Lekan has no trouble straddling these possibilities, and in fact, revels in revealing new facets of his talent with each track. He’s that rare breed of bassist that can play swiftly yet sonorously: and although his rhythm work is righteous, he’s most effecting in the lowest registers, where his shadings lend a magisterial acoustic, notably in the slower pieces.

Shomo is rarely less than impeccable. His cymbal playing has a particular precision that allows him to flavor each track with colors and textures that rise to a Elvin Jones-style sense of tonality. Above all, he drives the band, but never overstates his case nor underplays. He’s not just in the pocket, he is the pocket.

Other highlights include the band’s re-imagining of Centerpiece, where Ridl’s voicings add atmospheric colors one never images a blues classic could have; a tender interpretation of Lennon and McCartney’s And I Love Her; a kicking version of Joe Henderson’s Tetragon; and the two impressive originals: Ridl’s contemplative Sun On My Hands and the sweetly swinging title track from Lekan are so evocative, they can raise many images in the imagination, but remain steadfastly strong as enveloping soundscapes. Both bear repeated listening.

What are the secret inbred agreements that allow a group to communicate so deeply? True friendship, shared idols, the commonality of generation, a wealth of experience onstage together? All of this and more Antfarm seems to bring to this intimate performance - these Dialogues are one set of soulful conversations that you’ll want to eavesdrop on many times over." -- Buster Maxwell

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From The Atlantic City Press, Nov. 1, 2007

Story by Rebecca Grites

The Somers Point Jazz Society's Winter Series keeps on putting out the coolest and most enjoyable names in local - and national - jazz music. This week, get down and dirty with some ants. Well, not really the insects, but the Antfarm Quartet. They will be playing Mac's Restaurant in Somers Point on Saturday, Nov. 3, at 8 p.m. Tim Lekan, acoustic bassist for Antfarm, spoke about the group's musical diversity and understanding as well as what kind of show southern New Jersey jazz lovers can expect.  "People can expect to see and hear a group of musicians (who) listen to and communicate with each other," Lekan says. "They'll see the band members smiling a lot because we love making music together."
 
Lekan is sure their soulful and sweet original jazz melodies will woo the crowd, but not to forget the jazz standards and cover songs they perform in their own, unique style. "We play a mix of original compositions and jazz standards," says Lekan, who mentioned famous composers like Gershwin, Cole Porter and Jobim. Antfarm even likes to spice up its act with songs by the Beatles, Tetragon and Joe Henderson. Lekan is certain the audience will see an emotionally charged show that shows a "wide, dynamic range" of jazz music. "The music can be, at times, very quiet and subtle, (but) still very intense," he says. "And sometimes it can reach quite a peak."

In terms of Antfarm's musical influences, Lekan puts it simply: "We like all styles of music - good music is good music." As far as strictly jazz influences, Lekan believes the entire group would agree with him that Miles Davis and Keith Jarrett are the big two.  "(An influence), in particular, (would be) the Miles Davis Quintet that formed in 1964 with Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Ron Carter and Tony Williams," Lekan says. "That group realized such a high level of creativity and group interaction - they set a very high standard."  The Antfarm Quartet is definitely a jazz group any and all music lovers should make it a point to see.
 
What They Play: Original jazz songs and covers.
 
Specialty: Improvising. The band is known to watch and listen to each other's instrumentation and explore jazz music with spontaneous, new songs.
 
New To Setlist: Songs off of their recently released album, including "Dialogues Part 2" and "Sun On My Hands."
 
Roster: Paul Jost, vocals and harmonica; Tim Lekan, acoustic bass; Jim Ridl, piano; Bob Shomo, drums.
 
Why They're Cool: They are a band that is truly in love with not only the innovation of jazz music but also the innovation of musicianship itself. These guys are so in-tune with one another, it's as if they were born to play together.
 
Originals: "Dialogues Part 2" and "Sun On My Hands," plus many more off their latest album, "Dialogues Part 2."

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From Cape May Star Wave, October 18th, 2007

Masters of the Jazz Art: The Antfarm Quartet

By Bruce Jeffries-Fox

The great jazz players in South Jersey are not so different from you and I in one respect: They have to pay the rent. To do so they typically have to play three out of every four chords for rent money, leaving only one chord for themselves.

In light of this situation it is a wonder and a delight that the Antfarm Quartet, have found a way to stay focused and evolve their beautiful art. Jazz lovers take note. One of the area’s most accomplished ensembles will take the Jazz Vespers concert stage at the First Presbyterian Church of Cape May, 500 Hughes St. (on the corner of Hughes and Decatur streets downtown) this Sunday October 21st at 3 p.m.

The group has been together for several years, and while there was a change in personnel about five years back, the line-up has remained steady ever since. Jim Ridl holds down the keyboard seat, while Tim Lekan plays bass, Bob Shomo handles the drums and Paul Jost contributes vocals and harmonica.

Each of these names is probably familiar to jazz fans in the area, as they are each in great demand. They appear on stage throughout the region supporting a vast array of performers. But through it all they have maintained the Antfarm Quartet. “It’s almost like a family,” says Shomo. “We’ve grown very close as musicians and as people. These guys are my best friends as well as my band mates. So it doesn’t matter how many other gigs we do, we keep coming back together because we have something very special.”

What the Antfarm Quartet offers audiences is the experience of watching and hearing terrific players really listening to each other and building off what the others are doing. While this is what every jazz musician and combo strives to do, the extent of communication and creative interplay between these four players is extraordinary. This is where the magic comes from: Four guys at the top of their game and all with the vision of creating something exciting and beautiful.

Lekan provides a glimpse of what it’s like to be in the group, “It’s the very reason I got into music. I get to play with folks of incredibly high musicianship, who are also very creative and who value group communication. When I come off the bandstand with these guys, I feel like my soul’s been nourished.” Audiences feel it to, and that’s what is so special about an Antfarm Quartet performance.

The group has just released a new CD, aptly named “Dialogues, part 2”. It contains fresh interpretations of some jazz standards, some modern classics such as Lennon and McCartney’s “And I love her”, and two original tunes. The CD has much of the same quality as their performances and has received critical acclaim.

But if you want to experience the true magic The Antarm Quartet conjures, come out and get your share of their musical “soul food” this Sunday at 3 p.m. at the First Presbyterian Church of Cape May’s Jazz Vespers. A love offering is requested. No reservations are required but Vespers concerts are frequently SRO, so coming a little early is suggested. For further details call 609-884-0680.

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From The Philadelphia Daily News

"Antfarm Quartet: Yes, they have a singer, but don't call Paul Jost a frontman; the Jersey-based foursome are a collective, and Jost, a multi-instrumentalist himself, is a musician's vocalist, just one among four strong voices, along with pianist Jim Ridl, bassist Tim Lekan and drummer Bob Shomo. The Quartet is celebrating the release of its second CD, "Dialogues, pt. 2," out on Philly label Dreambox Media...."

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Dialogues, pt. 2 is available through
this website
www.dreamboxmedia.com
www.amazon.com

www.digstation.com
www.cdbaby.com

www.cduniverse.co