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Music Review: Jeff Antoniuk and the Jazz Update – Brotherhood

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Saxophonist, composer and leader Jeff Antoniuk, together with his band the Jazz Update, provides plenty of swing and swagger with Brotherhood. This release, the ensemble’s second, brims with plenty of immense solos and chunky, funky rhythms sure to satisfy.

The grooves come fast and furious and everything about what this band does is big. Using lush open spaces and oodles of finesse and skill, Antoniuk and the Jazz Update glide efficiently through ten energetic, cool pieces.

Five of the tracks on Brotherhood are Antoniuk compositions, while bassist Tom Baldwin adds a pair of his own arrangements. There are also four jazz staples, including a classic Cole Porter piece and a sleek rendition of Billy Strayhorn’s “Isfahan.”

Antoniuk is a “transplanted Canadian from a Ukrainian family.” Having spent his formative years in Nigeria of all places, Jeff worked the overnight shift in a factory in Alberta in order to earn tuition for school at the University of North Texas. Antoniuk earned a master’s degree in jazz performance and West African ethnomusicology, which is, not surprisingly, exactly what you’d expect it to be.

It’s hardly unexpected that Antoniuk would draw upon his international flavour in his compositions and his playing. Having toured through Asia and even Siberia, his sense of the global world of jazz is present with every note.

Along with Antoniuk’s sax and Baldwin’s bass, the Jazz Update features pianist Wade Beach and drummer Tony Martucci. Their first recording, 2006’s Here Today, took on covers of Duke Ellington and Thelonious Monk fearlessly.

With Brotherhood, the poise of straightforward jazz and the lean of hard bop play perfectly. The band is in-tune through every solo and every square of unison playing, keeping things movable and sporty even through Antoniuk’s intricate arrangements.

The record kicks off with “Screwball,” a fun and lively ditty that really captures the get-up-and-go of its subject. Based on the adventures and moods of Antoniuk’s six-year-old son, the band’s take on the original composition is stirring and spectacular. The tempo changes and mood swings are spiced with stability, showcasing the band’s control even through the most unanticipated of moments.

Whether it’s the New Orleans groove of “Meet Me at the Ponderosa” or the preposterously cool mashup of Tadd Dameron and Monk found on “Hot House/Evidence” that plays with the limits of 4/4, Brotherhood has something for everyone.

Antoniuk and the Jazz Update repeatedly find new ways to draw out tempos and hold listeners with plucky solos and swirling time signatures. The band’s ability to create big moments is of special note, too, as each track is laced with smart, stimulating, entertaining grooves and tight, exact, refined playing.

About Jordan Richardson