Karl Schwonik
Chronograph Releases
Visions From The Farm

Visions From The Farm

Karl Schwonik

Released January, 2010

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"This CD is a reflection of the true nature of Karl Schwonik. An earnest, talented young man with a great work ethic who has wisely surrounded himself with other talented musicians who have come together to give us a music offering which is both rich in it's diversity and a true testament to the vision of the leader." - Jens Lindemann

'Visions From The Farm' is the first of likely many to come from this prolific and fruitful composer.

Our year in lists:

Fast Forward Weekly critics pick the album of the year

Published December 30, 2010

Karl Schwonik Quartet Visions from the Farm (Chronograph)

Schwonik's 2010 release of Visions from the Farm is my choice for Canadian jazz album of the year. This Wetaskiwin native continues to raise the bar for all young jazz musicians, and everything falls into place with Chris Andrew (piano), Kodi Hutchinson (bass), Brent Mah (sax) and Andrea Case (cello). Produced by Gerry Hebert, each of Visions from the Farm's 10 tracks is solidly arranged and brilliantly played, with eight penned by Schwonik and two more by Coltrane and Monk.

Whatever he chooses, his own material or others, Schwonik brings fresh energy and perspective. More impressively, it's his debut on Chronograph Records and you can't help but hold your breath for what comes next. Not that it hasn't racked up accolades: The CD's second track, "Gwynne," won the Student Downbeat Award for Original Song: Outstanding Performance, and he's also earned the 2010 Lieutenant-Governor of Alberta's Emerging Artist Award. Only 25 years old, Schwonik's talents speak to a much deeper experience, with Visions from the Farm serving as ample proof he's got the chops for greater things to come.

Dennis Slater
FFWD Weekly

Prelude to Success

For Karl Schwonik, 2009 was filled with high notes.

The 25-year-old jazz drummer from Canada was one of the year's VSA International Young Soloists Award recipients, and he recalls the honor as "being a huge boost" for his career and an opportunity that "gave me more freedom to carry out my projects and continue growing as a musician."

Schwonik was featured on CBC Radio 2 as part of the series NEXT: Canada's Music Future and was heard on CBC's Canada Live! program. He was named one of Calgary's "Top 40 Under 40" for the year by Avenue magazinethe youngest person ever to be added to the list.

He describes the period as "fantastic" and one "that was all started by being honored by VSA." "I have had continued success" since being named as an award recipient, he says, and adds that the accolade "has given me more credibility internationally."

Schwonik was born with achromatopsia, a condition that left him with low vision. Though he began his musical studies as a violinist, he switched to the drums as a young teen, a move partially influenced by the fact that playing the instrument was less dependent on his ability to read printed music. His focus on jazz drumming, where improvisation is key, gives him additional freedom to soar as a musician.

Schwonik was definitely soaring during his appearance at the Kennedy Center for the International Young Soloists Concert. "This evening was truly special because of the amazing energy in the room and the reaction from the crowd," he remembers. "There is no better feeling as a performer than to have the audience hanging on your every note!"

The International Organization on Arts &Disabi
VSA Annual Report 2009

Featured Artists of the Month - September/October 2010

Instrumentalist Karl Schwonik with songs such as "Basements" and "Escape". He is an Canadian award-winning drummer who grew up on a farm near Gwynne where he was exposed to countless musical situations ranging from polka to jazz. Fresh out of high school, Schwonik embarked on a tour with 2-time Canadian Country Music Award Nominee Heather-Dawn. This was followed by an invitation to study at the Banff Centre where Schwonik was the youngest artist ever to be a part of the long-term career residency program. He has been nominated for a 2010 Western Canadian Music Award for Jazz Recording of the Year and won a DownBeat Magazine composition award.

RATING: **** (4.5 out of 5 Stars)

International Acoustic Music Awards

Putting the .ca in jazzblog.ca III (CD reviews)

The first and second installments in this series might have left some readers thinking that my definition of Canadian of jazz goes as far west as Mississauga. Here's a post about two CDs to make amends.

The first disc is a notable debut -- Visions from the Farm (Chronograph) from the young Alberta drummer Karl Schwonik, who can be heard in the clip below:

On his CD, Schwonik is joined by Edmonton pianist Chris Andrew and Calgarians Kodi Hutchinson on bass and saxophonist Brent Mah for a 10-track set. Among them are drummerly arrangements of Thelonious Monk's Evidence and John Coltrane's Countdown. Jazz fans will instantly recognize that the melodies of these tunes have undergone some rhythmic mutuation in Schwonik's hands. The other eight selections are Schwonik compositions, which range from a simple blues (Motorhomes) to moodier explorations (Gwynne, Green Line) to modal thrashing (Tiger-Paw) to a wide-open burnout (Furnace Man). My favourite track is the evocative, Kenny Wheelerish waltz called Wanch Widge Way, led in by an open, ringing Hutchinson solo, and enlivened by Andrew's tense, churning piano solo.

Just in his mid-20s, Schwonik is a definite up-and-comer seeking his distinctive place on the Canadian jazz scene. Well-schooled at McGill University and the Banff Centre for the Arts, Schwonik has gotten together a considerable amount of drumming in a short time -- and that's in spite of a severe vision impairment -- and his disc shows where his areas of interest lie. Visions from the Farm might even be unique for its pairing of Mah's throaty soprano saxophone and Andrea Case's cello on a majority of its tracks. While the writing and performances on Visions from the Farm are both deliberate and confident, I feel that the music on occasion could have been more clear or further developed. I'd like to see Schwonik's band live to hear it stretch out, and if I lived in B.C. or the Prairies, I'd have the opportunity this month. Schwonik's quartet is touring extensively -- the details are here -- and it's performing tonight (Jan. 7) at the Cellar Jazz Club in Vancouver and on Friday night at Hermann's Jazz Club in Victoria.

Peter Hum
Ottawa Citizen

CMA member, Karl Schwonik was presented the 2010 Diversity Presidents Youth Award (21-35 years of age) at the 98th AFM Convention held in Las Vegas, June 21-24 by AFM President Tom Lee. Along with a trophy, he received a $1000 cheque to assist him in his musical endeavours. Karls wife, Andrea Case was in attendance as well as other members of his family.

Karl grew up on a farm near Gwynne, Alberta where he was exposed to countless musical situations ranging from polka to jazz. Fresh out of high school, he embarked on a tour with 2-time Canadian Country Music Award Nominee Heather-Dawn. This was followed by an invitation to study at the Banff Centre where he was the youngest artist ever to be a part of the long-term career residency program.

Schwoniks 2010 Visions from the Farm tour, was in support of his newly released recording by the same name. The title is a play on words, combining his rural upbringing and his visual impairment. In 2009, he was featured on CBC Radio 2 as a part of the series NEXT: Canadas Music Future and on CBCs Canada Live!. He won the VSA Arts International Young Soloist Award; a cash award and a performance at the famed Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. and he was also named one of Calgarys Top 40 under 40 by Avenue magazine. He is the youngest person ever to be given this honour.

His professional work has been generously supported by the Canada Council for the Arts, Alberta Foundation for the Arts, and Downbeat Magazine among many others. In addition to this support he received the 2008 Queens Jubilee Award for Excellence in the Arts, the Richard Cowie Memorial Scholarship, and was named Alternate Drumset for the Henry Mancini Institute. Karl is currently the President and Founder of the Wetaskiwin Jazz Society in Wetaskiwin, AB, and Artistic Director of the Wetaskiwin Jazz Camp.

Congratulations on a job well done.

AFM Local 547

Canada's two solitudes will unite in an electrifying evening of instrumental jazz in Red Deer.

The Karl Schwonik Jazz Ensemble will perform with renowned Quebec saxophonist Rmi Bolduc on Tuesday, July 13, at The Hub at 4936 Ross St.

While Bolduc will address the crowd in his native French, Schwonik will conduct his stage banter in English. Between the two of them, the musicians figure everybody at the concert sponsored by the Association Canadienne Francophone d'Alberta should get the gist.

"Music is the common language, the common denominator," said Schwonik, a Calgary-based drummer.

The 25-year-old Albertan first invited Bolduc to teach at a jazz camp Schwonik runs in Wetaskiwin, He then decided to take advantage of Bolduc's presence in the province to play a series of concerts with the acclaimed saxophonist.

"We're very privileged to work with Rmi. He's one of the best jazz musicians in Canada," said Schwonik, who was one of Bolduc's students before graduating from McGill University in Montreal.

The dynamic music instructor, who also teaches at Concordia University, has performed regularly with such acclaimed jazz musicians as Kenny Werner, Ben Monder, Seamus Blake, Lorraine Desmarais, and Vic Vogel, at concerts in New York, Paris, Geneva, Tokyo, and Beijing, Bolduc is known for his virtuosic playing, stage presence and refreshing compositions, which Schwonik describes as leaning towards the traditional be-bop and swing sounds of Charlie Parker.

Schwonik's own tunes, including his catchy Automile, which riffs on the commercial jingle "cars cost less in Wetaskiwin," are more in the contemporary vein.

But somehow the two styles jive, said Schwonik, who previously accompanied Bolduc on tour through Quebec's Eastern Townships when the drummer in Bolduc's jazz ensemble couldn't make it and his instructor asked him to fill in.

Schwonik, who teaches at the jazz camp he founded in his native Wetaskiwin as well as Calgary's C-Jazz camp, had such an "amazing" time performing with Bolduc some 10-hours drive east of Montreal, "I thought we've got to get him out to Alberta."

Schwonik wanted this concert tour to be "a cross-cultural, bilingual project" so it's stopping at seven other Alberta centres that have a high proportion of French-speaking residents, including Edmonton, Calgary, Stettler, and Grande Prairie. It's also being done in support of CNIB members, as Schwonik was born with 10 per-cent of normal vision.

His jazz ensemble is made up of trumpeter James Davis, pianist Chris Andrew, and bassist Kodi Hutchinson.

Tickets for the 7 p.m. concert are $10 ($5 for CBIB and LACFA members) and are available at the door or from the LACFA at 403-986-4350.

Lana Michelin
Red Deer Advocate

Schwonik's jazz ensemble plays The Hub

Showcasing his tremendous musical skills, drummer Karl Schwonik will be heading to The Hub July 13. Promising to be an outstanding performance as always, and featuring legendary Canadian saxophonist Remi Bolduc, showtime is set for 7 p.m.

Schwonik will be joined by his jazz ensemble which includes pianist Chris Andrew, bassist Kodi Hutchinson and James Davis on trumpet.

Its certainly been a hectic and richly creative time for Schwonik since his last show in town back in January, which was part of an extensive 29-date national tour.

February then saw the Calgary-based Schwonik log another 10,000 kms through the U.S. as well.

There wasn't much time for a break as in March, he and his wife, cellist Andrea Case, ventured down to New York City for a three month stint to study music, meet accomplished musicians and take in a multitude of first-rate shows featuring some of the finest jazz artists around these days.

"We probably saw between 50 to 60 shows," he says during a recent chat. Soaking in the sounds of such an array of musical giants has a tremendous impact. "It totally changed my perspective on playing, and it helps me refine what Im doing," he explains.

Schwonik, who is visually impaired, grew up in rural Alberta where he was exposed to musical influences ranging from polka tunes to jazz. His folks got him started with violin lessons at the age of five, although he never really took to the instrument.

In Gr. 5, band was compulsory at his Wetaskiwin school so he opted to take up percussion.

Immediately, he knew he had found the right instrument for him and asked his parents if he could take drum lessons. But they still had their heart set on the violin, he adds with a laugh. Initially they even suggested that if he wanted to take drum lessons, hed have to pay for them himself. But it all ended up to be just the right thing.

When he was fresh out of high school, he hit the road with two-time Canadian Country Music Award nominee Heather-Dawn. This was followed by an invitation to study at the Banff Centre where Schwonik was the youngest artist ever to be a part of the long-term career residency program.

The accolades have been plentiful as has the critical acclaim ever since. Schwonik was named one of Calgary's Top 40 Under 40 for 2009 by Avenue magazine. He also enjoys sharing his skills with emerging musicians -- he recently become the president of the Wetaskiwin Jazz Society and artistic director of the Wetaskiwin Jazz Camp.

Meanwhile, prospects for the talented Schwonik just keep on brightening. He played at the Montreal Jazz Festival this past weekend to a potential audience of up to about 20,000 people.

But Schwonik wasn't too jittery about the whole affair which he is thrilled and grateful to be a part of. "It's not often that I get to play for more than 500 people," he says. "But after a certain amount of people, it's kind of the same."

He's just happy to be able to share his passion with others even on those days when he's feeling a bit road weary. No matter. Once Schwonik hits the stage, he's infused with an electric energy and gives it his all.

"It's kind of an odd thing like an out of body experience,' he says with a laugh.

Tickets for his Red Deer show are available at L'ACFA (4936B Ross St. or by calling 403-986-4350.

Mark Weber
Red Deer Express

And Karl Schwonik is a fantastic Alberta musician. He ended up as a drummer, because his impaired vision made it difficult to read music/ Playing drums, the need to read was greatly reduced. But Schwonik really was meant to play drums - he coaxes an awful lot of music out of the skins. His jazz quartet features some of the West Coast's finest players, and the writing is first-rate.

Andrew Craig
Host, Canada Live
CBC Radio 2

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