Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Altoist Jim Snidero Explores "Waves of Calm"

Waves of Calm Jim Snidero Savant SCD2176
It’s satisfying to experience the perceptible growth and burgeoning maturity of a musician. With altoist Jim Snidero, the progression of his playing should be no surprise. His pedigree is peppered with valuable exposures to legends, talented colleagues and pricelessly diverse experiences. Snidero has studied with the inimitable master altoist Phil Woods. His work with stalwart organist Jack McDuff was formative. Snidero served as a band member on some legendary work he did playing with Frank Sinatra. He performed in the esteemed University of Texas One O’clock Lab Band, played with the Latin legend Eddie Palmieri, was a member of the powerful Mingus Big Band and played with a plethora of fine musicians. His musical history is a testament to a determined musician who always strides to expose himself to formative experiences. He has also been a dedicated educator and has codified his musical philosophy and technique in his teaching and his Jazz Conception books.

Snidero has always looked to collaborate with equally inspired musicians on his recordings as a leader and his latest album Waves of Calm is no exception. The album will charm and entertain and will not disappoint even after repeated playing. The music features the talented, warm-toned trumpeter Jeremy Pelt who has established a fluid rapport with the saxophonist. Snidero searched out and commissioned the progressive pianist Orrin Evans to work collaboratively on this personally important project. He anchored the group with the tasteful bassist Nat Reeves and the impressive drummer Jonathan Barber.

The music is creative, poignant and impressionistic. The album is inspired by Jim’s vivid memory of the struggles that his father Micro endured with advanced Parkinson’s disease. 

“Waves of Calm,” the title composition, is a musical representation of the search to reach a state of calm over oneself. Jim’s waves of calm are a musician’s attempt to create tranquility to replace the uncontrollable, often wracking aspects of the Parkinsons. The music is trance-like, ethereal and floating. Snidero’s saxophone is facile, poignant and brimming with emotion here and Orrin Evans’ touch is intuitively sensitive and on mark. The astute rhythm section accompanies with subtlety and taste. The simple song is powerfully appealing because of its admirable equilibrium.  

Snidero’s teams up with trumpeter Jeremy Pelt on four of the album’s eight songs. The Freddie Hubbard inspired “Truth,” has a fusion-era-like sound that is accented by some tasty overdubbed Rhodes work by Evan’s. The sounds the pianist evoke on his electric keyboard echo similar work that dominated some of the best jazz of the seventies from some of the best players of that era. Pelt’s horn has a warm, deliberate tone as he journeys fearlessly around the music.  Snidero’s alto is bright, angular and veracious as the group navigates this moody piece with conviction, making it their own.

Jim Snidero photo by Earl & Sedor

On Snidero’s “Visions” the complex, opening rhythm is almost elusive until Barber’s active trap work establishes the quirky signature. The celestial-like Rhodes work of Evans create a bilious background for Snider’s probing alto to explore over. Pelt’s piercing trumpet goes high to accentuate the extremity of having an almost hallucinogenic vision. Barber’s creative trap work at the coda is a pulsing, syncopated treat.  Evans’ work on the Fender Rhodes keyboard is a delight throughout and often reminiscent of Chick Corea’s work from Creed Taylor’s CTI label classics. He again revisits that sound on another Snidero composition “Estuary” which reunites the Pelt/Snidero front line, again working their intuitive magic as a unified duo. Reeves masterful presence on bass and Barber’s steady beat on drums assures the group never loses the pulse of the music no matter how serpentine the path.

Some of Snidero’s most sensitive playing occurs on several ballads that warm up the mood and establish the heart of this impressive album. The emotional “Old Folks” features some splendid acoustic piano work by Evans and impeccable rhythm by Reeves. Snidero’s alto reveals his mastery of a tonal excellence that is just gorgeous to behold and moving to listen to.

 “I Fall in Love Too Easily, is another classic ballad made famous by Chet Baker and Frank Sinatra amongst others, and may just be my personal favorite cover on the album.  Snidero plays the sentiment with authority and his horn is filled  with emotion and warmth. Orrin Evans takes a brief but equally sensitive solo that just resets the music returning it back to Snidero to close it off definitively with his ardent alto.

The melancholic ballad “If I Had You” features Jim’s alto resonating with the song’s melodic feeling and seems to tonally be a direct link to his inspiration of his one-time teacher, Phil Woods.

The more up-tempo “Dad Song” returns to the front line of Pelt and Snidero. Another Snidero penned song that owes lineage to  some of the best music of the Blue Note years that celebrated some great front lines of trumpet and saxophone. Snidero’s alto’s articulation is precise and Pelt’s trumpet returns to his burnished beauty. 

Waves of Calm firmly establishes Jim Snidero's formidable talent as a player, acumen as an effective composer and deft intuition as leader who surrounds himself with complimentary bandmates. Don't miss this one.