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Interviews

Jim Snidero: A Tale Of Taste

By Published: July 8, 2013
Snidero's experiences with this group proved to be another highlight of his early years in New York. He notes, "I had a lot of respect for them and a lot of respect for the music, which was very hard. I felt it was a great opportunity for me because, first off, it just took me into a whole other audience. They were touring in Japan, they were playing a lot of concert halls in the states. We played at Carnegie Hall, probably three times. As a matter of fact, we played in Carnegie Hall in 1983." That concert, as Snidero tells it, proved to be a pivotal moment in his career. He states, "Toshiko was producing records for EMI Japan, and after that concert, she asked me if I would want to do a record with that label." That was the beginning of Snidero's leader-on-record life.

On Time (Toshiba EMI, 1984) found Snidero in good company making great music under his own name for the first time. Trumpeter Brian Lynch
Brian Lynch
Brian Lynch
b.1956
trumpet
, Snidero's good friend and band mate from the Akiyoshi group, came on board, and both young horn players found themselves in the midst of rhythmic greatness. Snidero explains, "So we did this record, and I was scared shitless! I was so scared. It was Kenny Kirkland
Kenny Kirkland
Kenny Kirkland
1955 - 1998
piano
[on piano] and it was just unbelievable. George Mraz
George Mraz
George Mraz
b.1944
bass
[on bass]; and Billy Hart
Billy Hart
Billy Hart
b.1940
drums
on drums; and Brian [Lynch]. We did it at Rudy Van Gelder
Rudy Van Gelder
Rudy Van Gelder
b.1924
producer
's studio, so the whole thing was scary, but it came out pretty good." "Pretty good" is actually a bit of an understatement, but humility tends to shade most of Snidero's thoughts on his own work.

In looking back on his early sideman stints and his initial foray(s) into recording, Snidero states, "That was a really great time. We weren't making a lot of money or anything like that, but we were playing a lot. We were just trying to play as well as we could, and figure out what was cool, and what was hip, and what was musical, and who we wanted to be as musicians." That act of self-discovery continued as Snidero built up his discography. His sophomore release—Mixed Bag (Criss Cross, 1987)—came three years after On Time, and a string of albums on small(er) labels like the Dutch Criss Cross imprint and Italian Red label followed. On most of these dates, like the highly praised Blue Afternoon (Criss Cross, 1989) and the lesser-known Storm Rising (Ken Music, 1990), Snidero emphasized his original music, but sprinkled in some choice standards. His focused and friendly horn was out front on these quartet and quintet outings which featured many of his peers, like Lynch, bassist Peter Washington, and pianist Benny Green
Benny Green
Benny Green
b.1963
piano
.

The '80s proved to be a fruitful time in Snidero's career, as he learned from the best and began to blaze his own trail, but the '90s was all about branching out and moving on. He ended his association with Criss Cross and Red during this decade, authored a series of successful jazz books, stood shoulder-to-shoulder with one of the greatest voices in history, and produced a pair of well-regarded, concept-driven albums as the millennium drew to a close. He looks back on most of those experiences with a sense of pride about what came to pass, but he also readily acknowledges the struggles he faced with his own work. Snidero's quick to say that he felt "stagnant" because he wasn't writing much, but he's even quicker in pointing out the positives from this period. He notes, "the time that I spent with Frank Sinatra—which was '90 to '95—was just another completely mind- blowing experience. I'll treasure those years as much as anything because it's really rare to have an opportunity to be near someone that performs with that amount of purity and genius and artistic talent. It was just unbelievable to be around that, and those were some really happy times. I guess, what I'm saying is that for me, the '90s was a time where I wasn't really thinking about myself as a leader per se, and developing my own music as a composer, until the book thing came around. I wrote those [Jazz Conception books] in '96. They brought out a completely different side of me that I had been tinkering with, starting in the late '80s, as someone who did clinics. [Back then,] I began an association with the Selmer company and I formulated something; a conception about how I taught jazz, and what I thought was effective, and what I thought was needed."


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