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Interviews

Jim Snidero: A Tale Of Taste

By Published: July 8, 2013
The key word in that whole statement is "needed." In a market crowded with lick-based books and lead sheet-driven products, Snidero managed to make an impact with something a little different that tapped into idiomatic language and phrasing that students need to be exposed to. These books became a huge success, eventually spawning an "Easy" and "Intermediate" series that filled in the gaps for players at different levels. To date, the Jazz Conception series contains over forty books, and it remains one of the most popular jazz education resources out there. In looking back with a then-to-now telescope, Snidero notes, "I knew that if I got it right that it was going to be successful, but I didn't know just how successful it would become."

While Snidero speaks of compositional stagnancy as a leader-on-record during this period, this writing lull didn't stop him from making some significant artistic statements; he delivered his only all-standards album to date—Standards+Plus (Double-Time, 1997)—and a record dedicated to one of jazz's great saxophone icons—The Music Of Joe Henderson
Joe Henderson
Joe Henderson
1937 - 2001
sax, tenor
(Double Time Records, 2000)— during this period. Then, as the new millennium was getting underway, Snidero's composer juices began to flow again and the time seemed right to explore the world of saxophone-and-strings.

In some respects, Snidero was following in the footsteps of his saxophone forefathers by working in that particular area. In fact, creating a sax-with-strings statement has become a rite of passage for reed-men-of-note ever since alto saxophonist Charlie Parker
Charlie Parker
Charlie Parker
1920 - 1955
sax, alto
did the deed, but the process usually involves bringing in an outside arranger and/or composer to set the scene. Snidero's simply-titled Strings (Milestone, 2003) stands apart because he arranged everything and wrote the majority of the music for the date. Snidero notes, "I was going to do that record for a small label and have an arranger do it, but I just couldn't bring myself to do that. I decided I was going to do it myself and just learned how to do it. I took lessons with friends or people that I knew. I got on a lot of people with questions and tried to figure out what to listen to, what my values are, and what I really liked in string writing. I wanted to avoid, for the most part, that kind of generic string pad. I really wanted it to be interactive with the quartet. So, I wrote all of that music; there are two standards, but everything else is original."

Snidero did his homework, laid the groundwork, and got set to make the record, but history and horror would intervene. He recalls, "We went to the rehearsal, and that rehearsal was on September 10, 2001. And the record date was scheduled for September 11, 2001. 9/11. And so, we got up in the morning. The bassist lives in the same building I live in; we live in Manhattan, so we got on the train. The recording studio was in Brooklyn and we came over top—in Brooklyn, the train's elevated—and there are the buildings on fire. It was the hardest day." He continues, "So, obviously the date was cancelled. I had built up a whole year's worth of really, really hard work to that moment; I hired the musicians; I was the contractor; I'd done everything. We had to cancel it. So we had to kind of regroup, and then we did it a couple months later. But I have to say, it's a better record [than it would have been] because it did give me two months to work on the music some more. It's definitely a better record than it could have been if we had recorded it on 9/11."

The record, which features 10 string players and a jazz quartet comprised of Snidero, pianist Renee Rosnes
Renee Rosnes
Renee Rosnes
b.1962
piano
, bassist Paul Gill and drummer Billy Drummond
Billy Drummond
Billy Drummond
b.1959
drums
, proved to be an artistic and critical success. Snidero notes, "It came out on Milestone [Records], so I was really, really, happy about that. A lot of people have said wonderful things about it and it's definitely one of my works that I'm most proud of."

Snidero put out one more record on Milestone—Close Up (Milestone, 2004), featuring tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander
Eric Alexander
Eric Alexander
b.1968
sax, tenor
—before finding his way to the Savant label, which he's happily called home since 2007. Snidero elaborates, "I have to say that my association with Savant has been tremendous. It's just a great record company. Joe and Barney Fields leave it up to you with what you want to do; it's got to be good, and they're not going to take anything less than great actually, but they let you do what you want to do and I've really been happy about that association. Now it's going on 6 years, and this is my fourth recording for Savant. That's the most records I've done for any label."


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