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You'd think that a guy who possess impeccable tone and technique on the alto sax, has starred in the Toshiko Akiyoshi Jazz Orchestra and the Mingus Big Band, has led solid straight ahead records of his own for almost 25 years would be a household name in jazz circles. Jim Snidero isn't, but that's no fault of his. On May 31 he issued his 16th album, Interface, and this album provides even less reason to overlook him. This is his second straight CD where Paul Bollenback's guitar is solely carrying the chordal load in place of the more traditional piano or organ in this quartet. But for this go around, Snidero made a few tactical moves that takes the music a long ways.
First, for the first time in two decades, he decided to write all the music for his album, which becomes even more important for the second reason: he asked Bollenback to play nylon string guitar in place of electric for some of the tracks. These tracks, such as Silhouette," One By One," Aperitivo" and Viper" were specifically written and arranged with the acoustic guitar in mind, the result being songs the present the guitarist in the best possible way. The third precept of Interface is that Snidero inches away from bop jazz, but not too much.
The title song that kicks off this record updates traditional jazz with a mild fusion touch, the beat even mimicking Joe Zawinul's Birdland," but there is also complexity in the harmony underneath found in Bollenback's comping and Paul Gill's busy bass line. Silhouette" (Youtube below) immediately slows down the pace but not the goodness. On a bed of a pretty, melancholy melody by Bollenback's nylon strings, Snidero's crafting of his solo is sublime. He also makes complex scale runs sound so easy on the opening statement of Fall Out," and tense, sizzling number that also features Hollenbeck playing jazz phrases with a rough rock tone. McClenty Hunter gets his solo turn, too and makes the most of it. The young drummer Hunter has a unwavering sense of swing and stands firm in the midst of tempo breaks that are found on this tune and all throughout the record.
Aperitivo" is another wind-down number, done up Brazilian style. Here's a song that wasn't written by Antonio Carlos Jobim, but it could have been. Whereas Bollenback's playing is light and breezy on this tune, Viper" is another story: he's on fire here, but Bollenback only hints at flamenco, and attacks the guitar in his own way. Gill's agitated and perky bass improvising stands out, too.
So Snidero may not have gained the fame to match his abilities, but that haven't stopped him from expanding those abilities even further as he did Interface. I don't know how Snidero has managed to fly under the radar screen, but the blip on the screen just keeps getting bigger. This album is a triumph, no matter how many people are aware of it or not.
I love jazz because it mixes intellect and emotion in a very spontaneous way.
I was first exposed to jazz by liberating a Coltrane and a Pharoah Sanders record from a friend in NYC and listening to them over and over until I got it.
My advice to new listeners is you have to take the time to listen to some jazz tunes a number of times until it starts to make sense.