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Restless Traditionalist Jim Snidero Returns To BOP STOP For A Blackberry Winter Date

photocredit: John Rogers

On his new recording, For All We Know (Savant, 2024), Jim Snidero leaned heavily on the classic repertoire: “Love For Sale,” “Willow Weep For Me,” “My Funny Valentine” and the title cut. But midway through, he throws in an unexpected selection, Alec Wilder’s “Blackberry Winter.”

“Well, I love the melodies,” Snidero said by phone, “One of the prettiest melodies I’ve ever recorded is ‘Blackberry Winter.’ I’m trying to stay true to that melody and still be interesting at the same time. It’s always a balance between knowing and not knowing. For me anyway, I’m trying to have a grounding when I’m playing, but still have surprises and still keep people interested and not sure about what’s going to come next.”

Yet one recent through-line in the career of this restless alto saxophonist is his affection for playing in Cleveland. Snidero’s blackberry winter appearance this week at BOP STOP will be his fourth in five years, including a sold-out engagement last year. “[It’s a] great listening audience,” he said, “a world-class jazz club with a nice mix of people, all listening,”

What they heard is a player with a nearly-Platonic ideal of an alto saxophone sound: full, round, clear and expressive, the kind of tone that’s easy to fall in love with–or to. It’s not inaccurate to call the 65-year-old Snidero a traditionalist, yet his recorded output over 40 years and 26 albums as a leader reveals a player who sees the tradition in the broadest possible terms. Snidero is never content to linger over one aspect of it for long.

Consider his last four Savant recordings, which have found him in settings as diverse as the elegiac Waves of Calm (2019), written in the aftermath of his father’s passing, 2020’s foray into Korean music, Project K, Live at the Deer Head Inn recorded at the height of pandemic restrictions, and last year’s Far Far Away, a session with outward-bound guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel and a solid rhythm team anchored by bassist Peter Washington and drummer Joe Farnsworth.

Those two return on For All We Know, which is, improbably, Snidero’s first recording without a chordal instrument. What took him so long?

“I feel like I’m in a place right now that I can maintain intensity and attention without the added layer of a piano or guitar,” he said, “a place where I didn’t I feel like I had to fill up all of the space. I can let things go and sustain notes more and not feel like I have to play a thousand notes to keep things interesting.”

On his current tour of the Midwest, Snidero will be joined by Jeff Pedraz from Detroit on bass, Pittsburgh drummer Thomas Wendt and Cincinnati pianist Phil DeGreg, a player whom Snidero has known since their college days at the University of North Texas.

That solo-horn-plus-rhythm lineup inevitably implies an allegiance to the classic virtues of instrumental eloquence and solid swing. Those are easy qualities to apprehend, yet Snidero suggests that getting the most out of music requires an additional step.

“You can’t see music. It’s in the air, and I think it takes us a fair amount of concentration to even begin to perceive what’s really going on. But it’s just like anything. If people like it and care about it, then they understand it more,” Snidero said. ”I just hope that there are people out there that when they listen to my music, they’ve listened to a lot of jazz and they appreciate it and understand what it’s about.”

Jim Snidero, Sat., March 16, 8 p.m., BOP STOP, 2920 Detroit Ave., Cleveland. Tickets $20, available here.

NOTE: This article was written by a real human being. No artificial intelligence or generative language models were used in its creation.

Red beans and ricely yours,