by Cynthia Mullis

Occasionally over the past several years I have had the odd experience of playing an idea in a solo that felt familiar but whose influence was not obvious to me. Was it a Parker lick? A Coltrane lick? Oliver Nelson? No…it was a Jim Snidero line that had seeped its way into my consciousness via the excellent Jazz Conceptions series of method books. I have played out of those books so many times with students that an improvisation on “Misty” can easily morph into “Mist and Grits.” If you are a teacher that uses these books in lessons, I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. After endlessly telling my students to do a “mind meld” with the “saxophone guy” on the play-along CD, I’ve learned as much from those etudes as my students have (probably more, actually). So with that in mind, I needed to go hear the real Jim Snidero at Tula’s this weekend.

Photo by Carolyn Caster

On Friday night, alto saxophonist Jim Snidero performed sets of straight ahead, honest, swinging music: no pyrotechnics, no tricks, no weird time signatures, no jive, just old school virtuoso saxophone playing developed over years of practice and studying the tradition. Marc Seales, Phil Sparks and Matt Jorgensen staffed the rhythm section and once again demonstrated why New York musicians on the road are happy to make a stop in Seattle. The craftsmanship was very impressive and the evening of music was quite satisfying. It was an intimate jazz club experience that included a relaxed, fun hang with a number of musicians present in the audience.

Snidero has a classic, warm, round alto sound that combines elements of Charlie Parker, Jackie McLean and Sonny Stitt and it immediately felt familiar and comfortable (I also wondered if that’s how it would have been with Lennie Neihaus if I’d grown up with play-along recordings for his Jazz Conceptions etude books). Snidero’s playing is solidly grounded in tradition—I could hear numerous influences but no one particular voice predominated. Throughout the night Snidero interwove a hip and modern harmonic vocabulary into this traditional bebop foundation. While I could hear the patterns, they drew me into his solos without being clichéd and predictable. Most of the playing was pretty inside but I was happy to hear some “Snidero-isms” evolve out of his creative combination of modern harmony and classic bebop. He is an impressive saxophonist, delivering fluid ideas in clean eighth note and double-time lines. I found his musical integrity and saxophone technique very inspiring and enjoyable.

The rhythm section was nonchalant and relaxed on their home turf and they never sounded like they were trying to prove anything. Together, Marc, Phil and Matt sounded like a true rhythm section rather than three players called for the gig and they blazed through the repertoire of standards and originals from Snidero’s new CD Tippin. The pace of the night leaned more towards the up tempo and they had no problem keeping things percolating. With Phil Sparks on bass combined with Matt on drums, you can always trust that things are going to be solid and happening. Marc Seales played some very creative, melodically extroverted solos and was the perfect harmonic complement to Snidero—I always enjoy his playing, especially how he steers clear of the 89-key school of piano playing. It was a night of good music and this rhythm section easily kept pace with Snidero.

So take a break from the shopping and office Christmas parties this weekend and head over to Tula’s to hear Jim Snidero with Matt Jorgensen, Phil Sparks and Marc Seales. It will definitely be a welcome relief from the canned Christmas music, cranky store clerks and drunk office mates.

Editor note: Jim Snidero concludes his weekend at Tula’s Jazz Club tonight, Saturday, December 16 beginning at 8:30pm. Call 206-443-4221 for reservations.

Review, Tula's