Jazz guitarist Bob Sneider, Eastman professor and one of Rochester’s most visible performer-educators, has just released a new CD, “All Through the Night,” and it swings. Recorded in Brooklyn last year, the album makes its way into Rochester stores this week.
It’s an invigorating 11-track set that unites Sneider with his longtime trio-mates, bassist Phil Flanigan and drummer Mike Melito, with spirited guest appearances by four other ace players. Sneider, who often records probing, inventive originals on duo albums with pianist Paul Hoffman, has turned to jazz classics on this recording.
The opening track, Cole Porter’s colorful “All Through the Night,” establishes the album’s premise. It’s the first of three Porter tunes and, like many of the subsequent numbers, is taken at a lively tempo. It features a clever, detailed trio arrangement that gives way to loose, communicative improvisation. This tension between planned and improvised elements is at the heart of the record’s successes. Underneath it all is a buoyant but dependable groove from a great rhythm section.
Although the trends of high energy and tight ensemble work continue, variety is ultimately the name of the game. The guests, of course, add to this. On the standard “You and the Night and the Music” (which gets a delightfully jarring arrangement), the group is augmented by tenor saxophonist John Nugent – coordinator of the Rochester Jazz Fest – and by John Sneider, Bob’s trumpet-wielding, NYC-dwelling brother, a jazz heavy-hitters in his own right. Both players offer vigorous solos and return later for the bopping “Marilyn’s Dilemma.”
The second cut, Miles Davis’ “Milestones,” is bolstered by subtle comping and a breezy solo from critically respected pianist David Hazeltine. Hazeltine returns for a fast, fun run through Wes Montgomery’s burner “Jingles.” This is one of two guitar nods on the record, the other being the closing track, the greasy, onomatopoeically titled “Be Deedle Do Da,” a blues by guitar standby Barney Kessel. Both Kessel and Montgomery are major influences on Sneider’s playing. It’s no accident that these tunes turn up in the midst of the other, more standard repertoire.
The last guest, but certainly not the least, is alto saxophonist Vincent Herring, yet another player embedded in the New York scene. He opens up on the vaguely spooky “Little Melonae” and on the beloved “Love for Sale,” another Cole Porter standard. Herring’s aggressive solo on this tune inspires an even more intense response from Sneider, who uses rhythmically forceful chords to great effect.
Sneider plays with fire and ingenuity on every track, making reference not only to his favorite guitar soloists, but also recalling the best bebop horn players. Most importantly, he sounds like he’s having fun. He is neither afraid to be the standout soloist (which he is), nor to be a patient and subtle accompanist.
The playing, and indeed the overall vibe of the record, is very traditional, but in the best possible sense. There are really very few musicians who can use a traditional vocabulary with such imagination, and very few guitarists who could have made a record like this. Anyone who enjoys straight-ahead jazz – or is toying with the idea – should give this record a listen to see what it does for them. It’s a fun record that admirably balances tight arrangements and group interplay, with a solid selection of tunes.
“All Through the Night,” which is being released by the Rochester International Jazz Festival, will be available at the Eastman book store, the Bop Shop at Village Gate and at CD Exchange. Eventually, it will also be available on iTunes, CD Baby and www.amazon.com.
Kloss is a member of the class of 2008.