Either I years back just got prematurely crusty or the saxophone is finding its middle ground again. While digging the radicalizations of Anthony Braxton or the stone cold glacial purity of Jan Garbarek, I always harbored a soft spot for Klaus Doldinger, Grover Washington, Syrogyra, and the mello-siding work of such cats, but along came Kenny "Yanni Tesh" Gee, the antecedent Jeff Lorber sound, and even Dave Sanborn got caught up in an ocean of innocuous hallway muzak-ing and/or dead-jazz, and I just kinda dropped out. For quite a while. But now comes some new work that revivifies what once so happily was, and that puts life and spice back in the entire spectrum, not just its furthest edges.
It's hardly surprising that Andy Snitzer has appeared as sideman on hundreds of recordings and is presently touring with Paul Simon. Along the way, he's been chosen by Dr. John, Elvis Costello, Panic at the Disco, Bob James, Beck, and a galaxy of heavyweights, far too many to detail here. His perfection of tone, smooth delivery, and ability to intrigue with arresting fills and melodic variations, not to mention an atmosphere that's simultaneously tropic and metropolitan, a cityscape containing its own oases, is captivating in a relaxingly intelligent fashion. The band is nothing to sneeze at either.
David Mann produced the CD and plays winds and keys (along with Alain Mallet and Snitzer) while Ralph MacDonald, Chris Botti, and Chuck Loeb sit in on various tracks. The use of electronics is more prevalent than at first seems to be the case, so seamlessly are they woven into a CTI-esque sound. James Genus and Tim Lefebvre play bass, and I have to say I'm impressed with Genus' colorations and exceedingly clever squibs. Snitzer, though, intended the disc to be an exercise in quasi-chill, and it certainly is, the kind of sophisticated edition one mightn't expect until swept up in the soporifically entrancing atmospheres, music made to create airy paintings without having to park one's brain at the door.
If the gent and his ensemble were to open for, say, Sade, no one would be surprised, either at the inviting sensuality of the experience or the adventurous melodies and improvs (something, by the way, the diva's masterful backing bands were quite capable of themselves, as anyone viewing her live discs can well attest), everything blended beautifully into the sort of seamless whole that once typified the best of the old West Coast Cool school and has eluded too much of the so-called acid jazz movement. I know Traveler will prove to be balm to a public which right now can use it, but one must also hope it becomes an inspiration to up-and-comers wondering what might provide a rich palette of ideas in a mode that's never old hat and only rarely handled as well as this. Start with Love Song (not enough "o's" in smooooooooth for that one), and pay particular attention to the slo-fire that's so remarkably understated. An entire essay could be written on the sonic metaphors in the cut, and every track shares that virtue.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2011, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
Website design by David N. Pyles