Special Thanks To Alex For His Time, Patience and Attention In Allowing This Review To See The Light Of Day.
Critical Jazz: The record business in general and jazz in particular seems to be broken up into separate but equal camps. As a sax player myself I hate labels. Do you think certain segments of the jazz community are suffering from paralysis by analysis and could this be due in part to some of the younger players that may be approaching their craft as technicians while lacking the passion the an innate gift of swing can bring to the table.
Alex Snydman: There’s definitely a somewhat palpable tension around the idea that “so and so doesn’t swing hard enough” when referring to the modern players that are reaching for new rhythmic interest. Or from the modern standpoint cats might say, “they’re just reinventing the wheel” about the more old school swing category. I’ve had dialogues with many players about this, received criticism at times, felt critical at times, and frankly, I think that the beauty of this music lies in it’s diversity…that’s the beauty of modern jazz. There are some players swingin’ their butt’s off while some are focusing on micro tonal harmony and mixed meter. I believe that there’s validity in all of it when it’s approached from a “pure” desire to achieve excellence and convey emotion. There are definitely some older players that I wish would open their music up to new angles but there are modern players that I desire some good old fashion swing from.
In regards to the academic intrusion on “innate swing” as you say, I do think there are pitfalls to learning this stuff in school. But these pitfalls vary; in some cases teachers don’t focus enough on straight ahead and are only focusing on “finding your voice” by doing something unique and in other cases teachers pontificate that the modern thing isn’t valid at all. I think personally that the biggest problem is in the way players learn tunes out of the real book or the IPhone at this point. All the best players I know who play straight ahead, have memorized 150-200 tunes through actually learning from recordings and not books. If anything, I believe there’s a missing link in the way learning tunes is taught today. I’m sure there are many teachers out there who hit this point home, but the duty lies in the students to actually use this method to develop their ear and understand the tunes deeper.
Critical Jazz: Have you received any feedback from some of your mentors on the new record and when it comes to drummers aside from La Barbera and Harland can you give us a run down on your influences?
Alex Snydman: I have actually been deeply honored by the feedback I’ve received on the album. Both Joe and Eric genuinely feel that it’s a special album. I think they also really feel where I’m coming from and support the message I am trying to convey both musically and conceptually. I was also really touched by Larry Koonse’s response to the album. He told me that he could really feel a Spiritual message emanating from the music, and then after listening to it, read the liner notes, and realized that I was trying to convey what he was feeling. I was really touched by that because I think the world of Larry as well as all of my mentors.
My influences include a long list of players running the gamut from modern to classics. I’ll try and provide a list as they come to mind. In terms of modern players: Brad Mehldau, Gerald Clayton, Aaron Goldberg, Brian Blade, John Cowherd, Eric Harland, Taylor Eigsti, Joshua Redman, Justin Brown, Bill Stewrat, Joe Sanders, Jamire Williams, Damion Reid, Joshua Redman, Steve Lehman, Robert Glasper, Sam Yahel, Greg Hutchinson, Peter Bernstein, and many many others. In terms of old school, I pretty much love all the usual suspects: Roy Haynes, BIG Elvin fan (I actually share a Birthday with him..and coincidentally my Dad has Coltrane’s!), Tony Williams, Joe La Barbera, Philly Joe, Max, Shelly Manne, Billy Higgins, Trane, Miles, Wayne, and so many more. Actually, I wanna mention one drummer who nobody seems to talk about, that to me has the most buoyant swing and beautiful vibe…Osie Johnson. Man, what a beautiful player…he reminds me of a mix of Billy Higgins and Roy Haynes. It seems like his main gig was playing with Sonny Stitt. You can just feel Osie’s smile coming from the records!