Part of a ever-growing number of jazz artists who fall into a category that can be generally referred to as the "lost generation," for lack of a better phrase, 47- year-old saxophonist Larry Schneider is too old to be considered a young lion and not old enough yet to be properly referred to as an "elder statesman". Schneider cut his teeth in the '70s with Horace Silver and Charles Mingus and has been active on the scene ever since, although critical recognition has not been commensurate with his talent. Fortunately SteepleChase producer Nils Winther knows a good thing when he hears it and has given Schneider a base of operations where his music has the potential of being heard by a considerable number of people.
Although recorded in 1997, Ali Girl is just now seeing a Stateside release due to the recent changes in the American distribution of SteepleChase product. It easily qualifies as one of Schneider's better recorded moments, with blithe support provided by guitarist Dave Stryker, bassist Jay Anderson, and drummer Billy Drummond. Working off a cunning set of four standards and two originals, Schneider opts to utilize his soprano sax throughout most of the set, his being one of the most original voices on that horn to come down the pike in some time. Devoid of any of the inherent sappiness that is common to the lightweight tones of those adult contemporary-type players, Schneider's soprano work is marked by a mild vibrato and dark timbre that is more akin to Steve Lacy's approach.
Hats off to Schneider for avoiding the usual rhythm section choices, substituting the guitar for a piano. Capable of a great range of sounds and hues, Dave Stryker is perfect for this type of ensemble. For his extended spot on "I'm Old-Fashioned" he starts by quoting from Ornette Coleman's "Broadway Blues" and then proceeds to Wes-styled octaves by the conclusion of his solo. "Italian Movie" brings forth a fuzz-tone effect that tells you Stryker must have checked out Hendrix and Sonny Sharrock somewhere along the line.
On two cuts, "The Way You Look Tonight" and "I Thought About You," Russian fluegelhorn player Alexander Sipiagin sits in and Schneider switches to tenor, proving that he's equally adept on the larger horn. Throughout the set, Jay Anderson and Billy Drummond provide interactive backing that keeps everyone on their toes. In the final analysis, Ali Girl possesses the kind of loose interaction typical of a jam session and all the positive connotations such an event implies.
Track Listing: Skylark, I'm Old-Fashioned, Ali Girl, The Way You Look Tonight, Italian Movie, I Thought About You (62:49)
Personnel: Larry Schneider- tenor & soprano saxophone, Alexander Sipiagin- fluegelhorn (cuts 4 & 6 only), Dave Stryker- guitar, Jay Anderson- bass, Billy Drummond- drums