Prose laureate Whitney Balliett coined the phrase "the sound of surprise" as an encomium for jazz. Like most of his peers, saxophonist Jim Snidero shoots regularly for this ideal. His new Milestone effort flirts with the target but doesn't quite hit the bull's-eye. An accessible program of original tunes shored up by two standards, each cogently arranged to accentuate his talents and those of his rhythm section, makes for a winsome template. The guest tenor of former label mate Eric Alexander further stacks the deck in Snidero's favor. Despite these valuable trappings, the session still registers simply as a praiseworthy post bop outing rather than one for the ages.
The album's title track establishes a promising opening mood, building from a theme that's funky in the old school Horace Silverish sense of the word. Both horns solo, with Alexander's robust Trane-styled inflections garnering the slight edge. Hazeltine's jaunty ivories round out the pecking order, ending with a rhapsodic flourish atop a syncopated support of Drummond's tight traps play. Snidero handles both balladic standards without Alexander's aid, starting with a frisky up-tempo reading of "I Should Care" that highlights his lustrous tone and mercurial phrasing. "Prisoner of Love" rolls out with a similar attention to nuance and mood, bolstered by the sensitive touch of Drummond's gossamer brushes. Alexander earns first crack at "Nippon Soul" after a slippery unison head, spooling out another note-packed Coltrane-indebted solo that also carries rich tonal pigments of Shorter. Snidero answers with an equally piquant urgency, sketching sweeping pirouettes above the ripe bass throb of Gill, who then turns in a striking solo of his own.
A trifecta of Snidero originals comes next, with the crisp Latin-flavored bounce of "Windswept" leading the pack. "Blues for the Moment" trades on the immediacy reflected in its title with another tightly scripted theme that leads into ebullient extemporizations for each of the horns. The succinctly-titled "Smash" closes the date on an appropriately energetic note as the five men pay homage to the questing hard bop sound of the Sixties. In less symbolic terms it's also a reminder of a painful injury Snidero sustained while remodeling his home. A briskly twisting tandem head bleeds directly into another string of galloping solo statements. Hazeltine and the rest of the rhythm section tail the horns closely the entire way and sustain a streamline momentum. Snidero makes mention in the notes of a desire to explore more abstract musical directions in the future. Considering the level of acumen he brings to so-called mainstream fare, it's a potential course that would certainly suit him.
Personnel: Jim Snidero- alto saxophone; David Hazeltine- piano; Paul Gill- bass; Billy Drummond- drums; Eric Alexander- tenor saxophone*. Recorded: May 26 & 27, 2004, Brooklyn, NY.