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David Schnitter at The Turning Point Cafe

David A. Orthmann By

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David Schnitter
The Turning Point Cafe
Piermont, New York
June 2, 2008


David Schnitter ended a bracing, sixty-minute set at The Turning Point Cafe with a quote from "Auld Lang Syne." This brief digression was a jocular reminder that, for a jazz musician, "times gone by" aren't as important as the present. Though the tenor saxophonist has recently played with distinction in an Art Blakey tribute band led by fellow Blakey alumnus Valery Ponomarev, these days he thrives in less structured settings, like the busy, open-ended tenor, bass and drums trio on a recent CIMP release, The Spirit of Things.

Not unlike the record, the set's distance from hard bop orthodoxy was evident in the rhythm section. The support of guitarist John Hart, bassist Bill Moring, and drummer Anthony Pinciotti came in many guises. In the early stages of Sonny Rollins's "Tenor Madness," the set's opener, Moring's decisive walking was the focal point of a steady concentrated momentum. Schnitter began with a simple declaration, built a narrative in small increments and, aside from a couple of long pointed tones, sounded cool and somewhat detached. During an unnamed Schnitter composition loosely based on Thelonious Monk's "Rhythm-a-ning," constant change was the norm as Hart, Moring, and Pinciotti dropped out at different times in no particular design, and the tempo fluctuated. Throughout all this activity the tenor saxophonist stayed in his own zone, sketched dry lines, and offered signs of genuine emotion—a long burr note, a passionate honk—in measured amounts.

Hart's solos evinced disparate strains. During the course of Horace Silver's "Barbara," the guitarist fashioned barbed lines followed by brief muted asides. Chords leapt from the instrument, and he abruptly truncated a winding, obsessive run. Hart briefly transformed Benny Golson's warhorse "Along Came Betty" into something strange and indefinite. Thoughtful single-note lines eventually became nasty and claustrophobic. After some deliberation he dashed ahead of Moring and Pinciotti. A four-note phrase led to a blooming chord. Then he subtly evoked the blues and hit on a portion of Golson's melody.


Tenor and soprano saxophonist John Richmond had no difficulty distinguishing himself in such fast company. Employing a full yet supple tone which made the horn speak, he was the band's most emotionally direct soloist. Even when notes started to spill from the horn during "Tenor Madness," Richmond communicated with the audience and kept in touch with the rhythm section's every change in direction. He started off "Along Came Betty" by echoing the last four notes of Hart's solo. Bright singing melodies yielded to low earthy tones, and he resolved extended lines with ease.


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