Snidero Salutes Miles’ Second Great Quintet with MD66


Jim Snidero will release MD66, a tribute to Miles Davis’ Second Great Quintet, on August 26.

(Photo: Earl & Sedor Photographic)

Alto saxophonist Jim Snidero has a lengthy discography as both leader and sideman, and he is also a dedicated jazz educator. In his early years, Snidero landed a gig with organist “Brother” Jack McDuff, and later studied with saxophone masters Phil Woods and Dave Liebman.

Recently, he formed The Jazz Conception Company, which takes an innovative approach to jazz education by integrating traditional learning techniques with online video technology. For many years, he has been a mainstay, as both a teacher and performer, at the annual Jamey Aebersold Summer Jazz Workshops held in Louisville, Kentucky.

Snidero has forged his own style of playing, which incorporates elements of big band, soul, bebop and many aspects of post-bop modern jazz. His forthcoming release, MD66 (Savant), is a highly personal tribute to the spirit of The Second Great Miles Davis Quintet (which recorded between 1966–’68 and included pianist Herbie Hancock, saxophonist Wayne Shorter, bassist Ron Carter and drummer Tony Williams).

The album consists of six originals, one song by pianist Andy LaVerne and a rendition of “Blue In Green.” In addition to LaVerne, the other musicians on the album are Alex Sipiagin (trumpet), Ugonna Okegwo (bass) and Rudy Royston (drums).

In advance of the August 26 release of MD66, Snidero spoke to DownBeat by phone about the conception and recording of his new album, as well as the influence of Miles Davis on his artistic vision.

Tell us about your background. Do you remember your first interaction with jazz?

I started listening to and playing jazz in middle school. I had great band directors and great private teachers in the Washington, D.C., area, where I grew up. I decided that I wanted to dedicate my life, basically, to the music. I went to the University of North Texas and came to New York in 1981. That’s it in a nutshell.

What was it about the 1966 Miles Davis Quintet that compelled you to make this album, rather than the earlier quintet with Coltrane, or even Davis’ electric period?

Well, it’s the best music I’ve ever listened to, essentially. I felt that, as a kind of 50-year [anniversary] for the heyday of the Second Great Quintet, it would be nice to give our version of that concept of interaction. [That sound] was both warm and soulful, yet abstract.

The material is mostly original. Did you consider recording covers?

I didn’t think I could add anything to that material. I wanted to start fresh with my feelings about the music—my experiences with it. I started writing for this project in the fall of 2015—we were actually going to try to record then, but our schedules didn’t permit that. As we mentioned in the liner notes, we had two days—prior to the recoding—to play at [the New York City jazz club] Smoke, which was quite advantageous for the music.

Why did you choose “Blue in Green,” a song from Davis’ pre-1966 quartet, as your one cover? And why include the spontaneously composed “Free Beauty,” your first foray into free improvisation?

I felt like I could do something different with [“Blue In Green”]. It’s so open, harmonically, that you could do any kind of concept with it. I’ve always loved that song, and I thought it would be appropriate for the record. Regarding the latter, I felt like we could play it with a sense of warmth and still kind of blur everything. It was just something that I felt was right for this date.

How does this ensemble work together regularly, and how significant was this lineup in presenting your vision?

There’s a lot of commonality in the group, and everyone enjoys working together. When conceiving the music, it’s important to keep the group in mind, as well as the emotional context and emotional impact. Because I had more time with this group, I had the ability to be more complex in my writing.

But I think it’s important to have clarity, and not muddle it with overwriting. I think the recording conveys that. The musicians were able to do justice to the spirit of both Miles’ band and the music. I don’t think there will ever be another band as great as the Second Miles Davis Quintet.

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