By Ed Enright | Published May 2019
Waves Of Calm is the perfect title for this new release from alto saxophonist Jim Snidero. A reflection on his since-departed father’s struggle with Parkinson’s Disease, the eight-song program is charged with powerful emotion recollected in tranquility. Indeed, Waves Of Calm is not rooted in a static, narcotic type of calm. Rather, it’s the product of an active state of calm, the type that leads to deep insights and gives birth to meaningful art.
Snidero once again teams up with trumpeter Jeremy Pelt—whom he played alongside on last year’s joyful and soulful Jubilation! Celebrating Cannonball Adderley—for four tracks on the new recording. The pair take a noticeably more sober approach here, backed by a sympathetic, expert rhythm section of pianist/keyboardist Orrin Evans, bassist Nat Reeves and drummer Jonathan Barber. The title track opens the album with a simple descending piano line that gently leads the listener and the musicians into a peaceful place—an ideal starting point for this shared journey. On Snidero’s “Truth,” the color of the mood shifts dramatically to blue-black, as Evans’ mysterious-sounding Rhodes begins scribbling subliminal messages and Pelt’s weighty trumpet emerges. The 1938 standard “Old Folks” starts with a delicate rubato piano intro before Snidero’s alto enters, breathy and close-up, with a touch of vibrato that adds just the right amount of intensity to his restrained, paced playing.
Before you know it, we’re into the haunting “Visions”—one of the more urgent and unsettled-sounding Snidero originals on Waves Of Calm—with Evans’ nervous Rhodes once again bubbling into the atmosphere and Pelt’s powerful trumpet tones adding to the tune’s ominous sense of psychological distress. “Dad Song” is a refreshingly upbeat change of pace, with its catchy, steady pulse and playful improvisations evoking the senior Snidero’s vibrancy of spirit. On “If I Had You,” another standard jewel, Snidero virtually sings through the horn, extending his phrases with snappy, impromptu lines that indulge the veteran alto player’s appetite for bebop. The album closes with “Estuary,” a moody waltz that takes unexpected turns as it inevitably flows downstream. Just when the thought occurred to me that this album is rather Zen-like in essence, I caught a glimpse of the cover art: an image of Snidero sitting cross-legged in a clear-blue-sky setting, wearing his signature sneakers and specs, his tie loosened and his horn lovingly cradled. It’s a true picture of calm, an ideal environment for sharing musical poetry that rises and falls like waves in a sea of emotion.