7/12/16: Bob Sneider: Summer at Eastman Faculty Recital

Review of Bob Sneider's faculty recital during the Summer at Eastman program.

7/12/16: Bob Sneider: Summer at Eastman Faculty Recital

Yesterday I had a chance to take in Rochester’s own guitarist Bob Sneider at his faculty recital in Hatch Hall for the Summer at Eastman series. The mostly un-amplified concert featured fellow Eastman faculty member Jeff Campbell on bass, and Doug Stone — director of jazz ensembles at the Rochester School of the Arts — on tenor saxophone.

A concert in Hatch Hall is always a treat. The sound is superb, both for the listeners and the musicians; Sneider commented during the performance that you can hear everything, including your mistakes. Both his electric and acoustic guitars were run through a small amp, but Campbell and Stone played without obvious amplification. I was impressed by the way both of them handled the hall.

Campbell played with exceptional articulation and clarity, all without sacrificing speed and taste. Campbell’s bass lines and solos follow the classical principle of tension and release, using suspensions and resolutions to navigate the chord changes or to craft a solo by making either a single note or a sequenced pattern a recurring and cyclical motif. Using grooving patterns, walking lines, or a two feel, Campbell’s expert ability to accompany in a supportive and melodic way came to the forefront.

Stone, whose power is up there with the best, played at a perfect volume while managing to keep his intensity when needed. Even though playing at this volume, he displayed phenomenal breath control, navigating 15 to 20 second phrases in his solos with a single breath. Stone made scalar and melodic runs, swinging and tuneful ideas, and patterns all seem effortless, while keeping his trademark drive and energy. Because of the acoustics of the hall, Stone kept his volume and range in check — to no detriment of the music or the listener — but really cut it loose when in their closing number. Making huge leaps from the bottom end of the saxophone to the very top, Stone still masterfully riled up the crowd while not covering up his fellow musicians.

Sneider, a local man to the core, even though he was born in Brockton, MA, embodies the Rochester vibe. His technique, both his left hand and his right hand (with a pick or finger picking on his acoustic) is impeccable and beautiful to watch. His choices and phrases are informed, well-constructed, and emotionally relevant to the tune. He is smooth, laid-back, in the moment, and gifted without a hint of pretentiousness. Whether is he ‘comping, expertly weaving and fusing a melody with chords, or opening up a standard, Bob Sneider is simply a man who knows how to get it done.

Sneider also did something not as many jazzers do nowadays; playing the verse to a standard. He mentioned this himself to the audience, saying how much jazz owes to 1930’s – 1940’s Broadway and movies for providing the jazz community the foundation to play and improvise. He approached all of these with thoughtfulness and care, making sure that they served their purpose; simple but lovely introductory material that provides musical and emotional context to the more-familiar chorus. His modal approach to some of these opens, whether on the electric or acoustic, felt natural and ear-catching, cerebral without being “in your face,” and occasionally recalling the arcane sound of the Lydian and Phyrgian modes while still sounding modern.

In this concert, Sneider and the gang played standards, playing two groups of tunes intermixed with standalone numbers. One set had two tunes or guitar legend Jim Hall, “It’s Nice to be With You” and “Waltz New,” and another set of three tunes by famed movie composer (most notably of “Pink Panther” and “Days of Wine and Roses” fame) Henry Mancini’s “Two for the Road,” “Moon River,” and “Dreamsville.” They rounded out the concert with compositions by Herbie Hancock’s “Dolphin Dance,” Cole Porter’s “You Do Something To Me,” and Kenny Barron’s “Voyage.”

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