From the Bandstand 2: Bob Sneider at the McCall Jazz Fest

In the second installment of "From the Bandstand," a series in which musicians write into about their experiences, Rochester guitarist Bob Sneider details his experiences playing with Curtis Stigers and his brother, John Sneider on trumpet, at the 2016 McCall Jazz Fest in Idaho.

From the Bandstand 2: Bob Sneider at the McCall Jazz Fest

McCall Jazz Festival 2016

Over the past three-plus years I’ve had the pleasure of playing periodically with Curtis Stigers’ band (predominately US shows — he has a stellar guitarist in Europe, James Scholfield). My brother John, who is a trumpet player, has been Curtis’s main horn soloist and co-producer of some of his recording projects. It’s a thrill to play with my brother. Despite teasing me as a child, he remains one of my main musical influences. 

The festival is the brain child of Curtis and his fiancée Jodi Pederson. Corporate sponsors (e.g., Albertsons, Jug Mountain Ranch) handle all of the financing, the nuts and bolts, and musician travel, so all ticket proceeds go to amazing not-for-profits in McCall and Boise, specifically The Shepard’s Home (orphaned children in McCall, ID) and the Interfaith Sanctuary (homeless initiatives in Boise).

On the first evening of the McCall Jazz Fest at Rupert’s at the Hotel McCall, we performed lots of jazz standards and bebop as the Sneider Brothers with the Matthew Fries Trio (Matthew Fries – piano, Cliff Scmitt – bass and Paul Wells – drums). Later in the evening vocalist Emily Braden joined the band and eventually Curtis Stigers on vocals and saxophones.

This year’s second day of the fest was a sold out affair at Jug Mountain Ranch. Our set ranged from Curtis Stigers originals to Bob Dylan, Randy Newman, Billy Joel, Joe Jackson, John Lennon and jazz standards all with Curtis’s personal twist on each tune. Idaho is a musically savvy state and they really responded to each tune and were on the edge of their seats for each solo. We were on a stage set up on the side of Jug Mountain overlooking absolutely beautiful scenery; ponds, prairie, and many more mountains. It was a different “room” than playing with Curtis in Kilbourn Hall (at this past year’s XRIJF) or various jazz clubs. The crowds in ID respond with same passion as jazz enthusiasts in other larger urban settings, perhaps more so. Admittedly, I had a couple of ringers planted in the audience: Sue and Rick Williams from Rochester drove down from Whitefish, MT to hear the Friday and Saturday concerts.

The chemistry between the band all starts with insatiable humor, and having a great time hanging out. This trip was special in terms of boating, hiking, paddle boarding, swimming. It was like we we were in a high end summer camp bunk! Musically, I take lots of direction harmonically and getting the road maps to each tune from the trio that’s with Curtis at all of his performances: Matthew Fries, Cliff Schmitt and Paul Wells. They make fitting in really easy. Lots of folks tend to pigeon-hole my guitar sound as classic straight ahead jazz guitar between 1954-1965. However, on Curtis’s gig I rock out with some funkier and dirtier guitar sounds and letting what’s left of my hair down!

Honestly, beyond the great music and camaraderie with the band, knowing that we are helping to make people happy through the music and help charitable causes makes the weekend in McCall, ID extremely special. I wish could’ve brought the family – maybe next year.

Next up — catch Curtis Stigers at the Lewiston Jazz Festival August 27! 

— Bob Sneider

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