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It sometimes seems like every jazz musician has that one specific fantasy – that of being backed by an orchestra, or at least a string section. In the manner of his fellow altoist Charlie Parker, saxophonist Jim Snidero is no different, finally getting his chance in the early ‘aughts. Of course, the original recording date for Snidero, his quartet (pianist Renee Rosnes, bassist Paul Gill, drummer Billy Drummond) and a ten-piece string section was on Sept. 11, 2001, and we all know what happened then. Snidero and company did eventually make into the studio and released Strings in 2003, but by that time the momentum had been lost. Cut to eighteen years later, and Snidero’s current label Savant pulls the album out of a decade of OOP oblivion for re-release nearly twenty years to the day of its original intended recording date. Regardless of any significance placed on it by that alone, the album is worth the rescue.
Adding strings to jazz requires a very careful balance. Too many strings, and the gloss robs the music of its power. Too few, and the extra instrumentation might as well not even be there. Snidero gets it right here, with the string section adding just the right touch of lush backing to the saxophonist’s fundamentally melodic tunes. Opener “Slipping Away” and bossa nova “Ventura” benefit nicely from the treatment, but it’s especially potent on the three-part “River Suite.” The strings figure heavily on the opening “Dawn,” barely at all in the aggressive “Torrent,” and right in the middle of the flute-driven “On the Bank,” making for a great centerpiece. Too long misplaced, Strings is definitely worth the effort of rescue.
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