DAVE SCHNITTER tenor sax
JAMES ZOLLAR trumpet
THOMAS BRAMERIE bass
JIMMY MADISON drums.
Produced by Ximo Tebar
released October 12, 2004
Folks who remember Dave Schnitter as a hard-bop tenor player with the Jazz Messengers in the ’70s might be a bit surprised by his latest offering. Sketch (Sunnyside), recorded in early 2001, does indeed demonstrate Schnitter’s continued ease with that classic approach, but with its lack of a chordal instrument, quirky stop-and-go compositions by Schnitter or trumpeter James Zollar (“Dili Dali,” “Sketch,” “Sooner or Later,” “Flirtation With Faust,” “Sputnik”), and sometimes free-jazz improvisational phraseology, it also shows the marked influence of Ornette Coleman’s early groups. It’s on the standards “For All We Know,” “All or Nothing at All” and “You Don’t Know What Love Is” where Schnitter is most likely to show his Coltrane and Joe Henderson influences and Zollar to demonstrate his considerable hard-bop skills (he can also do a fine New Orleans gut-bucket imitation). With long-time associate Jimmy Madison on drums and the broadly experienced Thomas Bramerie on bass, the group achieves a high level of cohesion that enables them to interact quite effectively. Sketch is a satisfying combination of the familiar and the unpredictable. David Franklin, JAZZTIMES, December 2004 issue
Le jazz a sa tribune ! — CitizenJazz
Ancien saxophoniste des Jazz Messengers d’Art Blakey, Dave Schnitter enchaîne sur Sketch une série d’exercices de style : swing, new-orleans, free, bop… tout y passe. Un disque plein de rebondissements. James Zoller, si peu présent sur la scène jazz internationale, est ici magnifique. Citizen Jazz France, Oct 2004
The return of the prodigal Messenger.
By Samuel Chell / All About Jazz NYC, August 2004
Not only did David Schnitter have the longest tenure of any tenor saxophonist in Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers but he was always present on the most exciting and memorable of Bu’s sets that I was privileged to catch. His return to music and recording after a sabbatical of over 20 years is at once cheering and disturbing. There may have been more schooled and disciplined players preceding and succeeding Schnitter, not to mention younger, more marketable icons that attracted record producers following the post-Wynton era. But none of them brought to a performance a huge “unconstructed” tone so disproportionate to the player’s diminutive size, a determination to let emotion control technique instead of vice versa, and finally a passion for playing that precluded virtually any “hip” posturing (with the exception of the James Brown-Wilson Pickett style vocals Art Blakey began to require of him).
His comparative neglect for two decades is one of the crueler injustices in a music that is hardly known for fairness. Not a single one of his four excellent LP’s for Muse has been issued on CD. As a result, Sketch (along with the more accessible music on a recent European release, Pen Pals) is a welcome return of the prodigal Messenger.
“Schnitter’s sound is now somewhere between Hank Mobley’s warm muskiness and Coltrane’s direct, vibratoless approach.”
The music on this recording requires close, attentive listening, and I doubt many listeners will assimilate it in a single sitting. Schnitter plays less symmetrically but more lyrically now, favoring the upper register of the horn and being less conscious of the bar lines. It’s as though he’s abandoned the influence and powerful breathstream of his former hero, Dexter Gordon, and turned to Ornette Coleman and John Coltrane for conceptual inspiration. Schnitter’s sound is now somewhere between Hank Mobley’s warm muskiness and Coltrane’s direct, vibratoless approach. It bears a mournful, elegiac quality that no doubt tells a story in itself. Regardless, it’s one of the most distinctive sounds on the modern tenor scene, immediately recognizable, as are his melodic ideas, especially the ascending, staccato-like phrases that he uses to counter predictability.
Sketch might have be a more auspicious return for Schnitter had he augmented the quartet, at least on the three standard tunes, with a chord instrument (piano, vibes, or guitar). For a musician who spent years playing alongside Bill Hardman, Valery Ponomarev, and Freddy Hubbard, it’s not surprising that the leader has selected a first-rate, empathetic trumpeter to join him on the frontline. James Zollar not only covers the bases—from Cootie Williams to Don Cherry—but listens to and builds on the ideas of the leader, at the same time abstracting them and inserting humor. Listeners who responded favorably to Ornette Coleman’s quartets or to a Wayne Shorter session such as Footprints Live may find Sketch comparatively mainstream and accessible. Others will no doubt grow impatient with the lean textures and polytonal conversations between the two instrumentalists on the eight extended musical sketches.
In sum, for Schnitter fans this album is testimony to his growth and continued musical vitality. On the other hand, if you’re new to Dave Schnitter, you may wish to begin by looking for the approximately eight out-of-print albums on which he plays with Art Blakey or is listed as leader. Most highly recommended is the in-print DVD Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, a 1976 afternoon concert in Umbria, Italy with Bill Hardman on trumpet. It’s some the most honest, heartfelt, creative jazz performed during an era better known for disco music, roller skates, and Creed Taylor compromises.
The Return Of The Prodigal Son.
By Federico García Herráiz
Omix is pleased to announce the release of Sketch, originally recorded in February 2001. This will be a nice surprise for everyone who follows Schnitter’s career. If you know about Schnitter’s extensive musical knowledge and his love for Dexter, Rollins and Coltrane, it is all documented here. A quartet without piano, whose structure and compositions reflect Ornette Coleman and Don Cherry’s spirit of the late 50s and early 60s.
Here as then, the fresh ideas and the facility to elaborate lines and responses is based on a full understanding between the trumpeter James Zollar and the saxophonist. Three standards close to Schnitter’s musical sensibility, “For All We Know”, “All or Nothing at All”, and “You Don’t Know What Love Is”, are played with heart breaking expressionism.
Summarizing it all, this is another step forward for a jazzman that still has a lot to say and is going to give us more.
Dave Schnitter by Russ Musto
All About Jazz NYC, Nov 2003
David Schnitter is the jazz world’s forgotten messenger, a marvelous musician who just happened to be in the right place right before the right time. The 55 year old tenor saxaphonist has yet to receive the recognition he deserves as a central figure in the reorganization and resurgence Art Blakeys Jazz Messengers underwent during the 70’s paving the way for the astonishing ascendancy into popular culture the venerable institution later experienced with the introduction of Wynton Marsalis into the band. Schintter joined the Messengers in 1975, at a time when the 20-year-old organization was in a real danger of premature extinction, and remained a member into 1981-attaining the longest continuous tenure of any player in the groups illustrious history. The short lived bands Art led in the years prior to Schinitter’s induction featured a series of tenor saxophonists whose conceptions were inspired by the modal experiments of the day; and while much exciting music was created by these groups one could sense that the organization had strayed from it’s avowed mission of a feel-good swinging. David’s confirmed allegiance to the saxophonic styles of Dexter Gordon and Sonny Stitt, two of Blakey’s favorite collaborators, proved him to be the perfect recruit to steer the group back on course.
Schnitter’s debut recoding with art, In Walked Sonny, paired the young tenorist with his idol Stitt, an experience that would have terrified most saxophonists, young or old, but one for which he has well prepared. “I had played with Sonny Stitt many times at the Village Gate,” he notes. “Me and Hilton Ruiz and Mario Rivera, we’d all be hanging out, and say let’s go down and bother Sonny.” Prior to the date the saxophonist played with two undocumented editions of the Messengers: one a sextet with Shunzo Ono on trumpet and the fiery Jackie McLean protégé Nelson Sanamiego on alto; the other a quintet with the great Woody Shaw. It was the In Walked Sonny band (sans Stitt), with reenlisted Messengers Bill Hardman and Walter Davis, Jr., however, that would endure. “We started working more and it started gaining momentum little by little, boom, boom, boom. We were over at Ronnie Scott’s in London for two weeks and then the next thing you know we were all over Europe. That band lasted more than two years.”
Then in 1977 Russian trumpeter Valery Ponomarev replaced Hardman, alto saxophonist Bobby Watson joined the front line and the next great edition of the Jazz Messengers was born, as evidenced in the classic Roulette recording Gypsy Folk Tales. Soon David gained a new notoriety with the band with the band when Art began featuring his soulful singing in a show stopping Ray Charles-inspired rendition of “Georgia”. He remembers how he was accidentally recruited to be the band vocalist: “One night in Japan we were at a club after the concert and I was singing and Art heard it. He saw that it got a good response from the audience and said “We’re going to put that in the show”. That was a great thing about Art: if he saw you could do something he let you do it and it was good for you and good for him, too. So it worked out, but I got a little tired of it ( the singing) after about a thousand times (laughs).”
The constant touring was also tiring out the young tenor. “Art used to be on the road 40 weeks a year. He had more energy than all of us put together. Hell yeah, I was tired by the time I left. But I learned a great deal. I didn’t realize it all until later.” In 1980 Schinitter joined fellow Messenger alumnus Freddie Hubbard’s band for two years. Then he took his resume (that included four excellent recordings as a leader for Muse and impressive sideman appearances with organists Charles Earland and Groove Holmes, in addition to Hubbard and Blakey) and disappeared. “I moved to Spain in ’80-82′,” he says. “I had a couple of festivals with Sal Nistico and did a seminar with Claudio Roditi.
Then they brought me back and the people were so hospitable and nice that I decided to move there and throughout Europe. It was a very nice experience.”
Schnitter moved back to New York in 1990 and devoted himself to teaching, both privately and at The New School, where he’s been an instructor for the past nine years. ” I wasn’t playing in public fro maybe 5 or 6 years,” he recalls. “I wasn’t looking for work as a leader, but I was always playing with friends herein the house, just not in the clubs. I got spoiled in Spain and I got kind of turned off to the business here and the whole rejection thing. I guess I was taking it personally.” He returned to the role of sideman about five years ago, working with former Messenger bassist Mickey Bass uptown at the Lenox Lounge and more recently with drummer Craig Wuepper downtown at Smalls. He’s also has a new album, Pen Pals (Munich), with Dutch pianist Edgar van Asselt and has begun working as a leader again.
While playing with Wuepper at the Ear Inn one night Jazz Gallery director Dale Fitzgerald came in and surprised to see the tenor saxophonist there made arrangements to have him perform at the Gallery. Schnitter brought in an excellent group with bassist Dennis Irwin ( who had been with him for most of his years with Blakey), along with pianist Michael Cochrane and Ronnie Burrage on Drums. Unfortunately, very few people were able to hear it. David approaches this lack of popular recognition with candor and no bitterness. “I moved out of the country at the height of my career. I was gone for almost ten years and people forgot me. It’s as simple as that. That’s when I realized the importance of playing in these clubs. It helps when people see you and that’s what I’m supposed to be doing. Playing music for people and being a Messenger.
Un nombre como el de Dave Schnitter no es fácilmente olvidable. Y no sólo por su presencia en los Messengers de Art Blakey o sus abundantes colaboraciones con Freddie Hubbard, sino también por su prolongada estancia en España durante los años 80. Quien le haya perdido un poco de vista puede recuperar al saxofonista gracias a “Sketch”, un disco de 2001 que ahora aparece editado en nuestro país gracias al sello valenciano Omix. En el álbum, Schnitter se acompaña por un trío en el que aparecen James Zollar como trompetista, Thomas Bramerie en el bajo y Jimmy Madison con las baquetas. Con o sin piano, como en este caso, la fluidez técnica de Schnitter sigue vigente y sus recovecos formales sorprenden cada vez que se le escucha. Esteban Perez, Todas Novedades, Oct. 2004
El cuarteto ofreció una lección de jazz actual con el liderazgo de alguien con el que hay que contar en la nómina de tenores. Schnitter se mueve con toda comodidad en un tema como “Equinox” de John Coltrane. Pero su hermoso timbre se hace campeón absoluto cuando aborda una balada como “How the deep is is the ocean”. Su triada de referencia en su instrumento siguen siendo Dexter Gordon, John Coltrane y Sonny Rollins y precisamente de este ultimo guardó el calypso “St Thomas” para rematar el concierto. No fué un ejercicio de nostalgia, sino un manifiesto de buen estado de un gran músico. Javier de Cambra, La Razón, Sep, 4, 2004, IVAM Jazz Festival Valencia
Impresionante Dave Schnitter
Hablar de Dave Schnitter es hablar de uno de los grandes jazzmen más injustamente olvidados de las últimas décadas. Su paso por los Messengers de Art Blakey entre 1975 y 1981 -ningún músico, excepto Blakey, estuvo tanto tiempo en la banda- fue fundamental para el resurgir y la reorganización de aquel combo, dejándolo listo para que la presencia de Wynton Marsalis lo situara bajo los focos populares.
El estilo de Dave Schnitter se alía con Dexter Gordon y Sonny Stitt (su ídolo) con un swing que desprende buenas vibraciones y una inabarcable cultura musical. Estuvo unos cuantos años fuera de circulación, dedicado a la enseñanza y cansado del show business, pero ha decidido que era el momento de volver y reclamar todo lo que se merece. El hijo pródigo todavía tiene muchas cosas que decir. El grupo que trajo al Jazzroom es toda una declaración de intenciones, con monstruos de la categoría de Michael Cochrane, Dennis Irwin y Victor Jones, los tres con suficiente nivel como para encabezar cualquier programación. Impresionante. Jazz Room Barcelona / Sep. 1, 2004
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