Jim Snidero: Live at the Deer Head Inn review – a glorious sense of swing

Believe it or not, this was recorded last October – live, before an audience (small and wearing masks) at a jazz club in rural Pennsylvania. Jim Snidero, an alto saxophonist I admire for the deceptively easy grace of his style, had not played in public for about seven months, and neither had the other members of his quartet. They play brilliantly here, especially Snidero and pianist Orrin Evans, although the whole performance is, not surprisingly, a bit more intense than usual.

The programme consists of eight familiar standards: “comfort music”, according to Snidero. It brings out his perfect taste with ballads, never overdoing the decoration on My Old Flame, and releases the whole band’s glorious sense of swing in faster numbers. Bassist Peter Washington and drummer Joe Farnsworth maintain a kind of springy balance that lifts the music so that it seems almost to be floating. I found following Snidero’s sinuous progress through the harmonic outskirts of Bye Bye Blackbird mind-boggling and, at the same time, hugely enjoyable. It’s easy to forget how exciting straight-ahead jazz improvisation on old songs can be, until something like this turns up unexpectedly.

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