“MD66” (Savant), alto saxophonist Jim Snidero’s latest album, was inspired by Miles Davis’ 1966 quintet. Think of the trumpeter’s “Miles Smiles” album and you’re in the right year. Davis biographer John Szwed has described the Davis quintet’s innovations from that period as drummers playing freer from the beat, bassists becoming more melodic and pianists becoming more percussive and drum-like. In addition, Davis and tenor saxophonist Wayne Shorter, his front line partner at the time, rarely adhered to the written harmony of tunes they were playing. Fifty years later, Snidero’s quintet adopts these precepts to produce one of the most creative jazz albums of the year.
Snidero composed six tunes for the album and added pianist Andy LaVerne’s “Un4Scene” and Davis’ familiar standard, “Blue in Green.” What’s impressive about Snidero’s and LaVerne’s writing is the way each composition inspires each soloist. For example, on the title tune, a tricky, urgent, zigzagging melody line, Snidero and trumpeter Alex Sipiagin each solo with what the saxophonist calls “a kind of informed abstraction that’s very happening.” On “Recursion” we hear LaVerne, Snidero and Sipiagin each digging into the heart of the tune with thunderous support from drummer Rudy Royston. On “Free Beauty” Snidero, Sipiagin and LaVerne solo again, this time in a contemplative mood. “Blue in Green,” a trio performance by Snidero, LaVerne and bassist Ugonna Okegwo, is moody but less pensive than Davis’ original recording. Each performance on the album has much to recommend it.
Correspondent Owen Cordle
By Jim Snidero