Jazz series attracts big names for concerts and classes

Jim Snidero, New York-based jazz saxophonist and composer, visited Portland State on Nov. 19 to perform, as well as teach a class.

Snidero has been called a “master musician” by Downbeat Magazine.

Snidero’s visit is a part of the university’s jazz series, which is organized by assistant professor George Colligan.

Colligan said the series gives many smaller groups a chance to play in a real concert situation.

“There are also master classes and performances by local professionals, as well as national artists,”
Colligan said.

The series is an opportunity for PSU students as well as the community at large. Colligan said that the opportunity to see live jazz in Portland is beginning to dry up.

“We have lost many venues for jazz. About eight different places, many within the last six months have stopped having jazz music.”

Colligan said as a result the Portland jazz scene has begun to stagnate.

“Not the music, mind you, but the players. I would love to see the old guard working with the young upstarts more,” Colligan said. “Young musicians, like my students, need to respect their elders and try to get what they can from them. That’s how I learned how to play jazz.”

Portland’s image as an indie music city would make it a good place for such collaborations. It has a large offering of not only music venues, but also musicians of many generations. The PSU jazz series is one place where younger musicians and older, seasoned veterans are working together.

“One of the best characteristics of jazz is the feeling of swinging,” Snidero said. “It is something that I wish was more prominent in jazz music today.” Not to be confused with the era called swing, but rather the sensation the music provides.

In connection with the feeling of the music, Snidero commented on the temperature of the music.

“I prefer jazz that has, for lack of a better term, a warm feeling to it. For me, cold-sounding music, no matter how hip, just isn’t appealing.”

Snidero is no small name. He moved to New York in 1981 and has been a part of the jazz scene there since. He has played with the likes of The Mingus Big Band, Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett, among many others.

Prior to the concert, Snidero taught a master class on jazz. The class focused on his personal philosophy and methodology of jazz improvisation, with an emphasis on how to develop as an improviser.

“You keep coming back to that gorgeous alto saxophone sound,” Snidero said. “It is almost an end in itself. You could call it ear candy if it didn’t contain so much fresh, intelligent content.”

The day following Snidero’s appearance at PSU, he played at the University of Oregon’s fall concert with their big band.

Snidero said one of his greatest achievements is having one of his recordings included in The Penguin Jazz Guide: The History of the Music in the 1001 Best Albums. Going forward, his major life goal is simply further honing his craft.

“I record and tour around the world with my group, so for me I just want to get better, and do it more often.”