David Schnitter’s (1948, Newark, NJ) first trip to The Spirit Room was delayed a number of times by various scheduling conflicts, health issues (not his), and, most recently, bad weather and massive amounts of snow south of us but in the path the trio would have to travel. And again, for this third attempt in 2007, the forecast called for a large snow storm from the southwest. I told Dominic that predictions for snow in our area were for after midnight but snow was predicted to begin earlier in the New York City area. Dominic, piloting the trio, was on his way by 7 p.m. He figured he could deal with the snow on his end and arrive in Rossie around midnight. He and I kept in phone contact through the evening but by midnight, and as snow began to fall on my end, the trio was still about 160 miles south and moving slowly. They finally arrived around 4:30 a.m. All of which is somewhat reminiscent of Dominic’s first trip (Jan. 20, 1996) to The Spirit Room (CIMP 106), albeit with less dire consequences.
Upon arrival good fellowship ensued. David fell easily into the spirit of things: some food, humor, and by 5:30 a.m. everyone was in bed. And the snow continued to fall.
It would be safe to say that the Jazz public first became aware of David as a member of Art Blakey’s Messenger groups of the late 1970’s and through a number of recordings made, usually for Muse Records, during the 1975-1985 period. For the next 10 years he fell off-the-scene, and for awhile lived outside the USA. He re-emerged in 1995 as a faculty member of The New School University’s Jazz program (a position he holds to this day today).
David is in the lineage of the East Coast Hard Bop saxists with a sound that is edgy, forthright, and acknowledges the post Bop advances. It was a definite contrast in The Messengers tenor chair, between Carter Jefferson (whom David replaced in 1974) and Billy Pierce (who took over the tenor chair in 1980). David made an excellent recording (Sketch) for Omix Records in 2001 and now, with this recording, brings up to date and adds to his relatively small discography.
This session also reunites Dave with Dominic Duval (1944, NYC, NY) as both of them were part of the Michael Jefry Stevens quintet that made a recording in 1995 that eventually appeared on Cadence Jazz Records (#1202) in 2008. As coordinator of this group, Dominic suggested Newman Taylor Baker (1943, Petersburg, VA) be the drummer. Dominic, an unabashed admirer of Newman’s touch, felt he would be the perfect fit for the trio. This is the first trio format release for David who usually appears in larger groups, often paired on the front line with a trumpeter.
The snow that continued to fall through the night and into the day seemed of little concern to the trio as we got together for sound checks around 12:30 p.m. And, as is often the case, solid sound checks were followed by less than solid session music, in this case opening with a tepid My Shining Hour which seemed little more than a musical handshake among the trio. David called for a second take at, surprisingly, a somewhat slower tempo, counted it off and approached the piece from a more uncentered direction, going through the changes but generally, in Rollins-esque fashion, circumventing the obvious melody. Criss Cross followed which was then followed by an animated discussion between the trio members on the approach, construction, and choices made in their interpretation.
A ballad (Smoke Gets In Your Eyes) was called next for which Dominic suggested a quick ad hoc arrangement that had David opening a cappella. Those who have memories of the ‘70s clearly can hear David’s transition from young lion to old(er) master; age and experience giving a beautiful patina to the composition.
After a break, a playful David called for Jitterbug Waltz. David suggested a number of approaches, to which Dominic replied simply, “Surprise me. That way I’ll have to think,” and without a moment’s hesitation David boisterously, almost laughingly counted it off. Newman fell in gracefully on brushes and David turned in a wonderfully wistful attack which fell second-naturedly in and around the rhythm’s pacing-. These guys are enjoying themselves with this music of the moment.
The rhythm rolls are somewhat reversed on Sampson as Newman opened up then paralleled David in solo lines while Dominic tended to play more to/for David before it evolved into one of those assertive Duval solos which was then handed off to a wonderfully paced and musical statement from Newman. Listen to how this rhythm duo attunes to one another and how David then falls in with them.
Dominic then requested they do “one of my favorite things,” Never Let Me Go, and that Newman use sticks, thus establishing the kind of float Dominic seems to respond to. He and David then worked out the color and direction of his vision. This resulted in a number of false starts but eventually coordination was achieved in the take heard here. From my vantage point, a lovely warm contrast to the snow and near sub-zero temperatures that performed on the other side of The Spirit Room windows.
After the rejuvenation of a brief break, the group adapted “Georgia Brown” cum “Bright Mississippi” into Bright Mississippi Georgia. Things had been going exceedingly well. Good music, good times; all well reflected in the energy and approach of this appropriation of an appropriation as the trio transcended their individual blues of the times. The right balance is elusive but exacting if not met and perhaps the group was too loose. For whatever reason the piece, though filled with good ideas/executions, got away from them. At its conclusion the decision was made to revisit it and within seconds they launched into David’s Blues for John, a high energy excursion which perhaps had the effect of resetting the group’s musical compass and realigning the groove as it resolved into introspection. At its conclusion, in almost a segue, they approached Sentimental Mood as David joined a long line of sax men, from all genres, in a tip of the pork pie to Ben Webster. And although not planned, Newman just listened and enjoyed, focused on some thoughts, and played not a lick.
I then suggested, as we had only finite time left, that we break, rest, re-energize, and go out on Bright Mississippi Georgia.
While the snow continued still to fall, we then enjoyed a supper and the special feeling of a job well done and preserved.
Robert D. Rusch - Feb. 14, 2007