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Andy Snitzer: Ties That Bind

Album Reviews:

Down Beat (1/95, p.51) - 2.5 Stars - Fair/Good - "...While straitlaced, soft-bellied melodies and an emphasis on synthetic instrumental support dictate the overall direction, Snitzer does approach the wailing zone on his alto, and on tenor offers a grainier and more robust tone rare for this genre..."

Album Notes

Personnel includes: Andy Snitzer (alto & tenor saxophones, keyboards, programming); Chris Botti (trumpet); Michael Davis (trombone); Bob James, Joe Sample (piano); Larry Goldings (organ); David Gamson (keyboards, bass, programming); Nick Moroch (acoustic & electric guitars); Wah Wah Watson (guitar); Paul Livant, Ira Segal (electric guitar); Anthony Jackson, Will Lee, Christian McBride (bass); Steve Gadd, Harvey Mason (drums); Bashiri Johnson (percussion); Michael Colina, Max Risenhoover (programming).

Producers: Michael Colina, Ray Bardani, Andy Snitzer, David Gamson, Matt Pierson.

Engineers: Ray Bardani, Bob Broockman, Frank Fagnano, Bill Emmons, Matthew "Boomer" Lamonica, Frank Fagnano, Bill Emmons, David Gamson, James Farber.

With his gruff, fiery timbre and supple lyric conception, saxophonist Andy Snitzer is primed to make a big splash on the contemporary jazz scene. Inspired by saxophone stylists such as David Sanborn and Michael Brecker, the young Snitzer came under the wing of keyboardist/impresario Bob James in the mid-80s. Since then, as his work has deepened and matured, Andy Snitzer has made significant contributions to recordings by the likes of Chaka Khan, Carly Simon, Bette Midler and Aretha Franklin (and was touring with the Rolling Stones when this album came out).

Though a bouncy, melodious ballad such as "You've Changed" and a lush romantic vehicle like "The Shelter Of Your Arms" highlight the kind of sweet, song-like phrasing and understated funk groove that have made Kenny G and Najee household names, TIES THAT BIND demonstrates a more abiding affection for the roots of contemporary jazz. The saxophonist's title tune could have just as easily appeared on a Weather Report album, while "One Regret" is imbued with a timeless R&B feel, as Snitzer's tenor soars above an irresistible dance groove.

"Crash Landing" appropriates some of the moves and breaks that make hip-hop locomote, while "On The Sly" digs back into a more durable brand of southern funk (a la the Crusaders). The shuffling "Next Time You See Me," mines an even richer vein of blues and jazz (a la The Jazz Crusaders and The Jazz Messengers)--illustrating the full extent of Snitzer's stylistic range.

And the winner of the hippest Sanborn clone of the year award is...Andy Snitzer. But this isn't necessarily a bad thing. While so many other soundalikes play that gutsy bravura with a lightweight pop sheen covering true passion, on Ties That Bind Snitzer stresses playfulness, relaxed camaraderie, and surprising improvisational twists as much as MOR hookiness. In short, he has both the sound and loose-fitting trappings of his prime influence. It's hard to turn away from the comparisons -- he shares Sanborn's old label and cohorts like Michael Colina and Bob James -- yet Snitzer throws in a few curveballs which offer glimmers of promise that one day he will emerge on his own merit. The best tracks here, for instance, are composed and/or produced solo by the saxman. No Marcus Miller collaborations. And best of all, Snitzer alternates with a nasty tenor demeanor whose rough edges creep into familiar territory, but then eventually steer in fresh, darker directions. You may not be fully convinced till the last track, however, when said tenor blows methodically in a straight-ahead blues with Joe Sample and Christian McBride, with nary a Sanborn lick to be heard. ~ Jonathan Widran


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