Street Date: September 27th, 2017
Tone Twister, the first album in over a decade by respected pianist and composer Rob Schneiderman, features the talents of a truly all star lineup; legendary tenor saxophonist Ralph Moore, renowned bassist Gerald Cannon, first call drummer Pete Van Nostrand, and trumpeter Brian Lynch, who produced the album. This stellar crew makes great music and produce memorable moments on eight original Schneiderman compositions, along with Rob’s take on the classic “Unforgettable”.
Rob Schneiderman’s unique dual career as both world class jazz pianist and world class mathematician informs his music, as intriguingly explained in the informative, autobiographical liner notes by Schneiderman. Upon his arrival to New York City in the 1980’s, Schneiderman rose in the ranks with a number of musical tenures including stints with Eddie Harris, James Moody, J.J. Johnson, Clifford Jordan, Art Farmer, and the TanaReid quintet co-led by drummer Akira Tana and bassist Rufus Reid. In the late 1980s he embarked on a series of recordings for the Reservoir label in formats ranging from trio to sextet. This series of critically acclaimed albums featured iconic musicians such as alto saxophonist Charles McPherson and drummer Billy Higgins as well as peers such as trumpeter Brian Lynch and tenor saxophonist Ralph Moore, who have reunited with Schneiderman on Tone Twister.
Incredibly though, amidst all this musical activity Rob was embarking on a whole other career and creative journey as a mathematician. Starting from scratch by teaching himself the basics of serious math from texts picked up from street vendors, Rob worked through the undergraduate mathematics canon at the City University Of New York (he thanks the mathematics department at CCNY for their support and tolerance of his frequent breaks for gigs on the road), subsequently gaining acceptance into the UC-Berkeley Mathematics PhD program. Necessitating a move to Berkeley from NYC, Rob conducted his doctoral study while enjoying being part of the vibrant Bay Area jazz community. After being granted his doctorate, Schneiderman began an enduring association with the Max Planck Institute for Mathematics in Bonn, Germany, and after postdoctoral stints at NYU’s Courant Institute and UPenn, he returned to NYC for good in 2006 to assume a position as a mathematics professor at Lehman College CUNY in the Bronx.
Since his return to New York City, Rob has picked up where he left off as one of the stalwarts of the scene. He’s a valued presence in top NYC clubs with such musical grandees as tenor saxophonist Tad Shull and bassist ToddCoolman, as well with his own combinations. Of particular note in the last few years his work recording and touring with Brian Lynch’s Unsung Heroes project, performing on festival stages in Indonesia and Brazil as well as in venues across the US. Rob’s long musical and personal friendship with Lynch, going back to their days in San Diego playing with Charles McPherson in the early 1980s, shows to great advantage in the rock solid, personally inflected work of Schneiderman in the Unsung Heroes band. Lynch returns the favor on Tone Twister, not only contributing his typically absorbing trumpet and flugelhorn work on the recording, but also producing the album for his Hollistic MusicWorks label.
The rest of the quintet Rob has assembled for Tone Twister is similarly distinguished and rewarding to listen to. Jazz fans worldwide have cause to rejoice for Tone Twister heralds the return to the scene of the magnificent tenor saxophonist Ralph Moore. Ralph’s celebrated tenures with Horace Silver, Freddie Hubbard, J.J. Johnson, and most notably Cedar Walton’s Eastern Rebellion, along with his own solo work on the Criss Cross, Reservoir, Denon, and Savoy labels, cements him in place as one of the most important voices on his instrument of the last 35 years. After a lengthy hiatus from touring during his time as saxophonist in the Jay Leno era Tonight Show band, and time off to study and reflect, Ralph Moore is back in full throated cry, and Tone Twister Is proof positive of his resurgent and healing powers as a saxophone sorcerer.
The rhythm section on Tone Twister brings out the full promise of Schneiderman’s organically eloquent (and catchy) compositions. Radiating from the core of this music is bassist Gerald Cannon’s fat sound, seriously buoyant groove and infectious optimism. Gerald’s resume features stints with many of the iconic figures in Jazz ranging from Elvin Jones to Roy Hargrove, including his current position as musical director for piano icon McCoy Tyner, as well as being a talented bandleader and composer in his own right. Drummer Pete Van Nostrand’s creative pulse runs right through the center of the recording. Well-established in the New York jazz scene, Pete has worked with Rob in Brian Lynch’s “Unsung Heroes” project, as well as working with such luminaries as Kenny Barron.
Schneiderman’s own pithy explanations provide a window into the allure of the Tone Twister music: “Footloose Freestyle is a funky Latin-tinged blues with shout choruses and a call-and-response tag. A laid-back strolling groove under the lyrical classic Unforgettable inspires a launch into the multi-textured group composition Distant Memory(straddling the tune Left Coast Lullaby on the CD, with the original full medley included as an extra track on the digital version). Pacific coast beats and themes lie at the heart of Left Coast Lullaby (which is really an un-lullaby), and you can imagine looping/remixing the intro and out-tro hook off into the sunset… The stomp is on throughout the dance-inspired 4-on-the-floor Slapdance-Tapstick, which climaxes into improvised counterpoint and then a percussion out-chorus. The final phrase of the lilting melodic waltz, Windblown, provides the melodic germ that develops over the course of several variations into the sometimes-smooth-sometimes-jagged exploration Tailspin (with the original medley appearing as an extra digital track, and the two tunes straddling the title tune on the CD). A tippin’ blues with some subtle harmonic twists, Tone Twister features swinging solos punctuated by 2-bar send-offs and plenty of foot-tapping. Closer The Lion’s Tale is a churning 3/4 minor blues, with stretching out encouraged by an ascending variation in the turn-around that also shows up as a final dramatic coda.”
Says Lynch on Tone Twister: “I’m excited and proud to have worked with Rob, my dear friend, on this project that’s now ready for sharing with the world. For me, at least, it’s a very important release; one that I predict will be on many listeners and radio stations’ playlists in this coming season and for a long time to come. This is more than a record date; it’s also a document of the long lasting friendship and collaboration of these knowing musicians that endows the notes and rhythms of the music with clarity, honesty, and healing grace. And the more of those things that we can get out here these days, the better!”
"The blues of both the title tune and the languorous 8:36 closer (“The Lion’s Tale”) give Tone Twister extra profundity. Wholeheartedly recommended." Read the full review here.
DEE DEE MCNEIL
MUSICAL MEMOIRS'S BLOG
"Every cut on this production is wonderfully arranged and celebrated by Schneiderman and his star-studded band. This is the kind of jazz album that never grows old." Read the full review here.
"A smoking sizzling date from a pro that never had any fear of doing what it took to rise through the ranks and earning while he learned, the piano man leads the crew in raising a joyful noise that any mainstream groover will prothelize over." Read the full feature here.
BIRD IS THE WORM
"This whole quintet is locked in sync, trading volleys as effortlessly as they move in concert". Read the full feature here.
GREGORY APPLEGATE EDWARDS
GAPPLEGATE MUSIC REVIEWS
"It is finely honed quintet jazz capturing the essence of classic Blue Note hard bop in the finely composed, arranged and nicely improvised mode." Read the full review here.