Fortunate collaboration: Alex Snydman to perform release concert at Casbah

Aug. 01, 2013 @ 12:48 PM

The title track to drummer Alex Snydman’s debut recording “Fortunate Action” has tempo and mood changes, and plenty of interplay between Snydman and pianist Miro Sprague. The sound reflects the process of collaboration between the two composers.

“It was cool to co-create with a musician who was a friend,” Snydman said. “I’d really like to do more of that: If you co-create on the bandstand, why can’t you do it” in the recording studio?
Snydman is on tour to celebrate the release of “Fortunate Action.” The tour comes to Casbah on Sunday. On the bandstand, Snydman will be joined by pianist Chris Pattishall (from Durham), who also plays on the recording, and “my right-hand man” Tyler Heydolph on bass.
Snydman came to the drums fairly late in his musical education. During his senior year at Hampshire College, he switched from guitar to drums. When he sat down and started playing, “I knew I would find great joy pursuing the instrument, whereas I was a pretty frustrated guitarist,” Snydman said. He “started from scratch” on the instrument, practicing “four to six hours a day.”
One of his teachers during that process has been Eric Harland (who has played concerts locally with Dave Holland’s group and the SF Jazz Collective). “He’s been there the whole time,” Snydman said. “I really sought him out.” Snydman had been playing drums for about two years before he approached Harland, and had his first lesson right before Harland was getting ready to play a set at the Village Vanguard in New York. “We became friends after that. We’ve stayed at each other’s houses several times,” Snydman said. “The cymbals you are listening to on the recording, some of them are gifts from him.”
The nine compositions on “Fortunate Action” include seven originals from Snydman and other musicians who play on the recording. “Cross Fade,” by pianist Doug Abrams, builds to a burning ending (and you can hear from the sound of the band after the last note that this session felt good to everyone). On Snydman’s “One for Elegua” tenor saxophonist Carl Clements states the melody and does some urgent soloing, his lines reflecting the Santeria trickster myth that inspired this tune.
Each tune on the disc received a different number of “takes.” Snydman’s composition “Eternal Recurrence” took one take, others more. “I’d like to get to the point where we don’t have to do more than two takes,” Snydman said. “The thing that’s most important to me is the feeling that the band is really moving together. I really love pianists that play with heart and tension, rather than a lot of fireworks. … I love melody. When a pianist is telling a story, it forces the band to come together,” he said.
He first began listening to jazz – he called it a “moment of change” – when he heard Medeski, Martin and Wood’s “Notes from Underground.” Other recordings that influenced him were John Scofield and Pat Metheny’s “I Can See Your House from Here” and the track “New York Minute” from Herbie Hancock’s “The New Standard.”
In addition to touring, Snydman is pursuing a master’s in jazz performance at The California Institute of the Arts. He has taught some master classes, and also teaches private lessons. Coming late to the drums helps him as a teacher, because he can pass on his recent experiences and practice techniques to students. “I love private teaching,” he said. “Teaching takes a lot of insight into what a student needs at a given moment, and having the patience to work with them at a given moment.”


WHAT: Alex Snydman and his band
WHEN: Sunday, with two sets at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m.
WHERE: Casbah, 1007 W. Main St., Durham
ADMISSION: $10. For information, visit