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Jim Snidero Explores South Korea

On Project-K, the veteran saxophonist and composer explores his longstanding interest in the music and culture below the 38th parallel

Jim Snidero
Jim Snidero (photo: Benjamin Oh)

Past and Future

A day before leaving for a tour of Spain as part of a quartet of Barcelona players, Snidero returned to Van Gelder Studios, where he recorded On Time 36 years ago, to record with Mike LeDonne’s Groover Quartet plus the All-Star Big Band.

“Many of those guys in the big band are longtime associates of mine over the last 30, almost 35 years,” Snidero says the evening before the Van Gelder session. “I’m thinking about my history and all the things I’ve done with those guys. It’s like a homecoming, in a way.”

Although he’s seen the music business go up and down, Snidero is grateful to be able to progress, innovate, and challenge himself. “The most consistent recording I’ve done in my entire life has been in the last 12 years,” he says. “For someone my age to maintain relevance, I’m proud about that.”

Snidero hopes that Project-K sparks interest in jazz in South Korea. Although the scene there is still in progress, the country boasts a number of jazz conservatories, and he’s kicking around the idea of a tour there with Kim and Douglas. “There’s a lot of clubs in Seoul,” Snidero says, “but they don’t pay anything.”

He’s holding out hope, though. Over all the time he’s been on the scene, he’s seen how a jazz classic can perforate cultural boundaries. One night comes to mind most clearly.

“I was in Japan, and I did a concert,” he remembers. “After the concert, they took me to a jazz club and they wanted me to sit in. I went up there on the bandstand, and I swear to God, not one of those musicians spoke a word of English. Not a single word.”

He continues: “So, we’re just looking at each other, and I started playing ‘On Green Dolphin Street.’ It all just melted away. We were just like brothers. They clearly had listened to a lot of great jazz. We had our own language that we understood completely.”

Overall, Snidero has never sounded more at home, whether exploring his second family’s traditional music or palling around with old colleagues in a big band. But on the fresh, intrepid Project-K, he proves there are still untapped jazz connections between the West and the East. 

On Time & In Tune

Jim Snidero’s main alto saxophones are a 1958 Selmer Mark VI and a Conn-Selmer A42. His mouthpiece of choice is a NY Meyer 5M Medium Chamber, his reeds are D’Addario Jazz Select 3M (unfiled), and he keeps it all together with a Just Joe neckstrap.