Waves of Calm could not be more different from Jim Snidero’s previous two releases, and that’s deliberate. In 2016, he delivered MD66, a tribute to Miles Davis’ second quintet that frequently found the alto saxophonist fired up and blowing hot, while its followup, last year’s Jubilation!, a collaboration with trumpeter Jeremy Pelt, nodded to another inspiration, Cannonball Adderley, with several tracks necessarily bending toward the alto saxophonist’s trademark soul.
On Waves of Calm, Snidero—who has released more than 20 albums as a leader—takes a long, deep breath and slips into chill mode. He has said that the music is informed by his father’s struggle with Parkinson’s, and that he purposefully self-edited, choosing to allow more space to exist where notes might once have been. It’s an approach that well suits Snidero on these eight tracks, which feature Pelt, Orrin Evans (piano and Fender Rhodes), Nat Reeves (bass), and Jonathan Barber (drums). Not every track is a ballad, but even those that kick up some dust take a bit longer to get there.
The opening number, the title track, is the most pensive: 20 initial seconds of a cascading single-note scale by Evans eases the quintet toward the core melody, voiced solely by Snidero, with Evans providing subtle support. A couple of Snidero’s other compositions—he wrote five of the eight—break the quietude somewhat, with “Visions” in particular providing a forum for Barber to get funky. But more in tune with the overall mood is the standard “If I Had You,” wherein Snidero partially explores a breathy, restful tone that has feel-good built right into it.