WATCH Skip’s Video Intro to The Essence of Bebop

Long time NYC based alto saxophonist Jim Snidero has just released his newest book by Advance Music, The Essence of Bebop. I originally became aware of Jim’s new book through Anders Bostrom on the Flute Forum on Facebook. I was immediately intrigued. Anders recorded the flute version of the book and was getting the word out on social media. This prompted me to contact Jim Snidero directly as he and I had corresponded previously when I wrote for Saxophone Journal and Saxophone Today Magazines. He was generous to quickly offer a copy for this review.

When I opened the package containing The Essence of Bebop, the attractive glossy cover immediately caught my eye. When I cracked the cover, the inside read as you might expect with forward and acknowledgements followed by a brief study guide. The whole book is well laid out with a clear, traditional manuscript font. Many books over the years have adopted “handwritten” style fonts which some prefer and some abhor. As I said, this layout is very clear to the reader which is most important here. 

My plan on reviewing this new book by Jim Snidero was to download the audio files and just begin to sight read after looking over the introduction before the first selection Monkified. Wanting to use the backing tracks with my phone and on the go, I attempted to scan the barcode in the front of the book. The website popped up after scanning the code and it was a simple matter of entering the code and my email address. What happened next on my iPhone, I am not sure. It told me my download would begin immediately but I do not know where of if the files landed on the phone. 

Plan B went into effect. I typed in the web address and entered the code on computer. Voila! I Probably should have started with this method and then put the audio on iTunes, which is exactly what I ultimately did. Now the backing tracks are on my computer and iPhone when I need them. 

I warmed up a bit on my alto and jumped right in with the tracks playing and began to sightread The Essence of Bebop by Jim Snidero. Below is a synopsis of my initial reactions playing through each etude. 

  1. Monkified  As the name implies, the tune pays tribute to Theolonius Monk and his somewhat disjointed melodic style.  It was easy to sightread for me and presumably will be for many others as well. The familiar sounding tune is based upon the blues form of Blue Monk.
  2. The Messengers  Again, this was on the easier side to sightread – barring a couple double-time lines which required a second look. The lines lay well on the horn and flowed easily after a second glance at them. This was based on Art Blakey’s Moanin’.
  3. Amazing Bud – This references the great Bud Powell who Snidero points out was the first pianist to adopt Bird’s concept of bebop on piano. This medium tempo romp was just fun to play, especially with the interplay between the recorded piano and written sax part. 
  4. Pure Silver – Based upon Horace Silver’s Strollin’, this is in a relatively slow 2 however does include an optional double-time  passage toward the end. I had to look twice at this figure as the alternate notes are added underneath. This simpler counter line is presumably to keep the simplistic nature of the piece intact for less experienced players. 
  5. Miles ’63 – Inspired by Miles Davis’ All of You seemed on the easier side as the songs before but yet again Snidero added some tasty double-time passages toward the end. As before, there is a simpler line indicated below the double-time. 
  6. Bird and Diz – Rightfully so, a significant portion of the book focuses on Charlie Parker and Dizzie Gillespie. Snidero’s tune is inspired by Tadd Dameron’s Hot House and while it is a tame 144 bpm, it is deceitfully tricky to read through the first time. This was the first time in the book I felt the need to sit on the edge of my chair!
  7. Straight Trane – Snidero lists this as “the most comprehensive study in II-V in this book.” Based on Trane’s Straight Street, the stop time in the rhythm section is fun to play along. The medium tempo, featuring a straighter 8th note feel, is more challenging as it weaves through the many II-V’s throughout. 
  8. Freddie – With a nod to Bird Blues in the later choruses, Freddie for Freddie Hubbard is based on a blues in F. Snidero’s writing becomes a bit more adventurous, superimposing some alternate changes in the written solo. This song is presented slow and fast. The fast version creates an obviously greater challenge. 
  9. One for Sonny – The slow ballad highlighting the style of Sonny Rollins and based upon I Can’t Get Started requires a greater understanding of the rhythmic subdivisions. Despite the slow aspect, I need another crack at this one to do it justice. Snidero on the other hand, plays it beautifully on the demo track. 
  10. Bird – This type of tune based on I’ve Got Rhythm was exactly what I was expecting from The Essence of Bebop – especially the fast version. Like Freddie, Bird is offered in two versions, slow and fast. I will be working on the fast version to get it sounding as it should!

Following my first sight-reading through Jim Snidero’s The Essence of Bebop, I went back and took a closer look and read through the text. Each song is broken down by a study guide with a detailed analysis of each tune. Additionally there is some biographical information as well as greater detail explaining each pice. As mentioned earlier, it is great that Jim Snidero is very transparent on the inspiration for each song and the standard changes they are based. 

Every player, teacher or student using this book will have a great, new reference to some of the most notable players, recordings they made and their individual styles. Jim Snidero has penned an invaluable asset to jazz education as well as students of jazz and bebop. A copy should be on every shelf.

Click here to find out more about The Essence of Bebop by Jim Snidero available from Advance Music.