In 2004, Sneider and Hofmann released Interconnection, a widely-praised CD inspired by the classic 1960s guitar and piano duet recordings of Jim Hall and Bill Evans: Undercurrent (United Artists) and Intermodulation (Verve). Escapade tests their arranging skills even further with a nod to the classic jazz duo of Nat Cole & Oscar Moore, covered in a medley of tunes that compliment thirteen original compositions. At once beautiful and intense, Escapade contains tightly-knit arrangements and ensemble sections with each note carefully written down and performed with exceptional technique. Sneider and Hofmann are the standard bearers of a great American art form.
01 Roller Coaster (3:41)
02 New Invention No. 15 (0:31)
03 Blues Palindrome (2:46)
Touching the Sky
04 (a) Lift Off (1:18)
05 (b) Gliding (4:37)
06 (c) Floating (4:11)
07 (d) Birds-Eye View (4:44)
08 (e) On The Wing (6:16)
09 Bob’s Bossa (5:26)
10 Mañana Time (3:13)
11 New Invention No. 21 (0:29)
12 Celestial Visions (4:32)
King Cole Trio Medley
13 (a) That’s What (2:26)
14 (b) Lament in Chords (3:21)
15 (c) Rhumba Azul (3:04)
16 A Lullaby (6:21)
17 My Funny Valentine (3:36)
18 The Great Escape (4:35)
19 Improvisations on Prelude No. 22, Op. 11 Part IV (9:28)
A few weeks after Interconnection’s release in April 2004, Bob and I returned to the stage of Eastman’s Kilbourn Hall to record this, our follow-up duo album. Escapade continues our emphasis on performing original material — and on interspersing improvisations with precise ensembles. While I have again structured our arrangements with these considerations, we also allow ourselves some ‘freer’ playing. Indeed, a couple of tunes conclude quite unexpectedly!
We also had fun inserting occasional nods to earlier keyboard music, notably Claude Debussy (a bit of “Jimbo’s Lullaby” is heard in “Bob’s Bossa”) and J. S. Bach (snippets of Bach’s “Invention No. 13” find their way into “The Great Escape”). During the final number, after playing Alexander Scriabin’s gorgeous Prelude note-for-note, Bob and I improvise sections culminating in solo cadenzas; we then conclude our performance — and this program — by restating the 1896 “Prelude” verbatim.
Of the other non-originals, Rodgers and Hart’s “My Funny Valentine” begins and ends in a somewhat ‘baroque’ style that sets it apart from the many popular versions. Bob Stata’s “Mañana Time” is a wonderfully catchy Calypso tune reminiscent of the Sonny Rollins classic “St. Thomas.” The “King Cole Trio Medley” features three inspiring pieces from the 1940s, all originally recorded before Cole’s wonderful singing made him a household name. Many casual listeners are unaware that Cole began his career as a jazz pianist, composer and arranger. Oscar Moore was the Trio’s distinguished guitarist; he is an accomplished composer in his own right.
While Bob’s great guitar playing is appreciated by a growing number of listeners (and deservedly so), it has always been my hope that he find more time outside of his busy Eastman teaching schedule to write more music. His exhilarating “Roller Coaster” suggests ‘Chick Corea meets Bud Powell’ — especially given the obvious references to Powell’s masterpiece “Un Poco Loco” — and is written for our good friend Bob Stata, a wonderful bass player and composer whose recent illness and untimely passing has profoundly saddened us all. “Bob’s Bossa” is a relaxed Latin tune featuring an engaging Sneider melody. “A Lullaby” is another lovely piece of music, affectionately dedicated to Bob’s newborn daughter, Emily.
The two brief “New Inventions” (“No. 21” highly influenced by Powell’s “Bouncing With Bud”) are dedicated to my daughter, Sarah; both appear on a solo piano disc of the same name that serves as the basis of a composition class I teach at Eastman. “Blues Palindrome,” dedicated to Bob, darts through three related blues keys (C-F-G) while featuring alternating eight-bar sections of ensembles and ad-libs, even as the twelve-measure circular blues form remains. The notes and rhythms of the melodic line appear both times in retrograde (we play it the final time a tritone apart!), the last six measures being an inversion of the first six; hence the title —from the Greek palindromos, meaning “running back again.”
“Touching the Sky” is a five-part suite suggesting the grace and beauty of flight (birds? gliders? airplanes?) and is dedicated to my good friends and fellow composers Bill and Forest. “Celestial Visions” is my take on the standard “Star Eyes,” which explains the title’s astral allusion. Here I enjoyed reworking the original melody into two new contrapuntal lines (one played in retrograde above the other) before moving into a straight-eighth pop feel and finally into a more traditional bebop rendition (while ending with the counterpoint). “The Great Escape” is a wild and woolly excursion into differing time feels and is emblematic of the sense of spirit and adventure Bob and I set out to achieve with Escapade — one meaning of which is ‘adventure.’ We hope you enjoy.
— Paul Hofmann
"Guitarist Bob Sneider takes center stage on two fine projects…The link between Bob Sneider and Hofmann is even more evident on Escapade, where their union is so intense and musically accomplished that nothing else is needed. …“Touching The Sky” serves as the disc showcase for the formidable guitar/piano skills of Sneider and Hofmann."
— Nashville City Paper , March 2006
"Guitarist extraordinaire Bob Sneider has been a busy man lately, co-headlining two new albums this month. Sneider and Hofmann have played together enough to reach a level of musical symbiosis recalling the classic duo of Bill Evans and Jim Hall."
— Rochester City, March 2006
[four and one half stars] "'Chick Corea meets Bud Powell,' an excellent description of this well-named and very lively opener. The duo devours a medley of forgotten tunes from the heyday of the Nat King Cole Trio, while their intricate arrangement of "My Funny Valentine" invites comparison to the famous recording by Bill Evans and Jim Hall on their critically acclaimed disc Undercurrent. The music grows upon the listener with repeated hearing, revealing new facets with each play. This highly rewarding session from the small Sons of Sound label is well worth investigating."
— All Music Guide, April 2006
"…chamber jazz at its finest, demonstrating with eloquence that jazz is a serious musical idiom. Highly recommended. …has found its' way into my CD player over and over again. It reminds me so much of Jim Hall and Bill Evans masterpiece, Undercurrent, which is considered one of the best jazz recordings of all time… original compositions by Hofmann and Sneider that reveal a deep understanding of harmony and form. The music varies in intensity, rhythm and density with many surprises and clever turns, with several quotes from classic and baroque music."
— Jazz Police, April 2006
"Guitarist Bob Sneider and pianist Paul Hofmann approach the duo format with masterful technique and imagination… Sneider and Hofmann share a crisp chemistry and craft a seamless sound—and while their technique is flawless throughout, the players don't eschew some fun and spontaneity… The set is masterfully arranged, and the players are so musically in-sync that, in a relaxed listening mode, you can lose track of which instrument is playing which part in this intellectual yet approachable sound."
— All About Jazz, September 2006