Music has always been the main attraction in Shneider's life. Born in Stamford, CT in 1954, raised in the greater Boston area, and residing in New York since 1974, Shneider is the product of a childhood spent falling in love with his parent's records (sides by Al Hibbler, Cozy Cole, Count Basie, and a record his dad played everyday, A Jazz Salute to Freedom, which featured Bird, Dizzy, Miles, Stan Getz, Ellington, Dinah Washington, Sarah Vaughn and many others), and AM radio, where he heard an incredible variety of music. Shneider elaborated, "Just on 'Hit' radio you could hear Louis Armstrong, Sly Stone, Hugh Masekela, Johnny Cash, Ray Charles, The Beatles, Motown, John Coltrane, James Brown, Frank Sinatra, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Otis Redding, Cannonball Adderley, Jimi Hendrix, Wes Montgomery and more; just on one station in the space of a couple of hours - it seems crazy now. The music grabbed me and shaped me before I had a reason to think about it; before I even knew about style or influence."
Shneider went on to enjoy a career that has included writing for and playing with some of the most inspiring artists of our time. His compositions and arrangements have been performed and/or recorded by the likes of Donald Brown, James Williams, Bill Pierce, John Abercrombie, George Bohanon, Howard Johnson, John McNeil, Mark Feldman, Christian Howes, Lucy Woodward, The Bill Mobley Jazz Orchestra, The BMI Jazz Orchestra and many others. He has also collaborated on music for the theater with playwrights Eve Ensler and Rosemary Moore, and is a founding member of Pulse, a chamber ensemble of composers and performers dedicated to presenting contemporary music without boundaries. As a saxophonist Shneider has enjoyed associations with a variety of artists from across the musical spectrum, such as Felix Cavaliere, John Sebastian, Geoff Muldaur, Tom Rush, Robbie Dupree, John Hall, Matt Guitar Murphy and The Mighty Sparrow among others. He has also been featured with an array of theater and film artists, which include director Lee Breuer and composer Bob Telson (The Gospel at Colonus, The Warrior Ant, and the recording "Calling You"), and filmmaker Percy Adlon ("Bagdad Cafe", "Hawaiian Gardens"). He has been quoted extensively in the book "Thinking in Jazz-The Infinite Art of Improvisation", by Paul F. Berliner (pub. 1994, Univ. of Chicago Press).
Shneider's extensive experience, which includes early studies with George Coleman, and the influence of his esteemed friend and neighbor, the late, legendary jazz pianist, James Williams ("I was already familiar with James' playing, but hearing him practice through the floor was a whole other story-thrilling and disconcerting as well. Being exposed to that level of musicianship every day inspired me to go back to school and get my writing together), has led him to the release of his first recording under his own name, The Joshua Shneider Love Speaks Orchestra. The artist explains, "I have been working in an acoustic, large ensemble setting for the pieces that I have been writing for quite a few years now. This setting is based on a combination of the traditional big band and studio orchestra instrumentations. Rather than 'bigger and louder', I am drawn to the rich harmonic possibilities as well as the available tonal colors of this ensemble. I also prize the 'chance' and 'human elements' of the ensemble; from the improvised solo to the interactions of the various personalities that shape the music and combine to create a unique hybrid of it's parts.
The Joshua Shneider Love Speaks Orchestra, Shneider's working band for the past five years, features an array of some of the New York scene's finest musicians, including Dave Stryker, John O'Gallagher, David Smith, Alex Norris, Dan Pratt, Lucy Woodward and others. "I am continually grateful for the caliber of the players that choose to play my music; it is not easy to play and I am proud and more than satisfied with the recorded result! This project represents the culmination of years of work written specifically for the individual members of the ensemble", said Shneider.
The album tracks:
"Big Whup" - Shneider wrote this composition after listening to the soundtrack of the film, "Black Orpheus". He explains, "There is a wonderful tune by Jobim called 'Frevo' performed by a marching band, which was the inspiration. I tried to invoke the Samba School vibe and get my own thing in there as well. Dig the way John O'Gallagher dialogues with the band before he boldly sets out for parts unknown."
"Dark Energy" - Shneider envisioned for this tune a kind of stretched out, floating melody juxtaposed on top of a background that would feel like it was sinking. Seems like some Herbie Hancock and Al Jackson snuck in there somehow, as well.
"When Love Speaks" - This tune was inspired by the title. Shneider explains, "I had gone to hear the incredible Jeveeta Steele sing one night in NYC-I had worked with her and The J.D. Steele Singers doing "The Gospel at Colonus". We were chatting after the show and Jeveeta's sister said something along the lines of, "that's love talkin' to ya". A light went off in my head and that stuck with me. I wrote the tune and handed it off to Finian McKean who wove his own evocative narrative through it. In fact, I liked his lyric so much I named the band after it. I was hearing Lucy's voice in my head as I wrote the melody.
"Blue To You" - "I think of this as a blues in sheep's clothing, as it were. The high point for me is Dan Pratt's intrepid tenor solo, he has an amazing sound, and it helps that he also plays all the right notes!"
"Lover's Leap" - "This is one of the only tunes I've written over the chord changes of a standard, namely 'Lover' (get it?) by Rogers and Hart. I wore out Sonny Rollins' beyond-breakneck version of it, titled 'B Swift'. I set the melody in an Afro-Cuban groove as a feature for David Smith on trumpet and Frank Basile on baritone saxophone."
"Lost In The Stars" - David Berger, the bandleader and Ellington scholar, and a teacher of Shneider's suggested he write a small group version of this tune when he was in school. Alex Norris spins out a beautiful personal solo.
"Twinsville" - "This tune made itself known to me as a melody first. The counter lines I was hearing dictated the harmonic direction of the piece. That's a real Wurlitzer that Bennett Paster is so ably playing. The title refers to the town I live in; if only in my mind."
"The Hurting Kind" - An unabashed homage to Shneider's favorite pop divas of the 1960s, particularly Dionne Warwick and Dusty Springfield, as well as great songwriters like Burt Bacharach and Hal David. "I wrote this after one of my frequent periods of listening to 'Anyone Who Had a Heart' about 20 times in a row."
"One Flight Down" - The title refers to pianist James Williams who lived in the apartment below Shneider and his family for many years and, in particular, "his laugh, which was formidable", said Shneider. "When James was home he spent a lot of time on the phone keeping in touch with his legions of friends, and every so often a laugh would erupt through the floorboards that would shake the house. When I put the piece together I was thinking of the groove that Elvin Jones plays on Gil Evans' 'Time of the Barracudas'. I love the way John O'Gallagher builds his solo, from his wry comments at the beginning to the blazing fireworks at the end".
"Cute Little Nightmare" - "The origin of the title to this tune was an off-the-cuff quip my wife made a while back. Someone had remarked that one of our kids was 'so cute', to which she replied, 'yeah, a cute little nightmare. Must have been the sleep deprivation talking . . . When I started putting together this recording I knew I had to include guitarist Dave Stryker. Dave was one of the first musicians I met and played with when I came to NYC, and I immediately knew he was a very special player.
"Friction" - "The genesis of this tune was an idea I had to write an ostinato bass figure and then vary the harmonic structure above it. I also wanted to keep the feeling of the tune a bit unsettled, so I wrote the melody in a different tonality from the bass line. The way Stryker develops his solo reminds me of a hang glider stepping off into the void and catching an updraft into the clouds. We also hear from Justin Mullens on trumpet, a wonderful soloist with a very individual sound and conception; he takes the road less traveled."
"Completing this project has been a milestone and an incredible experience for me. Although I have been a working musician for many years, this is the first recording I'll have out under my own name. I feel that I've been able to draw on my various experiences as a sideman, writer and arranger, and fly on the wall to present a musical snapshot of where I've been and an inkling of where I hope to continue to go. For the future, I hope to expand on the areas that I feel are bearing fruit for me now and to explore new directions and concepts that are important to me as an artist", Joshua Shneider.