You know Andy Snitzer, if not by name then by the sound of his sax or his presence in the touring bands of artists like the Rolling Stones and Paul Simon. Or by his work with Bob James in the late 80s and early 90's, culminating with his solo on the classic “Restless.” Then his first two solo albums during the heyday of Warner Bros. Jazz delivered genre hits like “You've Changed” and “A River's Road.” Or, to go way back, his stunning solo on Boy Meets Girl's 80's pop gem “Waiting for a Star To Fall.” He's been everywhere musically, backing big name pop and rock musicians, playing jazz, both contemporary and straightahead, and he's been everywhere literally as he has traveled the world time and time again. Out of those travels, planes, tour buses, and after show nights in hotel rooms with his sax and his laptop saving melodies as they come to him, arrives the appropriately titled Traveler.
Traveler is a departure for Snitzer, a journey into electronica textures and a chilled out vibe but this is not to be confused with the glut of chill flavored releases that came out a few years ago when radio jumped on the chill bandwagon. A lot of those projects were riffs over sound effects, loops, and samples. This is serious musicianship and solid songwriting over well crafted sonic beds. The result is a richly textured, moody collection of songs that have too much meat on their bones to fade into a soundscape. This travelogue starts in "Marseille" with Chuck Loeb's guitar, some jazzy flute, an electronic bossa nova groove and Snitzer's low key sax moving into an edgy little hook. A lot of these songs revolve around memorable melody lines. The repetitively haunting one in "Bohemia" will lure you to the repeat button, the glistening elegant one in "Lausanne" will get stuck in your head. The other impressive thing is how he brings straightahead, contemporary, smooth and funk elements into this ultra-modern package. His solo in the middle of "Taking Off" is pure jazz, "Traveler" is lyrical - flirting with smooth but much more substantial. "Mystique" has Snitzer and Chris Botti digging into a deep, funky groove that ends in melodic distortion, something only the very brave and very gifted could pull off. In short, this is a sonic playground, total headphone candy but with some real musicians holding down the frontlines.
Snitzer produced the album and is joined by co-producer David Mann – another underrated east coast heavy hitter who plays flute, keyboards, and did the synthesizer programming along with Snitzer and lain Maillet. Chuck Loeb, Ralph McDonald, and former Paul Simon band-mate Chris Botti also appear, as well as a stellar group of session musicians. This is probably one of the big factors that separate Traveler from other chill influenced albums. There are a lot of human beings playing and collaborating here, it's not just one guy in a room that is stacked with technology. That and the playing – Snitzer is on fire here, subtle fire but fire just the same. If you are looking for something different, something that sets a mood without lulling you into one, and you are ready to experience some jazzy playing that is a little more complex than your average smooth release you couldn't do better than to start your journey with this Traveler.