Combining jazz and classical is hardly a new idea; back in the 1920s, classical music influenced Jelly Roll Morton, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Fats Waller, and many other jazz greats. And in the 1950s and 1960s, the third stream movement demonstrated that classical could easily be fused with bop or cool jazz. Nonetheless, blending jazz and classical isn't an idea that has been run into the ground -- it still has possibilities, and Daniel Schnyder is among the artists showing us some of them. Recorded in 1998, Words Within Music finds the Swiss saxophonist/flutist interpreting the compositions of Johann Sebastian Bach, Richard Wagner, and Antonio Vivaldi. This is not an orchestral or symphonic project; rather, Schnyder offers a cerebral blend of post-bop and modern European chamber music and leads a cohesive trio that includes Kenny Drew, Jr. on acoustic piano and David Taylor on bass trombone. Some classical purists would denounce Words Within Music as musical heresy, insisting that Bach, Wagner, and Vivaldi are not to be interpreted -- period. But thankfully, Schnyder doesn't feel that way. Bringing a jazz mentality to the table, he realizes that their compositions don't have to be placed under sheets of glass and treated like museum pieces. And while Words Within Music (which also contains some original material) may offend classical hard-liners, the CD is intriguing if you have a more open-minded outlook. Words Within Music is recommended to anyone who holds post-bop and chamber music in equally high regard.
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson