Name:: Craig Snazelle
Early Years/Education: My biggest music influence was my grandfather, who was a swing-era tenor sax player. He was in a “territory band” in Sioux City, Iowa. I’d spend weekends with him. He’d get out his saxophone and improvise with whatever music was on the television. That impressed me.
Originally from San Francisco, I decided to be a professional musician when I was a freshman at the University of San Francisco. Coming from a small high school, I played basketball at a high level and wanted to walk on and play college basketball. At USF, [however,] the bar was so high I knew that wasn’t going to happen. Things started tilting more toward music.
At that time, I was in a rock band that was playing bars in North Beach in San Francisco, and my studies started to slip. I was also working for my dad, who had a film company, and he sat me down in his office and asked, ‘hat are you doing? You don’t seem to be interested in this (film); what do you really want to do?’ I said, ‘I’m in this band, and we’re doing pretty well.’ So he decided to fire me and said he’d help me in any way he could, and he did. My mother said, ‘Oh no, not another one!’ She eventually came around.
USF didn’t have a music program, so I transferred the next year to the College of Marin, which had a great music program. I was in a busy rock band and moved down to Southern California for a record deal. Once I got down there, all I did was play. I was able to support myself and my family. I did rock and pop things and played upright bass in a rockabilly band.
I was also working for the Righteous Brothers. Bill Medley had a night club in Fountain Valley, and I got into the house band there. I also did session work, played commercial music, popular music at Disneyland, got a gig with the Don Miller big band, etc. I was playing electric bass back then. I’ve owned an upright since the early ‘70s, and by the mid ‘80s I took up acoustic bass seriously. I went to the Faunt School down there. Jamie Faunt was a former Portlander.
Portland: Moved to Portland 20 years ago. I wanted to leave Southern California, plus I have relatives in the Northwest. Also, my dad was building a sound stage in Portland. He said, ‘Whenever the “economic development council” representatives take me out for dinner, I’m hearing the kind of music you’re lamenting you don’t get a chance to play.’ He suggested we come up and check it out. So we came in the summer, and went to Jazz de Opus and heard Randy Cannon with Phil Baker and Dick Berk; at another club, we saw Glen Moore with Nancy King; and at a blues club, we saw Lloyd Jones’ Struggle. We decided - we’re moving.
Blueprints Trio: I moved up here to play piano trio music. Met Dave Averre at a writer’s jam and tried numerous times over the years to put things together. The genesis for this group was a quartet that Eddie Parente was a part of with a different pianist who left town. Matt Tabor and I had just played together, so I invited him to come to rehearsals. Then Eddie took off, and now we’re a trio.
Six of the trio tracks [on the Blueprints’ new CD] were banged out in a four-hour session the day before Matt Tabor left for graduate school in Boston. Matt didn’t care for Boston, though, and returned home to Portland. We decided to pick up the ball and run with it. Now we’re the Blueprints Trio.
Blueprints is the title of the last tune on the CD, so that’s where the name comes from. A blueprint is where you’re starting from -- like when you build a house -- and then you adapt or modify. It’s nothing unique to us. It all stems from the Bill Evans trio of 1959 to 1961 with Scott La Faro and Paul Motion. That’s when the piano trio became a three-way conversation, as opposed to piano with bass and drum accompaniment, which was closer to what Oscar Peterson did.
Musical Influences: Scott La Faro, Paul Chambers, Ron Carter and John Patitucci. I love vibes and am fortunate to play with Mike Horsfall. Other influences include Gary Burton, Victor Feldman, Mike Mainieri, Joe Locke and Warren Wolf (Christian Mc Bride’s vibist).
Most Satisfying Experience: Right now is the high point of my career, having this trio. This is always what I wanted to do -- and to do it with people I really love, who are really creative. I’m excited for what comes next.
Favorite Recordings: “Sunday at the Village Vanguard” - Bill Evans Trio (If I was only allowed one recording on a desert island, it would be this one); “Explorations,” “Portrait in Jazz” - Bill Evans Trio; “Trio ‘64” - Bill Evans Trio (w/Bill Evans, Gary Peacock, Paul Motian); “Whisper Not” - Keith Jarrett Trio w/ Gary Peacock; “Relaxin’ with Miles” - Miles Davis Quintet; “ESP” - Miles Davis Quintet; “Bright Size Life” - Pat Methuey; “Heavy Weather” - Weather Report; “Jimi Hendrix Experience” - “Electric Ladyland.”
Discography: “Blueprints Trio” (2013) w/Matt Tabor, piano, Dave Averre, drums. Eddie Parente Quartet (2005) w/John Keyser, guitar, Kurt Deutscher, drums. I’m on the Bill Medley album, “Blue-eyed Singer” (1991) on Curb. Also on a soundtrack for the film, “All I Want for Christmas.” And I was on a recording for vocalist Bob Culley, another Curb release.
Gigs: With Blueprints Trio: June 7, Living Room Theaters; June 15, Arrivederci, Milwaukie; June 28, Camellia Lounge. More information at www.blueprintstrio.com . As a sideman: June 8, Arrivederci w/Kat Cogswell Quartet (w/Mike Horsfall & Mark Griffith); June 14, Grand Vines, Salem w/ Danny Wold Trio; June 17 Tony Starlight’s Supperclub and Lounge w/PCC singer’s showcase (trio w/Marcus Harbaugh and Ward Griffiths); and June 22, Heathmann Hotel w/Linda Lee Michelet Trio.
Future Plans: I’d love to tour, and we aim to record another CD in August and do it start to finish all in one studio.
Other: I’ve seen high-profile players move here, and they slot right in. For a journeyman like myself, or anyone else who’s thinking about moving here, you better move here because you want this (lifestyle) for your family. At the time I moved here, I was so burnt out that I was hating music, and I had to re-find what it was. But that took a long time.
-- by Rita Rega