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Simon Says ... Andy, Join Me!
Andy Snitzer is in a jam.
And he has no one to blame but himself -- and some of the best musicians in the business.
Sax star Snitzer jams, he performs, he backs-up, solos and records. He's a CD sensation with an MBA whose getting down to business means "getting down" to the art of music.
And he does it up where he belongs -- on stage. That's where he'll be appearing as part of Paul Simon's stable of star musicians accompanying the singer/composer who is headlining -- along with soprano Renee Fleming -- the Academy of Music'swww.philorch.org/academy of music 154th anniversary gala on Saturday night, Jan. 29.
Guest star Simon will have new orchestrations for his Philadelphia Orchestra premiere.
But for Snitzer, 48, settled in New York, it's a homecoming. He's part of the Melrose Park Mob -- a term coined to convey the select group of talents with roots in the park over the years.
Snitzer's wail of sound is a familiar one for his folks, Gail and Ed (he's a founding partner of Philadelphia's Prudent Management Associates, an investment management firm) who watched as their son invested in his own trades -- converting an MBA ("It was only a hedge," he says, a mutual fund of filial love and respect he had for his dad) at New York University and a job at J.P. Morgan into a portfolio of turntables and sound stages.
Prudent management of his own: That was 16 years ago, and a sweet 16 it's been since he wowed the Rolling Stones and their rolling circus of career performers at an audition to join the "world's most dangerous band."
"Walking into that room and seeing Mick and Keith -- it was crazy," he recalls of the audition, which led to a global tour with the Stones in their 1994 Voodoo Tour.
Since then, he's had a run of black magic all his own, touring with Simon and Garfunkel and other notables of respect (yes, he worked with Aretha Franklin, too.)
Glam rock it's not: "I've never thought of being on stage as glamorous," says Snitzer.
It's a show and tell lesson of arts and craft, "all about the art and discipline of performing, as well as the craft."
With a strong string of solo albums to his credit, this first-string music man doesn't mind playing back-up. Long ago, he came to the conclusion that he'd rather be on the side of the side men than attempt a career in the spotlights.
Snitzer's been teeming with fervor to play since his teenage years. At his Bar Mitzvah 35 years ago, he sat in with the band on clarinet, playing "When the Saints Go Marchin' In" in his backyard.
Back then, the thought of being a road warrior was reserved for Mel Gibson movies, and he never thought he'd be a "road guy." But it's ended up "I do a lot of traveling" all over the world.
And now, the bridge over placid waters proves to be the Platt as Snitzer prepares for the Academy gala gig, loving what Simon says about music through his artsy, artful approach.
Different Stage of Life
He never imagined that he'd be sailing along on stage alongside Simon when "I was playing 'Bridge Over Troubled Water' on the piano at home when I was 12," says Snitzer.
What could be cooler than performing with "an actual living legend" who, avows Snitzer, is a major mensch.
And he appreciates the personal connection with Simon, who unlike some in the business, actually interacts with the band. "One of the areas of Paul's genius is that he really gets to know his players; he gets down with the band."
Chances are that next weekend's venue is bigger than that Bar Mitzvah gig from decades ago, but the impact of the Torah readings echo in what he does today. "My approach to melody and to the emotional nature of music is there," he says, tapping the heart, home of the seminal sounds of what it means to be Jewish. "It's that gypsy thing."
And Judaism brings out more than the gypsy in him. "It opens my emotional core; that wail" of our people, "it's genetically encoded in me."
As for the gypsy, Snitzer, the wandering Jew, with enough global tours to qualify him as his own airline, is coming out with a new album soon that says it all.
It's title? "Traveler."