The Return of Rob Schneiderman

Schneiderman fell in love with mathematics between gigs with legendary improvisers such as trumpeter Chet Baker, trombonist J.J. Johnson, and saxophonist James Moody.


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Photo courtesy of Rob Schneiderman

As a top-shelf jazz pianist in New York City, Rob Schneiderman fell in love with mathematics between gigs with legendary improvisers such as trumpeter Chet Baker, trombonist J.J. Johnson, and saxophonist James Moody.

He eventually made his way to UC Berkeley, where he earned a PhD in math focusing on low-dimensional topology while performing widely around the region. These days he’s a professor of mathematics at CUNY’s Lehman College, but he hasn’t let his day gig put a damper on his musical pursuits. Rather, he sees math and music as intertwined pursuits that “commingle through some sort of mysterious subconscious filtering system that allows me to consciously to tap into one or the other,” he has written.

In a rare return to the Bay Area, Schneiderman performs at The Back Room in Berkeley on Wed., June 27 (and San Francisco’s Chez Hanny on Sun., June 24). The gigs mark the release of his first album in a decade, Tone Twister (Hollistic MusicWorks), a stellar quintet session featuring trumpeter Brian Lynch and tenor saxophonist Ralph Moore. For his Bay Area gigs, he’ll be playing some of the original pieces from the album, as well as compositions by Bud Powell, Duke Ellington, and Billy Strayhorn. He’s been expanding his repertoire in recent years with Brazilian and Cuban standards, Beatles tunes, and even an arrangement of a minuet from a Bach cello suite, all of which may find its way into the set.

 Exposed to music virtually at birth by his piano teacher mother, Schneiderman began playing jazz with teenage friends at high school parties. Growing up in San Diego gave him the opportunity to work with a myriad of jazz heavyweights, such as saxophonists Eddie Harris, Harold Land, and Charles McPherson, whom he credits with sparking his interest in math via philosophical conversations after gigs.

Rob Schneiderman, 8 p.m., Wed., June 27, The Backroom, 1984 Bonita Ave., Berkeley, $15, 654-3808, BackRoomMusic.com.

 

This report originally appeared in our sister publication, The East Bay Monthly.

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