Eric Schneider’s musical adventures began early. Born and raised in the Chicago area, he was able to play melodies on the piano at age three. His formal studies started on piano at six. By age eight, his tendency to try to “improve” the music inspired his teacher to give him a boogie-woogie book, which resulted in his earliest experiments in composition and improvisation. Clarinet lessons started a couple years later and by age fifteen he’d taken up the sax. Hearing Charlie Parker turned his musical life completely around, and he heeded the call. He dropped piano lessons, neglected the clarinet and started a passionate relationship with the alto saxophone. After graduating from the University of Illinois with a degree in Advertising, he returned to Chicago and joined Jim Beebe’s Chicago Jazz Band. Earl Fatha’ Hines, who knew a thing or two about good, young saxophone players (and had hired Charlie Parker some thirty years earlier) heard about Eric and requested an audition tape. This resulted in a four-year stay, touring all over the world, as well as the LP, Eric and Earl (Hines insisted on second billing).
With Hines’ blessing Eric accepted Count Basie’s offer to join the Basie Orchestra and subsequently occupied the “hot” tenor chair for two years, following in the footsteps of his other main musical influence, Lester Young, who held the chair from 1936 to 1940. During his tenure with Basie, Schneider recorded three albums, including the Grammy Award-winning 88 Basie Street. These six years of nonstop touring brought him into the company of some of America’s greatest artists, including Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Benny Goodman, Sarah Vaughan, Tony Bennett, Clark Terry, Mel Tormé, Sammy Davis, Jr., Joe Williams, Ray McKinley, Rosemary Clooney and Billy Eckstine. He’s also worked with former Charlie Parker employers, Jay McShann and Sir Charles Thompson, with whom he recorded two CDs. Abandoning the nomadic life and returning to Chicago, Schneider embarked on a richly diverse career that blends studio work, concert performances and jazz festivals, and featured positions alongside visiting jazz heavyweights.
The many calls for his services on clarinet rekindled his love affair with the instrument, and he is now in constant demand on clarinet and saxophone, alto and tenor, by both small groups and big bands that need a soloist possessing both erudition and passion. Offers for extended travel are given special consideration if golf or skiing can be incorporated in the tour.
Schneider represents the true spirit of jazz: walking in the footsteps of the giants while expressing a vision that is entirely his own. His career and music represent a multitude of facets––constantly growing and responding to the challenge of remaining true to the great traditions of the genre while continuing to evolve as an artist.