Bob Niederriter is a jazz artist . He is a composer, guitarist and arranger who has studied and performed with great artists in jazz and modern classical music and has doggedly pursued excellence in the field, immersing himself in the music while seeking inspiration and instruction from the masters.
In coming to know him, however, one sees that his music is informed by an artistic vision that finds its expression through a surprisingly diverse range of work. Niederriter is an accomplished glass blower, painter, cook, and gardener, and his work in each of these areas is expressive of a consistent vision coupled with ample talent and a quiet but potent work ethic. All of these traits seemingly allow Niederriter to emerge as the rare artist who can explore and accomplish in a breath of disciplines.
Bob Niederriter was born in Cleveland, Ohio and was exposed to music at an early age. Both of his grandmothers played piano, and he began to find his way around the instrument as soon as he could climb aboard. He began to actually play piano under his great grandmother’s tutelage, but soon graduated to a home made guitar which his father helped to fashion from a cigar box and fishing line. Reflecting back on this first guitar, Niederriter notes that without any instruction he tuned the instrument in 4ths. He also studied the violin, and while he found the lessons too constrictive he did maintain interest long enough to learn to read music.
In addition to his musical gifts Niederriter displayed an early talent for the visual arts , and would develop that talent to a level of serious accomplishment in painting, sculpting and glass blowing. He attended Kent State University were he studied with the renowned glass artist Henry Halem as well as the painters Craig Lucas and Robert Culley. He also developed an interest in creating panels and mediums for his paintings, creating his own egg tempura as well as more modern paints. Not coincidentally, his acuity in mixing mediums is mirrored in his passion for establishing texture and color in composing and arranging music.
Despite his diversity of interests, however, his approach to music is based upon an embrace of a fundamental modern jazz tradition. As a Guitarist he cites the dominant influence of Wes Montgomery on his thumb technique, his tone and his compositional style. He also points to the seminal recordings of Charlie Christian and Barney Kessel as having had an important impact on his playing. As a guitarist he has also been strengthened through study with masters such as Jimmy Rainey, Cal Collins, Jack Wilkins, Herb Ellis, and Jim Hall, whom he cites as a significant influence in the development of his understanding of harmony in composition. Niederriter is also quick to stress the impact of Cleveland guitarist Ralph Russo, whom he credits with teaching him about the guitar neck as well as arranging for the instrument. It was under Russo’s tutelage that Niederriter first took tunes frot the Real Book and created arrangements for the guitar.
As a guitar stylist, Niederriter has shunned the temptations of gratuitous speed and technique for a more considered and mature approach, particularly with respect to soloing . His lines are thoughtfully conceived and cleanly executed statements which are more reflective of melodic acuity than empty dexterity. With respect to chording and texture, one hears in Niederriter’s playing the influence of Farlow and Montgomery.
Niederriter’s most deeply felt musical impulses, however, are expressed in his composing and arranging. He has absorbed the music of the modern jazz masters, most notably Charlie Parker, whose music became an obsession for Niederriter, and Thelonius Monk, whose dissonances and use of space and distended rhythym capitaved him. And he has studied with some of the great minds in the music-both at the New School for Social Research in New York City where he earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, and through his own initiative.
At the New School he studied and played under Ed Neumeister and Bill Kirschner as well as Reggie Workman, Junior Mance, Arnie Lawrence, and Jim Hall. It was a phenomenally rich enviornment within which to work and learn, and the experience had a defining impact on Niederriter’s approach to jazz performance and composition. While in New York he composed jazz music for double quartet (jazz and strings) as well as jazz septet and big band.
Since leaving the New School Niederriter has continued to compose and perform, recently completing his first recording and performing regularly in Cleveland with drummer Greg Bandy.The recording features and organ trio with Greg Bandy and organist Oliver Von Essen joining Niederriter in peforming original compositions as well as jazz standards. It is also revealing in its diversity and consistency. Niederriter explores an ambitious array of composers, rhythms and styles, but manages to keep the music swinging and songful throughout.
Of course, like most creative artists, he has many more projects “in the can” and ready to move into production. As a guitarist, composer, and arranger, Bob Niederriter has only begun to scratch the surface of his talent and his music.