[Dixielandjazz] The Maria Schneider Orchestra

Steve Barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Thu Nov 22 07:51:07 PST 2007

Where is jazz going? Some have said along the path that Maria Schneider
blazes. Maybe not OKOM, it seems to take from something from jazz, pop and
classical and brings something new to the party.

Many self composed songs. (no royalties to pay). Some great musicians in her
band including Scott Robinson. For more information about her, see:






Steve Barbone

Playing to Meet a Self-Imposed Standard

NY TIMES - By NATE CHINEN - November 22, 2007

For its marriage of precision and imagination, and the outright beauty of
its broad-canvas compositions, the Maria Schneider Orchestra has no peer in
the realm of jazz. And because improvisation serves so much more than an
ornamental purpose for the group, it has no real equivalent in classical
music, or among any species of pop. As a result the toughest standard faced
by Ms. Schneider and her musicians is self-determined: a compulsion to soar
higher than before.

They¹re doing an excellent job this week at the Jazz Standard, judging by
the results on Tuesday night. In a sold-out set that opened with something
old (³Evanescence,² the title track from an auspicious 1994 debut) and
delved into something new (³Sky Blue,² released this year), the ensemble
touched upon most of its strengths, including a recently emergent
sophistication with respect to rhythm.

That came most obviously on ³Aires de Lando,² based on folk forms native to
Peru. In her introduction to the piece, as in her detailed liner notes for
³Sky Blue,² Ms. Schneider explained that the lando rhythm, a polyrhythmic
12/8 over 6/4, had inspired her to superimpose additional meters, like 3/8
and 5/4. 

Thankfully, as performed by the orchestra with guest percussionists, ³Aires
de Lando² conjured movement rather than mathematics. Ms. Schneider,
conducting with purposeful flow, reinforced the feeling. So did Scott
Robinson, whose sinuous clarinet solo provided a through-line for the piece.

Mr. Robinson was one of several improvisers who commanded close attention
within the four long compositions that made up the set. Another was Ingrid
Jensen, playing flugelhorn on ³The ŒPretty¹ Road.² In ³Evanescence² there
was strong work by the tenor saxophonist Chris Cheek and the trombonist
Marshall Gilkes; each started out with sparse accompaniment before the full
orchestra stirred beneath, as if from slumber.

For ³Cerulean Skies,² an episodic piece infused with birdsong and themes of
flight ‹ two of Ms. Schneider¹s extra-musical obsessions ‹ the soloists were
Donny McCaslin and Charles Pillow, on tenor and alto saxophones, and Gary
Versace, on accordion. The standout effort was by Mr. McCaslin, who opened
with some brusque fillips and multiphonic squawks, only gradually allowing
himself the gift of fluency.

He was being birdlike, with enough evocative clarity that Ms. Schneider
needn¹t have pointed it out in an effusive introduction. Nor did she need to
preface ³The ŒPretty¹ Road² ‹ the set¹s lone disappointment, overripe with
sentiment ‹ by ticking off its allusions to her bucolic childhood in the

Ms. Schneider might have been overcome with good feeling as she kicked off a
five-night run. Or she might have felt some responsibility to the patrons in
the room who helped underwrite ³Sky Blue,² in exchange for access and
information. (There are multiple tiers of subscription membership at

Whatever the case, she should feel no obligation to contextualize her music.
Its vivid coloration and expressive energies speak boldly enough already.
And as for enthusiasm, the mood Ms. Schneider best exudes in person, that¹s
in there too, as plain as day.

The Maria Schneider Orchestra continues through Sunday at the Jazz Standard,
116 East 27th Street, Manhattan; (212) 576-2232.

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