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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, James Poore, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Bert Thompson, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf


Maria Schneider Orchestra – The Thompson Fields

Steve Wilson (alto saxophone, soprano saxophone, clarinet, flute, alto flute); Dave Pietro ( alto saxophone, soprano saxophone, clarinet, flute, alto flute, bass flute, piccolo); Rich Perry (tenor saxophone); Donny McCaslin (tenor saxophone, clarinet, flute); Scott Robinson: (baritone saxophone, bass clarinet, alto clarinet, clarinet); Tony Kadleck (trumpet, fluegelhorn); Greg Gisbert (trumpet, fluegelhorn); Augie Haas (trumpet, fluegelhorn); Mike Rodriguez (trumpet, fluegelhorn); Keith O'Quinn (trombone); Ryan Keberle: (trombone); Marshall Gilkes: (trombone); George Flynn: (bass trombone); Gary Versace: (accordion); Lage Lund (guitar); Frank Kimbrough (piano); Rogerio Boccato (percussion (8)); Clarence Penn (drums); Jay Anderson (bass).

Recorded August 2014, Avatar Studios, Room C, New York

ARTIST SHARE AS0137 [77:25]







Walking By Flashlight

The Monarch and the Milkweed

Arbiters of Evolution

The Thompson Fields



A Potter’s Song



Surprisingly, perhaps, for so well-known a musician as Maria Schneider, her latest disc is the product of fan-funding and the result, of which I have a promotional copy, is certainly attractive and very well produced. Whatever the byways by which it’s come to be, it reveals once more the rich tapestry of which she is capable of spinning in an album which takes topography, and the sense of place, as its core element.

There are eight pieces, and each one is orchestrated with her accustomed subtlety of colour and texture, and graced moreover by fine solo contributions from her estimable orchestra. Walking by Flashlight reveals its rich vistas, whilst The Monarch and the Milkweed – the inspiration here is a butterfly – owes much to Gil Evans’ example. The richly athletic coloration, from brass and percussion down, explores a romanticist cantilena with the trombone of Marshall Gilkes and the flugelhorn of Greg Gisbert overlapping avidly like pirouetting insects caught in a nature study.

The inspirations of the natural world are imprinted in this album; in that respect it is perhaps her most painterly disc yet. Bird cries call over the landscape of Arbiters of Evolution graced by two more plangent solos, this time by two saxes. Rural Minnesota is her landscape and the title track evokes its span in music of breadth but also simplicity. Harmonies are revealing but don’t overlook the deft guitar of Lage Lund. Schneider manages to evoke vistas with a great sense of distance. The chorale that opens Home is not reminiscent of Aaron Copland but she has something of his sense of encapsulating and codifying a sense of truly American feeling and this track summons up resilience and peace. But there is also drama in the flat Minnesotan landscape as she reveals in Nimbus, where Steve Wilson’s alto is the strong protagonist – after his ruminative, reflective pianissimo musings a really kicking groove ensues from the band. Gary Versace’s accordion imbues A Potter’s Song with intimacy and a chorale-sounding brass theme vests density, as well as the allusive piano pointing.

All in all, this album salutes the soil and the songbird, the view and the vision, and it’s composed and coloured with great skill. Schneider certainly calls on classical precedent, as indeed she does on Gil Evans’s influence, but she transmutes those influences to retain independence from those models and create her own landscape poetry.

Jonathan Woolf

Gerard Hoffnung CDs

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