New & Old Treasures by Maria Schneider

Maria Schneider’s Jazz Orchestra plays at Birdland in midtown Manhattan this week, an unusual season and setting (usually they play at the Jazz Standard around Thanksgiving). The occasion is the premiere of a new, commissioned composition, and at Wednesday’s early set, it sounded as lovely as anything she’s written: joyful, melancholic, adventurous, pensive, with a samba swing.

She devoted much of the rest of the set to very early pieces, including an upbeat number she wrote for the (now-defunct) Carnegie Hall Jazz Band and an arrangement of the ballad standard “My Ideal” that she said she wrote in college. It was lush and gorgeous, in a Thad Jones sort of vibe, but also propulsive, with a flugelhorn solo by Tony Kadleck that sent shivers: so creamy I thought at first it was a flute, but also sinuous and fluent in its serpentine turns and twists, not at all “smooth” or schmaltzy.

A musician-composer that I went with said afterwards that Maria never makes a false move when it comes to voicings in the horn sections. True.

Scoop: Sometime this fall (it’s not clear exactly when), at Le Poisson Rouge, the eclectic club in Greenwich Village, the Kronos Quartet will play a string quartet that they commissioned her to write. They premiered it earlier this year at Duke. I heard them rehearse a movement of it in a practice room at Carnegie Hall a few weeks before then. It sounded terrific: not a scaled-down Maria Schneider orchestral piece but a full-blown string quartet, in the idiom of the genre, yet distinctively hers: alive with inventive rhythms and Technicolor harmonies.

clay's picture

I saw Maria's band last week at Birdland, they were amazing as usual! I talked to Maria after the show and she let me know that many of her scores are available for purchase through the ArtistShare website. I think it's such a great thing for young composers to be able to study the work of this master! If anyone is interested this is the link