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Maria Schneider Orchestra - The Thompson Fields / Voice Of America

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Maria Schneider's big band has remained together nearly 25 years, extending into the 21st century the orchestral jazz tradition exemplified by Duke Ellington and her mentor Gil Evans. "The Thompson Fields" is her first new jazz orchestra recording in eight years, and the result is a masterpiece likely to garner multiple Grammy nominations.

The CD opens with "Walking by Flashlight,'' an instrumental adaptation of a theme from her 2013 album, "Winter Morning Walks," with soprano Dawn Upshaw and a chamber orchestra that won three Grammys in classical categories. Scott Robinson's poignant alto clarinet evokes images of an early morning walk through a gently windswept prairie field inspired by a poem by Nebraskan Ted Kooser.

If Ellington's compositions reflected the heartbeat of urban America, Schneider's themes draw inspiration from the landscapes, flora and fauna of rural America, particularly the open prairies near her childhood home in southwestern Minnesota.