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Maria Schneider - The Thompson Fields / review

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Arranger/conductor/ composer Maria Schneider has resided at the intersection of avant-garde jazz and modern classical ever since her time assisting adventurous orchestrator Gil Evans in the 1980s. Inspired by the colors and subtleties of Evans' experimental post-bop aesthetic, Schneider soon found her own métier. It's a shimmering, soft, dynamic, often thematic sound on magically eccentric albums, with or without her 18-piece orchestra. She also has made inventive, twilit recordings starring David Bowie, classical vocalist Dawn Upshaw, and harmonica master Toots Thielemans. The Thompson Fields reunites Schneider and orchestra for their first album in eight years. She applies somber yet sun-dappled tones to homesick ruminations of Minnesota (a feel for birds and gorgeous vistas haunts her work). "Nimbus" conjures up the weight of graying cumulus and rumbling rhythms of coming storms. "The Monarch and the Milkweed" flutters as gently as its namesake butterfly. Rhythms of another sort - samba - are given an intense yet tender workout by her brass and percussion section. In "Walking by Flashlight," main soloist Scott Robinson on alto clarinet portrays the thrill and fear of such a mission. "Arbiters of Evolution" allows the orchestra to soar like birds. Schneider's big-band compositions are true wonders of the world.  SEE THE FULL PAGE