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Maria Schneider Orchestra highlightes newer works at Savannah Music Festival / jazzwise

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The middle period of the Savannah Music Festival featured most of its jazz shows, as the stylistic orientation shifted, throughout a 17-day run. This 29th edition celebrated the accustomed diverse blend of blues, country, classical, latin, cajun, flamenco, bluegrass and African musics.

The Maria Schneider Orchestra appeared at the splendidly retro-preserved Lucas Theatre For The Arts, opened way back in 1921. The composer's anticipated regulars were lined up, including Scott Robinson, Donny McCaslin (reeds), Ryan Keberle (trombone), Ben Monder (guitar), Frank Kimbrough (piano), Gary Versace (accordion) and Johnathan Blake (drums), all of them on fine soloing form. Schneider displayed her distinctive conducting style, both in its physical language, and in the resultant sonic colourations. While still selecting a few old favourites, the leader was intent on highlighting newer works, often with a topical edge. Her older chestnuts frequently celebrate nature, but 'Data Lords', for instance, is more concerned with criticising the social media beast, cannily anticipating recent developments. A bristling beginning featured a muted Mike Rodriguez trumpet, heavily reverbed as swirling dark clouds gathered for this foreboding AI warning. This is a much darker Schneider universe. Steve Wilson took an alto solo, then both of these soloists responded, as their leader's signals became increasingly agitated and insistent, prompting a free-form strengthening. George Flynn's gruff bass trombone provided a deep undercurrent throughout. Robinson and McCaslin soloed vigorously during 'Arbiters Of Evolution', exchanging repeated blasts as this leviathan trucked along, the latter saxophonist reaching a monumental climax, Robinson then quite wisely taking it way down to a serene level.
– Photos by Frank Stewart