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Maria Schneider - The Thompson Fields / Buffalo News review

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"The subject is beauty," writes Maria Schneider to explain her composition "The Monarch and the Milkweed" on this magnificent, nature-drunk masterpiece, one of the great jazz records period, not just one of the great recent jazz records. "What is it exactly? Why does it exist? Many species are drawn to beauty and evolve according to it, or so it appears. But who is the decider of what's beautiful? … The latest news from key scientists is the discovery of a place in the brain they've named Field A1. It lights up on brain scans when something strikes a person as beautiful, whether musical, visual or even mathematical in nature. How many creatures have an A1? And if we judge beauty, not only within our own species, but also in the things around us, might other creatures recognize beauty outside their own species?" If so, not only have the A1s of jazz listeners been responding ecstatically to the music of this band (and variants thereof) for 25 years but, who knows, maybe Siamese cats and domesticated salamanders have, too. What is a sure thing is that the Field A1 in any jazz lover's brain will be lighting up auroras in apprehending everything about this utterly amazing disc, from its physical beauty full of Audubon bird paintings to Brienne Lermitte's gorgeous photographs of Schneider and her Minnesota home. Everything about this disc has a good chance of haunting you, from Schneider's compositions and the soloists in her orchestra (including Donny McCaslin, Scott Robinson and pianist Frank Kimbrough) to the poem by Ted Kooser that inspired "Walking By Flashlight" ("November 18/Cloudy, dark and windy./Walking by flashlight/at six in the morning,/my circle of light on the gravel/swinging side to side/coyote, raccoon, field mouse, sparrow,/each watching from darkness/this man with the moon on a leash.") This is by any possible assay at any possible time, a very special project. Schneider writes, "Making a recording like this is becoming increasingly difficult and would now be impossible without the generous support of many participants." It is only available through the remarkable composer/orchestra leader's website MariaSchneider.com. There is no more beautiful place on the Web in jazz to discover these days than that one. 4 stars (Jeff Simon)