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Maria Schneider: Voll-Damm International Jazz Festival, Barcelona, Spain, October 20, 2011

Maria Schneider: Voll-Damm International Jazz Festival, Barcelona, Spain, October 20, 2011
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Maria Schneider Orchestra
43rd Voll-Damm International Jazz Festival
Barcelona, Spain
October 20, 2011
Legend has it that a girl from Windom, in the agrarian depths of Minnesota, conquered territories banned to her human nature. They claimed that Maria Schneider, the name by which that little girl still goes by, had the ability to fly and make everyone in her domains do so. Many say that it is from above, where they were shown the truths revealed from her acrobatics. Others insist on staying grounded, as if they need to cling to the earth so as to catch a glimpse of what they are capable of when Maria Schneider starts her walk. But what they would never doubt is that with Schneider, everything seems possible. But legend never had it that she could dance as well.
Wisely enough, those responsible for setting up the 43th Barcelona Voll-Damm International Jazz Festival wanted to make the legend bigger, awarding Schneider with the festival's Gold Medal, the fourth after Bebo Valdes
Bebo Valdes
Bebo Valdes
1918 - 2013
piano
, Wayne Shorter
Wayne Shorter
Wayne Shorter
b.1933
saxophone
and Sonny Rollins
Sonny Rollins
Sonny Rollins
b.1930
saxophone
). It's important to realize that her orchestra, conducted by the composer/arranger, is considered one of the best on the planet. Quid pro quo, Schneider confessed that she was in her favorite city and her top choice venue, after a great experience back in 2003 leading the Danish Radio Big Band together with singer Ivan Lins
Ivan Lins
Ivan Lins
b.1945
keyboard
and harmonicist Toots Thielemans
Toots Thielemans
Toots Thielemans
b.1922
harmonica
. Her 2011 show was to be the first she would share with her own orchestra, with whom she gave a panoramic concert at the festival's request, having performed with her band on two past occasions, but never at the Palau. The compositions that made her the best orchestrator worldwide came down, one after another.
The night started with "Green Piece," from Evanescence, Enja, 1994, a nearly programmatic composition that foreshadowed what would come after. An abbreviated story of the dissolution of swing, with her band members elastically playing with the limits of what is jazz, multifaceted baritone saxophonist Scott Robinson
Scott Robinson
Scott Robinson
b.1959
reeds
was outstanding, recalling the great Serge Chaloff
Serge Chaloff
Serge Chaloff
b.1923
sax, baritone
. Tenor saxophonist Rich Perry also made a good point, when the issue was whether or not Schneider could give her collaborators the necessary freedom, providing such moments in Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington
1899 - 1974
piano
's "Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue" or Grant Green
Grant Green
Grant Green
1935 - 1979
guitar
's "Idle Moments." Here, the magic came from the spontaneous, not from what was written—from the instinct to sense prodigy forged without notice.

Maria Schneider's music was otherwordly. She used her jazz orchestra to build a personal outlook on the world, whether it was Gil Evans
Gil Evans
Gil Evans
1912 - 1988
composer/conductor
or Maurice Ravel in the shadow, since the goal was the flight, not the means. The journey reached Rio de Janeiro, attacking romance with "Choro Dançado," from Concert in the Garden (ArtistShare, 2004), and the new, as-yet-unreleased "Lembrança," which looked back at Schneider's Brazilian experiences vwith Paulo Moura
Paulo Moura
Paulo Moura
1929 - 2010
clarinet
. The two artists share the conviction that it's the music that helps you live and get by which really matters. Gary Versace
Gary Versace
Gary Versace

organ, Hammond B3
's accordion solos (soon to appear in Barcelona, on piano, with singer Madeleine Peyroux) were essential components to Schneider's orchestra.

With the festival supporting a revision of Schneider's repertoire, it was time for "Gumba Blue," an orthodox return to jazz roots, to the genre's earthly cradle, also found in Evanescence. The occasion gave way to a magnificent display by trombonists Ryan Keberle
Ryan Keberle
Ryan Keberle
b.1980
trombone
and Bart van Lier, each faithful to their own style yet both festive, as the music demanded. The surprising "Thompson Fields" came halfway through the show, unreleased theme for the evening, making it clear that beauty can be around the most unexpected corner. The piece stemmed from Schneider's American sources, but headed towards the realms of eeriness, of ethereal territories, of vast terrains and blinding light. Her childhood memories in Minnesota brought the piece close to singer/songwriter Joni Mitchell
Joni Mitchell
Joni Mitchell
b.1943
vocalist
's Travelogue (Nonesuch, 2002), broadening the connection to Charlie Haden
Charlie Haden
Charlie Haden
1937 - 2014
bass, acoustic
's Beyond the Missouri Sky (Verve, 1997), with guitarist Pat Metheny
Pat Metheny
Pat Metheny
b.1954
guitar
, paired with the bassist's American Dreams (Gitanes, 2002). There was even the elongated and melancholic shadow that singer/songwriter Randy Newman
Randy Newman
Randy Newman
b.1943
piano
stamped on his soundtrack to the 1984 film, The Natural.

As for the soloists, it was a given that Ben Monder
Ben Monder
Ben Monder
b.1962
guitar
would be grand, but his performance will undoubtedly become a part of the festival's history. It only lasted for a few minutes, but it was clear what Maria Schneider meant to tell through him. Likewise, Frank Kimbrough
Frank Kimbrough
Frank Kimbrough
b.1956
piano
knew how to interpret the composer's intentions brilliantly.

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