Maria Schneider Orchestra: Concert in the Garden (2004)
Maria Schneider's first three recordings have been admirable, due not only to her insight as a composer and her skills as an arranger, but also to the musicians that make up her orchestra. It is they who are the architects of her plan, and they get fully involved, giving the final edifice a rich presence and making it a marvelous listening experience that will long linger in the mind.
While the main inspiration is Brazilian music and yes, the poem by Octavio Paz which gives the record its name, Schneider also uses flamenco, a tinge of the French countryside, as well as rumba and buleroa, which is derived from solea, with a faster tempo to add to the flavour. She brings her own perspective to these forms and gives the compositions an added dimension that strengthens their progression. Take the use of Gary Versace and the accordion on "Concert in the Garden." He evokes the magic of a quiet evening, the atmosphere relaxed and warm, the listener letting the music seep into the senses and basking in the glow. The arrangement locks the ensemble in long flowing lines, with a ripple that acts as the stimulus to a brisker, brighter evolution. There is also Ben Monder, whose guitar lights supple lines; and Frank Kimbrough, whose phrasing on the piano brings crisp elegance.
The movements on "Buleria, Solea y Rumba" are seamless. This is a remarkable composition; the music is stunning and the use of the voice of Luciano Souza as a bridge, and as the fadeaway, are moments of beauty. Donny McCaslin settles into the groove of the composition then improvises, jutting into the angular and pushing the edges while keeping a tight rein on tension.
The movement is different on "Choro Danïado," lithe and swaying and sensuous, as dance should be. The middle section, "Pas de Deux," is enveloped in a classical air taken at a leisurely pace and stamped by a lyrical solo by Ingrid Jensen on the flugelhorn.
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Track Listing: Concert in the Garden; Three Romances: Choro Dancado, Pas de Deux, Danca Illusoria; Buleria, Solea y Rumba
Personnel: Ben Monder--guitar; Frank Kimbrough--piano; Rich Perry--tenor saxophone; Ingrid Jensen--flugelhorn; Donny McCaslin--tenor saxophone; Charles Pillow--soprano saxophone; Gary Versace--accordion; Larry Farrell--trombone; Greg Gisbert--flugelhorn; Luciana Souza--vocals; a.o.