With her new release, the magnificent Concert In The Garden , composer-arranger Maria Schneider has taken very real artistic and commercial risks. She has produced the CD herself, and has authorized a limited release, available only from her website. She has taken complete artistic and financial control of her music, with all the uncertainties inherent therein.
The music is certainly ambitious. The pieces are lengthy, and they flow effortlessly from one to the next, as if the entire album were one piece. Much of the music is through-composed, and the solos grow organically from the compositions, and always serve the music. The compositions integrate rhythms and forms from Spain and Brazil, reflecting Schneider's interest in the music and dance of these countries, and master drummer Clarence Penn effectively juggles all the complexities with sensitivity and swing. His sensitive brushwork (the late Mel Lewis called playing with brushes "the lost art") on "Danca Ilusoria" is especially noteworthy.
Everything works on this album. Schneider's compositions are pure beauty, with lines and motives opening up like flowers, supported by a dazzling variety of rhythms and tempi. Her voicings are unique in jazz, although the benign influence of Gil Evans and Bob Brookmeyer is subtly felt. These voicings include a literal voice, that of Luciana Souza, whose wordless syllables sound so wonderful alongside Gary Versace's accordion on the title piece.
The solos are all splendid. They are heartful, nuanced, imaginative, and appropriate to the music. In particular, Rich Perry's tenor turn on "Choro Dancado" and Ingrid Jensen's flugelhorn work on "Pas De Deus" are especially good. Jensen performs a soulful, intricate dance with Charles Pillow's soprano sax that reaffirms her stature as one of today's greatest jazz trumpeters. Concert In The Garden is an epic achievement, full of great music, lyricism, and life-affirming joy. It is a masterpiece.
Track Listing: Concert In The Garden; Three Romances: part 1 Choro Dancado, part 2 Pas De Deux, part 3 Danca Ilusoria; Buleria, Solea Y Rumba.
Personnel: Maria Schneider, composer, arranger, conductor; Tim Ries, Charles Pillow, Rich Perry, Donny McCaslin, Scott Robinson, saxophones, clarinets, flutes; Tony Kadleck, Greg Gisbert, Laurie Frink, Ingrid Jensen, trumpets, flugelhorns; Keith O'Quinn, Rock Ciccarone, Larry Farrell, trombones; George Flynn, bass trombone, contrabass trombone; Ben Monder, guitar; Frank Kimbrough, piano; Jay Anderson, bass; Clarence Penn, drums. Jeff Ballard, cajon and quinto cajon (track 5 only); Gonzalo Grau, cajon (track 5 only); Gary Versace, accordion (track 1 only); Luciana Souza, voice (tracks 1, 5), voice and Pandeiro (track 2); Pete McGuinness, trombone (tracks 3, 4); Andy Middleton, tenor sax (tracks 3, 4).