Days of Wine and Roses, captured in a live performance at the Jazz Standard in New York, was originally packaged in 2000 with two bottles of Riesling wine for sale, conceived and promoted as a marriage of music and wine, when the project encountered difficulties as the laws governing the sale and ditribution of liquor prevented the sale of the album. Thus Maria Schneider decided to reissue the CD. The Grammy-winning composer/arranger/bandleader dedicated this album to the memory of engineer David Baker, who passed away in 2004 and was responsible for the live to two-track recordings of this release and Concert In The Garden.
This album is different from her previous work in many ways. First, there are no new original Schneider pieces here. The four original compositions date from earlier in her career, including one tune written while she was a student at the Eastman School of Music. Secondly, there are five standards, including Henry Mancini's title piece. Lastly, as of this writing, this album represents Schneider's only live recording session.
The concert opens with "Lately," a chart the leader originally intended for the Mel Lewis Big Band, a classic big band score with a mighty chorus from the reeds that is tastefully engaged by pianist Frank Kimbrough. "The Willow" plays like a graceful slow ballad, gently caressed by saxophonist Scott Robinson on baritone. Arlen's "Old Black Magic," previously arranged by Schneider for a Bob Brookmeyer project with the Cologne Radio Orchestra, features Rick Margitza on a sizzling tenor solo. It's followed by the soft and warm Whiting & Chase tune "My Ideal," which is arranged with the flugelhorn in mind and showcases Greg Gisbert and the woodwind section.
"Last Season" provides a delicious two and a half minutes of piano from Kimbrough and leads right into "Comercar De Novo," a sweet and moving number that Tim Ries embraces on a slow and emotion-filled soprano sax solo that seems to squeeze the notes so tightly that you can almost hear his sax cry. The title track is practically unrecognizable, as Schneider's arrangement tortures the melodies into submission until a fast-paced, sparkling up-tempo sound emerges. The beautiful rendition of Arlen's timeless treasure "Over The Rainbow" features an exquisite solo by Charles Pillow on alto. The last track, "Bird Count," provides a stage for many of the players to show their skills with almost ten minutes of solo performances from no less than five different instruments.
They say that all good things are worth waiting for, and I can think of no better example than this album. Days of Wine and Roses simply got better with time. Schneider's arrangements takes full advantage of a first-rate orchestra that shines with an array of inspired solo performances. As a concert, this event must have been a memorable experience to hear. As a recording, it is a pleasure to play often. Pop the cork and toast Maria Schneider and her fantastic orchestra for this heart-stopping musical treat.
Lately; The Willow; That Old Black Magic; My Ideal; Last Season; Come
Tim Ries: alto, soprano, clarinet and flute; Charles Pillow: alto, soprano, clarinet and flute; Rich Perry: tenor sax and flute; Rick Margitza: tenor sax and flute; Scott Robinson: baritone and bass saxes, clarinet and bass clarinet, clarinet and flute; Tony Kadleck: trumpet and fluegelhorn; Greg Gisbert: trumpet and fluegelhorn; Laurie Frink: trumpet and fluegelhorn; Ingrid Jensen: trumpet and fluegelhorn; Keith O'Quinn: trombone; Rock Ciccarone: trombone; Larry Farrell: trombone; George Flynn: bass trombone; Ben Monder: guitar; Frank Kimbrough: piano; Tony Scherr: bass; Tim Horner: drums.