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Romances, a new release from Summit Records' Education Division, prominently features the music of bandleader Maria Schneider, premiering the Three Romances commissioned of the composer by the University of Miami Concert Jazz Band. In addition to the aforementioned suite, the disc opens with Ms. Schnieder’s 1985 composition "Lately," featuring solos by bassist Dennis Marks, guitarist Jon Kreisberg, and trombonist Dante Luciani. The swing is easy and the horn charts lush and exact, in keeping with Schneider’s Ellington-influenced sense of swing.
Big band music of this ilk is orchestral by nature. It is not strictly blues-motivated, as was much of Ellington or Basie’s music. The majority of recent big band (all post-Kenton) compositions have been of colors and shades. While the idea of swing is present, it is not mandatory for the music, as this type of composition is more about shadows and light rather than motion or kinesis. Horace Silver’s "Gregory is Here" exemplifies this with respect to its score being complex and demanding for performance but not for listening. While not completely digested, this music is immediately appealing.
Ms. Schneider’s Three Romances are beautifully composed and rendered here by the big band. The first Romance, "Choro Dancado," is Brazilian in personality and features Mark Rose’s tenor saxophone and James Gasior’s piano. There is a heady soundtrack quality of the piece, a quality of celebration and honor. The Second Romance, "Pas De Deux," takes on a French patois, more introspective and impressionistic than the previous. Peter Clagett’s trumpet is highlighted, as is Kevin Russell’s refined soprano saxophone. "Dance Ilusoria" returns to the Latin realm as a foxtrot that waxes and wanes over the trains of a Portuguese melody. A fine big band offering, this time Stateside.
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.