Composer and orchestra leader Maria Schneider won her first Grammy for her 2004 ArtistShare album, Concert In The Garden, and now has garnered two Grammy nominations for her 2007 release, Sky Blue. Nominated for "Best Large Ensemble Album and "Best Instrumental Composition ("Cerulean Skies ), Schneider cements her reputation as one of the great composers of our time. What is clearly evident from the outset is that Sky Blue is not your typical big band recording. Those expecting the swing and swagger of a big band production are in for a surprise.
Schneider pushes the boundaries of jazz, presenting musical scores that center on her fascination with birds, and attempts to pen an imaginative musical tale of avian migration from the perspective of New York's Central Park. The result is five lengthy charts with the album's signature piece being the almost twenty-two minute "Cerulean Skies. The music is airy and spacious and not at all bound by the normal parameters one is accustomed to hearing from orchestral music.
Of course it helps to produce a unique concept album when you have one of the finest jazz orchestras in the country. The personnel reads like a list of all-stars, including master saxophonist Charles Pillow, as well as tenor saxophonists Rich Perry and Donny McCaslin, trumpeters Tony Kadleck and Ingrid Jensen and pianist Frank Kimbrough.
Perry is honored with the Schneider composition, "Rich's Piece, where he delivers an appreciable solo. Steve Wilson, another monster musician, provides a soprano solo on the title tune, while the opening statement, "The 'Pretty' Road, features Jensen on flugelhorn and trumpet with electronic effects.
The music is quite different from what one is accustomed to hearing from a big band project; then again Maria Schneider is quite different from the average music composer/bandleader of today and her Grammy nods prove it. For a departure from the norm, Sky Blue is serious sophisticated jazz with a message that this stuff is definitely not for the birds!
01. The Pretty Road; 02. Aires de Lando; 03. Rich's Piece; 04. Cerulean Skies; 05. Sky Blue
Steve Wilson, Charles Pillow, Rich Perry, Donny McCaslin, Scott Robinson (sax, flauti e clarinetti); Tony Kadleck, Jason
Carder, Laurie Frink, Ingrid Jensen (trombe e flicorni); Keith O'Quinn, Ryan Keberle, Marshall Gilkes (trombone); George
Flynn (trombone basso); Ben Monder (chitarra); Frank Kimbrough (piano); Jay Anderson (basso); Clarenece Penn (batteria); Gonzalo
Grau, Jon Wikan (cajon e percussioni); Gary Versace (fisarmonica); Luciana Sousa (voce).