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Maria Schneider Orchestra: The Thompson Fields

Dan Bilawsky By

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There's a wealth of information to be found inside the beautiful packaging that accompanies this release, but a brief Theodore Roosevelt quote may be the most telling piece of text to be found there. It reads: "There is nothing more practical in the end than the preservation of beauty, than the preservation of anything that appeals to the higher emotions in mankind." That really says it all about this artist and her work, for there is nobody more capable of harnessing emotions in music and projecting and preserving the beauty and power of the natural world in sound than Maria Schneider. She's demonstrated that time and again, and she does it once more on this awe-inspiring release.

The Thompson Fields arrives after a lengthy gestation: eight years after the last Maria Schneider Orchestra album—the stunning Sky Blue (ArtistShare, 2007). But if it takes Schneider that long to give proper birth to this quality of recorded music, so be it. You can't rush perfection, and this music is as close as you can get to that lofty and unattainable goal. Across these eight tracks, the Maria Schneider Orchestra puts ornithological ideals into play ("Arbiters Of Evolution"), works with nebulous themes and foreboding thoughts ("Nimbus"), takes a trip into Brazilian territory ("Lembranca"), pays tribute to one of its own dearly departed members ("A Potter's Song"), and bottles the attractively complex lingering scents of nostalgia and sentimentality.

As always, the singular personalities in this band help to elevate the music. Gary Versace's accordion wistfully traces its way across vast landscapes; Frank Kimbrough's piano is elemental, conjuring thoughts of gentle winds and the morning dew; Scott Robinson turns the alto clarinet into a thing of elegance and beauty ("Walking By Flashlight"); Marshall Gilkes' trombone and Greg Gisbert's fluegelhorn each balance the weighty and the wondrous in their expressions, eventually crossing paths while cresting the waves of the orchestra ("The Monarch And The Milkweed"); and guitarist Lage Lund draws on light and energy, spinning them both back out in controlled fashion. Those are just a few of the notable names, roles, and deeds, but those descriptions, admittedly, fall short. No words can properly convey the wonders embedded in this music.

Maria Schneider is truly fearless in her expression of self, creating grand statements and musical reveries built from intimate memories, thoughts, and feelings. Her willingness to share these experiences, her unparalleled skills at molding them into music, and the talents of the musicians who populate her orchestra all contribute to the success that is The Thompson Fields.

Track Listing: Walking By Flashlight; The Monarch And The Milkweed; Arbiters Of Evolution; The Thompson Fields; Home; Nimbus; A Potter's Song; Lembranca.

Personnel: Steve Wilson: alto saxophone, soprano saxophone, clarinet, flute, alto flute; Dave Pietro: alto saxophone, soprano saxophone, clarinet, flute, alto flute, bass flute, piccolo; Rich Perry: tenor saxophone; Donny McCaslin: tenor saxophone, clarinet, flute; Scott Robinson: baritone saxophone, bass clarinet, alto clarinet, clarinet; Tony Kadleck: trumpet, fluegelhorn; Greg Gisbert: trumpet, fluegelhorn; Augie Haas: trumpet, fluegelhorn; Mike Rodriguez: trumpet, fluegelhorn; Keith O'Quinn,: trombone; Ryan Keberle: trombone; Marshall Gilkes: trombone; George Flynn: bass trombone; Gary Versace: accordion; Lage Lund: guitar; Frank Kimbrough: piano; Rogerio Boccato: percussion (8); Clarence Penn: drums; Jay Anderson: bass.

Title: The Thompson Fields | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: ArtistShare

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