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Larry Litt


Maria Schneider Orchestra
Maria Schneider

Jazz Standard
116 East 27th Street
New York, NY
Reviewed by Larry Litt Nov. 26, 2013

Jazz Standard, New York’s venerable night club, was turned into a majestic forest of sound images when the Maria Schneider Orchestra created whole realms of verdant myth and magic onstage.

With little introduction Ms Schneider’s 18 piece band opened with “Green Piece” where a soprano saxophone pushed its way through layers of soil and leaf cover as the patter of rain from the piano nourished the seedling then drained onto rough water from a brook then into a creek traveling over rocks and swirling in pools of ice cold water.

Trombone solo after the mood setting percussion introduction to “Gumba Blue” had me thrilling at a very hungry cat through a jungle of fast paced creatures keeping their distance. Meanwhile, coming from the opposite direction with a brazen attitude of aggressive superiority an equally hungry hyena trumpet heads toward the trombone. The trumpet smells the big cat, howls to his pack then runs off. A chattering monkey guitar watches this show from on high branches all the while knowing cats can climb trees. He quickly moves higher and higher fading into the background foliage. Monkey once again is surrounded by a jungle of sound. An epic battle is averted, the jungle lives with its roaming predatory combatants ready to fight for food on another day.

Dusk, the start of a windy, active night in the forests of “El Viento.” It’s time for the baritone sax’s nocturnal foragers to prowl. They overturn rocks and gleefully fill their mouths with insects, worms and grubs. Such happiness but not for long. More food, always more food needed to keep this big body ever growing. Where to next, where to turn, where are they hiding, under what? As the night grows older the fastest trombone runs wild after catching and killing prey, jumping from tree to tree, while satisfied coyote’s trumpet yowls happiness after discovering a nest of rabbits.

There’s no shielding the passions of night feeders. They prowl in silence on paths no wider than their hind legs. Their noses ever alert for prey. Then as morning comes they find a place to sleep, to re-energize themselves for the next night of wandering, feeding and ecstasy.

We’re back by the side of a creek where clay banks attract potters with its natural kaolin. “Remembering Laurie Frink” the influential trumpet mistress and teacher was also a highly skilled potter, has me listening to the creek’s running water as I dig deeply into the brown-grey bank with wide bladed shovel. She joyfully carries the heavy bag of clay to her studio where as she pulls some out she can dig her hands deep, deeper into the still moist clay. An accordian solo turns the potter’s wheel in an eternal round and round fugue as the thrown pot is brought to life. Finally the potter’s hands that play the trumpet combine the clay into a hybrid of music and craftsmanship. We walk out of the studio with a prize for our collection.

The sky opens as trombones herald the end of the rains, the dawn approaches and I look ahead to transcendental flight “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” Light of day glorifies the night and rains. Animal awaken making their calls and sounds.

We are privileged to wtness the “Arbiters of Evolution” Ms Scheiders interpretation of ground dances Indonesian Birds of Paradise create during their mating rituals. Competition is fierce between males seeking the asttention of females who ruthlessly judge the dancers. Saxophone, piano and accordian are dancing birds whose greatest pleasure comes from mating.

I heard the Maria Schneider Orchestra at Jazz Standard at the start of the Thanksgiving weekend. I didn’t have time to sort out the soloists as I was leaving town the next morning. You can look them up on Maria Schneider’s website or on youtube.com. The performance videos are brilliant, well produced and mostly in HD.


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