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.
Traditional big band arranging focuses on give and take between sections - trumpets, trombones and reeds - with rhythm support. Spiced with counterpoint and polyrhythms, this approach still produces some very exciting music. That's not where Maria Schneider is at. She cuts across sections and emphasizes ensemble color and sound, a way pioneered by Ellington, and developed by her mentor, Gil Evans. In liner notes as moving as her music, Schneider describes her starting point. "…I cast out a few exploratory tones in search of meaningful sound. Given a little gestation time, the seeds of each piece started to pop, revealing something very personal. I found myself either on a journey back in time or deep inside myself, the music exposing even more than I'd consciously felt from any of the actual experiences. The experiences transmuted into sound…".
GRAMMY–NOMINATED – Best Large Jazz Ensemble Recording. There have been very few orchestral composers in jazz who achieved creative success, if only because such a combination of talents–from logistics to force of will to the openness to input from the players–is wildly rare. Maria Schneider, once a protégée of Gil Evans, has been demonstrating those talents since her orchestra's debut in 1994, Evanescence. The vagaries of big bands make working relationships particularly important, and Schneider is attuned to every nuance and timbre of her musicians.
Maria Schneider's debut as a leader is quite impressive. Her complex arrangements of her nine originals are most influenced by Gil Evans and Bob Brookmeyer, although her own musical personality shines through. There are strong solos from tenors Rick Margitza and Rich Perry, trumpeter Tim Hagan, altoist Tim Ries, and particularly pianist Kenny Werner, but it is the moody ensembles that most stick in one's mind. Schneider's arrangements are often dense, a bit esoteric, and thought-provoking; this music may need several listens for one to grasp all that is going on.
Composer/arranger Maria Schneider and her 18-piece orchestra perform a variety of advanced and difficult music on this CD. The centerpiece of the set is her three-part "Scenes from Childhood" which deals with fear, confusion and grudging acceptance; do not look here for any childlike melodies or playfulness. In addition the big band plays a reworked version of "Giant Steps," the "Love Theme from Spartacus," the Spanish-flavored "El Viento" (which is slightly reminiscent of Gil Evans's writing for Sketches of Spain) and "Waxwings."
Winter Morning Walks is the first partnership between Schneider and Upshaw, bringing together two preeminent figures in jazz and classical music. Schneider has been commissioned to compose for jazz orchestras and artists all over the world, has won two GRAMMY Awards and has been nominated for several more. Writing for TIME Magazine, Terry Teachout said, "To call Schneider the most important woman in jazz is missing the point two ways. She's a major composer-period." Upshaw was also deemed "one of the most consequential performers of our time" by the LA TIMES, is a multiple GRAMMY winner and MacArthur Fellow, and has performed at the Metropolitan Opera over 300 times. In 2004 Schneider pioneered the fan-funding model by becoming the first artist to sign with ArtistShare® to release 'Concert In The Garden,' the first web-exclusive recording to win a GRAMMY.
Il Farnace is the most re-written and re-proposed of Vivaldi’s operas, it’s like a beloved child who worries his father, and to whom the parent always wants to give the best. Versions of Farnace, two in 1727 and one each in 1730, 1731 and 1732, had been conceived and adapted to the different circumstances for Venice, Prague, Pavia and Mantua, always with a cast to Vivaldi’s satisfaction and with the composer in control of the production.
Concerts with Maria Schneider are something special. They are stylistically not only out of the ordinary, they also manage to bring large orchestras to perform artistically at high voltage, with an energy and at a creative level which is otherwise known only in much smaller ensembles. It is not the music alone that drives the participants, but rather the serene seriousness of a band leader who demands a maximum of intensity from her compositions and passes this premise on to their interpretation. It is impossible to conceive of compositions for jazz orchestras more stringently. The instrumentalists know this too, and therefore feel called upon not only to reproduce the charts accurately but to work out all the contained hints, implications, and visions of sound down to the deepest levels. This original recording was made in May 2000 when Schneider appeared alongside the SWR Big Band. And for the SWR Big Band, those days in May 2000 are some of the highlights of their orchestral history.