From Bill's Desk
Maria Schneider Orchestra plays music from The Thompson Fields (and other works).
It’s not often that I fall in love with a CD to the extent that I play it constantly. Such is the case with Maria Schneider’s 2016 Grammy Award-winning The Thompson Fields, excerpts from which she and her orchestra will play at McCarter on Friday, February 23, along with other works from her vast repertoire. Maria Schneider is big-band royalty, like Wynton Marsalis and his Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra. Like Wynton, she is at once composer, arranger and conductor. She blurs the lines between genres—so her five Grammy nominations are in various categories. And her 20 musicians are an ensemble of equal caliber, a collective of talent whose individual members boast thriving careers of their own. So, what makes The Thompson Fields a landmark composition? Ask Fred Kaplan of Stereo Review: “It’s a masterpiece, and places Maria Schneider in the pantheon of big-band composer-leaders, just below Ellington, Strayhorn, and her mentor Gil Evans.” Nate Chinen of The New York Times agrees: “Schneider uses timbre and harmony to bring a tactile presence to the dimensions of sound.” Its title comes from a farm in southwest Minnesota where the composer was raised, and the music mimics the Minnesota landscape’s quality of being “both huge and intimate.” If you go to only one jazz concert this season and buy only one CD, make it this one and pick up a copy of The Thompson Fields while you’re at it. You won’t regret either decision.