|Strong, sensitive, colorful, possessed of great depth of feeling, funny, worried, secure, insecure, highly skilled, naturally gifted, dedicated to growth ... listening to a tape I have heard many times and thinking about a person I know very well, these are some initial thoughts that become words ... words that hopefully can convey a little of what is inside me.|
Real leaders, especially of large ensembles, are so rare these past years as to be a novelty. The so-called "big band" has been fading since the 1970's. Reason: no composers who can also organize, rehearse, conduct and perform convincingly in public. To know a woman who can do all of these things so well is a double pleasure - not being overly impressed, during the last 10,000 years or so, with a male-dominated socio-political structure and also having ears subjected to dreary hours of attempts to "find a market" for the music, as so much of band music does. Thad and Mel, George Russell, Gil Evans, Don Ellis, Toshiko ... it really isn't a very long list that comes to mind. I am consequently every grateful to Maria for being such a good composer, such a good bandleader and such a pleasure to watch - and hear - as a conductor. Too bad I'm not young enough to be in the band.
I was fortunate enough to have her as a "student", terrible word that it is, in the early and mid 1980's. From me she went to Gil Evans, as arranger, assistant and general support mechanism. I think that Gil and I were very lucky - certainly Gil's sense of color has had a profound effect on Maria, and she and I talked a lot about development and structure. We still do. You can also judge, quite accurately I think, where she's at by the musicians she selects. Kenny Werner called me after the recording, raving about the music and Maria's command of the situation. Maria and I did a lot of talking, in our early stages, about being female in a male preserve, and my support was constant, simply stated as - after many years of sitting in rows on bandstands, that the appearance of a lovely face would be as fresh air, after all those ugly men I had to look at. Also, contrary to accepted wisdom, musicians welcome goodness, skill, musicality and talent, wherever it comes from. They are also quick to spot fraud, so Maria's tenure as a successful bandleader in New York and Europe is adequate testimony.
You may get the impression that I like this person, and you would be correct. I recently had a quick, large vocal project to do in Cologne, and - needing help - the first person I called was Maria Schneider. I am very hard to please in music, so that must be my highest praise. It is a thorough pleasure to welcome Maria to the world, and to your ears, and to invite her to a long, productive and successful life as a composer, conductor and teacher, which she now is. Hmm ... maybe I'll call for a lesson. - Bob Brookmeyer
People often ask, "How does a girl from a small prairie town like Windom, Minnesota, come to study and work with many of her jazz heroes and lead her own jazz orchestra in New York?"
It all began for me at age five, when Evelyn Butler, a dynamic, redheaded classical and stride jazz pianist, blew into my hometown from Chicago. Smitten from the first moment I heard her lay into a keyboard, I had to study with her. Over the next thirteen years, she whetted my curiosity for how music works by teaching me classical and jazz theory from lesson one. For me, she was Windom's most treasured resource.
I received a Bachelor of Music degree in theory and composition from the University of Minnesota. The emphasis was European music, but my simultaneous admiration for American composers such as Duke Ellington, George Russell, Gil Evans, Thad Jones and Bob Brookmeyer turned my direction to jazz. This new focus brought me to the University of Miami, then to the Eastman School of Music where I earned a Master of Music degree in jazz writing and contemporary media under Rayburn Wright, a phenomenal teacher.
Striving for more in my writing, I moved to New York City in 1985 and searched out Bob Brookmeyer. Bob's ingenuity, his ideas about minimizing materials and developing a sense for form, and the wonderful spirit and drama of his music opened a new world. He expressed appreciation for my feminine side, something he inspired me to value rather than hide. What a gift, to have a mentor believe in you - at times more than you believe in yourself. He told Mel Lewis about me, and soon I had the thrill of hearing Mel and his band play some of my music.
On day composer and bandleader Tom Pierson and I were sharing thoughts, and I expressed my admiration for Gil Evans' music. Unaware of Tom and Gil's close friendship, I was astonished when Tom called to say that Gil, in need of an assistant, asked to meet me. Over the next three years, the last years of Gil's life, we worked on challenging projects together, including the film The Color of Money and arrangements for Sting’s European concert with the Gil Evans Orchestra. Gil's spirit and music are part of me, and our relationship is one I will always cherish. In June of 1993, Anita Evans asked me to conduct Gil's band at the Spoleto Festival in a performance of selections from Miles Ahead, Porgy & Bess, Sketches of Spain and Quiet Nights. I will never forget the experience of conducting that music amidst the collective love we all felt for Gil.
Eventually I needed to write for a group with no preordained style, a group to test my own ideas and develop my own sound. Mel Lewis urged me to start a band. In 1989 I did this with trombonist and writer John Fedchock who had moved to New York after seven years with Woody Herman. Our band performed in New York for three years. My current group is an offshoot of that band. The players have impressive lists of credits, but beyond that, each is wonderfully unique as a musician and as a person. They give soul and nuance to my music. I am proud to have them bring my work to life for you.
-- Maria Schneider
|Wyrgly -- Rick Margitza (tenor) John Fedchock (trombone) Ben Monder (guitar|
|Evanescence -- Rich Perry (tenor) Tim Hagans (trumpet)|
|Gumba Blue -- Greg Gisbert (trumpet) Kenny Werner (piano)|
|Some Circles -- Rich Perry (tenor)|
|Green Piece -- Rick Margitza (tenor) Kenny Werner (piano)|
|Gush -- Tim Ries (soprano)|
|My Lament -- Rick Margitza (tenor)|
|Dance You Monster to My Soft Song - Ben Monder (guit.) Tim Hagans (trumpet)|
|Last Season -- Tim Hagans (fluegelhorn) Tim Ries (soprano)|
|Mark Vinci - alto, flute, alto flute, clarinet and piccolo|
Tim Ries - alto, soprano, flute and clarinet
Rich Perry - tenor and flute
Rick Margitza - tenor
Scott Robinson - baritone, bass sax, bass clarinet and clarinet
Tony Kadleck - trumpet
Greg Gisbert - trumpet
Laurie Frink - trumpet
Tim Hagans - trumpet
John Fedchock - trombone
Keith O'Quinn - trombone
Larry Farrell - trombone
George Flynn - bass trombone and tuba
Ben Monder - guitar
Kenny Werner - piano
Jay Anderson - bass
Dennis Mackrel - drums
Emidin Rivera - percussion on 'Gush'
Bil Hayes - flexatone on 'Gush'