James Hale--DOWNBEAT review
12/18/2014 5:19:44 PM -


Maria Schneider Orchestra
Sky Blue
ArtistShare 0065
* * * * *

From her frequent references to her past, Maria Schneider clearly doesn’t mind that people continue to think of her in terms of the brief mentorship she severed with Gil Evans. But Sky Blue - her sixth recording – moves her so far into a highly personal form of expression that any further comparison is beside the pint. She now has become entrenched among the ranks of America’s leading composers.

Although it has much to savor, it is impossible not to view the 22-minute “Cerulean Skies” as both the centerpiece of the album and the high point of her career. Inspired by her lifelong pursuit of bird watching, the piece follows a tried-and-true formula that might be at home in any television documentary on ornithology. However, the execution – featuring expressive solos by saxophonists Donny McCaslin and Charles Pillow and accordionist Gary Versace – lifts it above the ordinary. Schneider’s writing also brings the journey from South American forests to New York’s Central Park to life without raising thoughts of Walt Disney. Evoking Aaron Copland as much as her usual musical forebears – Evans and Bob Brookmeyer – the work is an aural journey that speaks directly to the human soul and seems familiar on some essential level.

“The ‘Pretty’ Road” also takes the listener on a journey, with trumpeter Ingrid Jensen expressing the joy and wonder that Schneider once felt as her family’s car crested the gentle hill overlooking her hometown in rural Minnesota. Reaching back to Schneider’s earliest recordings, Jensen has had a knack for capturing the composer’s love of movement and flight. She has a slight recklessness in her playing that introduces an attractive element of mystery – a welcome balance to Schneider’s homey themes.

In the Duke Ellington mode, Schneider understands how to provide both direction and freedom to bring out the best in her soloists. Clarinetist Scott Robinson (on “Aires de Lando”), tenor saxophonist Rich Perry (“Rich’s Piece”) and soprano saxophonist Steve Wilson (“Sky Blue”) take her music to rich and rewarding places.

For Schneider, the question is no longer whether she can sustain the heights she has attained on earlier recordings; it is now how far her musical journey will take her.

DOWNBEAT -- James Hale
[Winter Morning Walks] ***** (five stars) "I regard this album as the most important set of song cycles since Andre Previn's 'Honey and Rue' and Peter Lieberson's 'Neruda Songs–and that is exceptionally high praise ... This is a phenomenal recording. Enough said."


-- AUDIOPHILE AUDITION - STEVEN RITTER
'Winter Morning Walks' -- "Lyrical, flowing, intimately expressive, with all the elements of words, music, voice and instruments in a seamless blend, this is music to fall in love with the first time — then immediately want to hear again. "


-- NEW ENGLAND PUBLIC RADIO -- John Montanari
"[Winter Morning Walks] is a sterling standard for American art song."


-- SAN FRANCISCO CLASSICAL VOICE -- Jeff Kaliss
'Winter Morning Walks' -- "hauntingly beautiful"


-- NPR's "ALL SONGS CONSIDERED"
"Led by its visionary composer, the remarkable Maria Schneider Orchestra made its Detroit debut Sunday afternoon, performing her exquisitely orchestrated, walking-on-air compositions with passion, nuance and unanimity of thought and feeling. The sheer elation of the music was profoundly moving."




-- FREEP.COM -- Mark Stryker
"From the lustrous opening chords of a Maria Schneider concert, you can feel you are swept off your feet and falling through space - but with the certainty that someone with a lot of emotional intelligence is there to catch you."

-- THE GUARDIAN -- JOHN FORDHAM
 "...she puts together stories that speak with the clarity of Ernest Hemingway and the musical grace of Aaron Copland."

-- PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW -- Bob Karlovits
“Maria Schneider’s orchestral jazz is about feeling.  Like Wayne Shorter, she somehow expresses compassion through tones.”

-- NEW YORK TIMES -- Ben Ratliff
"She now has become entrenched among the ranks of America's leading composers. ... For Schneider, the question is no longer whether she can sustain the heights she has attained on earlier recordings; it is now how far her musical journey will take her."

-- DOWNBEAT***** -- James Hale
“To call Schneider the most important woman in jazz is missing the point two ways.  She is a major composer–period.” – TIME MAGAZINE

-- TIME MAGAZINE -- Terry Teachout
"Twenty-one musicians of tremendous technical sophistication and emotional energy channel their talents through the direction of the most significant big-band jazz composer of our time."

-- CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR -- Norman Weinstein
"It seemed impossible for Schneider top her Grammy-winning Concert in the Garden, but she's done just that with Sky Blue. She has elevated her music to a seemingly impossible height. ... Cerulean Skies” is the masterpiece within a masterpiece, ... Magnificent. A magical work of art, from beginning to end."

-- ALL ABOUT JAZZ -- Dan McClenaghan
"Blue, as in "Sky Blue" and "Cerulean Skies," reflects the young colorist's Picasso-like "blue period." Like the symbolic overtones associated with the color itself, Schneider's luminous, azure odes are imbued with mystery and serenity, beauty and truth."

-- HARTFORD COURANT -- Owen McNally
"What she does, across the five elegant tracks of Sky Blue, is to create new strands of melody - finely crafted yet tough as steel cable - set within orchestrations that are richly detailed and unhurried, lush but never schmaltzy."

-- THE GUARDIAN -- John L Walters
"Plan on wearing out this album [Sky Blue], because you will want to keep listening for deeper insights. All those little digits will eventually get their edges worn off from being played so often."

-- TUCSON CITIZEN -- Chuck Graham
"Sky Blue is an album of remarkable depth and beauty—an expansive, imagery laden experience, from an artist who’s ready to be considered in the same breath as those who’ve been so important to her own development."

-- ALL ABOUT JAZZ -- John Kelman
"Thanks to engineer Joe Ferla, the sound on Sky Blue is as charming as the music. "What is most personal," Schneider affirms, "can also be what is most universal." Sky Blue is an intimate statement that speaks openly to everyone who appreciates exemplary music."

-- ALL ABOUT JAZZ - Jack Bowers
"The disc [Sky Blue] is by far her most ambitious. It is also much more than your father's big band jazz dressed up with classical flourishes. It is integrated, orchestral, composed with specific musicians in mind and among the most arresting, accomplished music of the new century."

-- THE OTTAWA CITIZEN -- Doug Fischer
"The best album of 2004, by a wide margin, was Maria Schneider's Concert in the Garden (ArtistShare). Critics need to be careful not to mistake taste for trend, so I'm not sure how much to make of it that both this and Wayne Shorter's Alégria, my favorite from 2003, are Spanish-tinged. But this is unmistakably a step ahead for Schneider, whose voicings are as pellucid as any by her mentor Gil Evans, and whose touch, like Ellington's, is evident even in her sidemen's improvised solos."

-- VILLAGE VOICE -- Francis Davis
Let's cut to the chase: I LOVE THIS ALBUM. This is the most lush, lovely collection of music my ears have indulged in for quite some time. There's gorgeous writing; inventive, original, and captivating arranging, and a sympathetic cast of soloists and players.

-- Jack Skowron -- THE AUDIOPHILE VOICE
"Schneider brought her Jazz Orchestra to Disney Concert Hall on Wednesday with a program defining her unique style, its multiple pleasures, and its importance to contemporary jazz. …Schneider led her ensemble with graceful gestures, the subtleties of her conducting movements clearly bringing extraordinary layers of dynamic intensity to the performance. Like the music of her most obvious predecessors -- Duke Ellington and Gil Evans -- Schneider's reaches toward a significant new level of imagination, making hers the first truly novel approach to big jazz band composition of the new century."

LA TIMES: Don Heckman

-- LA TIMES: DOn Heckman
"Maria Schneider is both painter and aural poet..."

-- ALL ABOUT JAZZ -- R.J. DeLuke (Troy, NY Concert)
"With her third album, Allegresse, Schneider... has painted her masterpiece. ...This very well could be the finest jazz album of the year..."

-- BILLBOARD MAGAZINE
"If anyone is passing out awards for new American music, he should consider composer Maria Schneider."

-- THE NEWS AND OBSERVER (Raleigh, NC)
"Schneider has clearly learned Lester Young's gentle advice for those mining the Jazz tradition: 'You got to be original, man.'"

-- JAZZTIMES
Bio and Press Quotes Nov. 2014
Downloadable Biography in "WORD"
Live Conducting Photos from Brazil
3 color live conducting photos by Dani Gurgel
Website: www.danigurgel.com.br
2007 Press Photos (Red)
Two photos on red background by Jimmy and Dena Katz.
2007 Press Photos (Chair Holding Music)
One photo by Jimmy and Dena Katz.
2007 Press Photos (Brown)
Two photos on brown background by Jimmy and Dena Katz.
2007 Press Photo (Chair, facing forward)
One photo by Jimmy and Dena Katz
2007 Press Photo (Window)
Photo by Jimmy and Dena Katz
2007 Press Photo (Sky Blue Cover)
Photo by Jimmy and Dena Katz
2007 Press Photo (At Piano)
Photo by Jimmy and Dena Katz
WINTER MORNING WALKS REVIEW – Audiophile Audition Sept. 11, 2013
In Memory of Laurie Frink
The Quiet Marriage of Poet and Composer ("Winter Morning Walks" with Upshaw and ACO at Carnegie Hall)
Music With All the Fixings (Maria Schneider Orchestra -- Jazz Standard) WALL STREET JOURNAL
Maria Schneider: Voll-Damm International Jazz Festival, Barcelona, October 20, 2011
CONCERT REVIEW -- OJAI FESTIVAL
Jazz and the Australian Chamber Orchestra in San Francisco
First Try Proves a Winner
Jazz Composer Schneider's Premier Gets Delicious Reading by Upshaw, SPCO
James Hale--DOWNBEAT review
CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR--Norman Weinstein
THE GUARDIAN - John L Walters
IRISH TIMES - Ray Comiskey
The Leader of Her Band - WALL STREET JOURNAL