×

Maria Schneider Jazz Orchestra

Playing in a large Los Angeles concert hall for the first time Wednesday night, the Maria Schneider Jazz Orchestra gave us a startlingly different yet wonderful vision of what a big band can sound like. In fact, there were a couple of passages that rose to the spine-chilling level of sublime -- and when was the last time that happened at a big band concert?

With:
Band: Steve Wilson, Charles Pillow, Rich Perry, Donny McCaslin, Scott Robinson, Tony Kadleck, Greg Gisbert, Jon Owens, Ingrid Jensen, Keith O'Quinn, Rock Ciccarone, Larry Farrell, George Flynn, Ben Monder, Frank Kimbrough, Jay Anderson, Clarence Penn, Jon Wikan, Hugo Alcazar. Conductor:  Maria Schneider.  Reviewed Feb. 8, 2006.

Playing in a large Los Angeles concert hall for the first time Wednesday night, the Maria Schneider Jazz Orchestra gave us a startlingly different yet wonderful vision of what a big band can sound like. In fact, there were a couple of passages that rose to the spine-chilling level of sublime — and when was the last time that happened at a big band concert?

A small-town Minnesota native, as she enthusiastically pointed out several times, Schneider became a protegee of Gil Evans (quite a role model) toward the end of his life.  Since then, she has established a solid foothold in the New York jazz scene as a progressive big-band leader, even breaking some ground last year when her “Concert in the Garden” CD became the first Internet-only-distributed album to win a Grammy  (available through Mariaschneider.com).      There are still trace elements of Evans in Schneider’s harmonic writing, yet she has evolved far beyond his influence — finding new combinations of color within big-band conventions, daring to give the hoary old accordion a distinctive lead voice, using the piano, electric guitar and drum kit in a painter-like fashion and leading her band with graceful swimming motions.

There are overt displays of autobiography in Schneider’s work, distinct storylines, moments when the pulse disappears and the mood is everything.  Indeed, Schneider’s band has more of a kinship with Europe’s adventurous big bands than it does with her mostly tradition-shackled American colleagues.

The opening number, the title track from “Concert in the Garden,” set the table gorgeously, with gong-like use of cymbals, a high note on the accordion resembling the whine of bowed crotales, clusters from the piano and a samba groove gently propelling the piece on its way.

The evening’s other revelation was “The Pretty Road,” which Schneider described at length as a love song to her hometown of Windom, Minn. It’s a narrative tone poem, opening with plain, sturdy Midwestern harmonies, building in volume and drive until it dissolves in a tranquil, idyllic, touching vision of a small town as seen from high on a hill.

“Aires de Lando,” a commission from the Los Angeles Philharmonic, explored South American cross-rhythms in a laid-back, tango-like groove, and “Hang Gliding” was a graphic play-by-play of the thrills and terror of a hang gliding episode Schneider experienced in Brazil.

Big-band concerts usually strive to leave you breathless and super-charged. This one made you feel contemplative, absorbed, emotionally moved. Just like Gil.

Popular on Variety

Maria Schneider Jazz Orchestra

Walt Disney Concert Hall, 2,265 seats, $87 top

Production: Presented by the Los Angeles Philharmonic Assn.

Cast: Band: Steve Wilson, Charles Pillow, Rich Perry, Donny McCaslin, Scott Robinson, Tony Kadleck, Greg Gisbert, Jon Owens, Ingrid Jensen, Keith O'Quinn, Rock Ciccarone, Larry Farrell, George Flynn, Ben Monder, Frank Kimbrough, Jay Anderson, Clarence Penn, Jon Wikan, Hugo Alcazar. Conductor:  Maria Schneider.  Reviewed Feb. 8, 2006.

More Scene

  • Gaby Hoffmann, Albert Cheng, Alexandra Billings,

    'Transparent' Team Reflects on Series Finale Without Jeffrey Tambor

    Friday night’s premiere of the series finale of “Transparent” at L.A. Live’s Regal theater felt like a family reunion for the Pfefferman clan. Matriarch Judith Light embraced each one of her TV children (Gaby Hoffman, Amy Landecker and Jay Duplass) and guest stars from previous seasons (Cherry Jones, Melora Hardin, Bradley Whitford) who also turned [...]

  • Game of Thrones Season 8

    'Game of Thrones,' 'Avengers' Win Big at 45th Annual Saturn Awards

    As Jamie Lee Curtis picked up her first trophy ever at the 45th Annual Saturn Awards Friday night, she had a good luck charm on her arm: former manager Chuck Binder, whom she said was the reason she became an actor. “I was in college and had no thought of being an actor,” Curtis told [...]

  • Pom Klementieff poses at the launch

    Marvel Cinematic Universe Star Pom Klementieff Talks Disney-Fox Merger, X-Men Dreams

    Pom Klementieff may have entered the Marvel Cinematic Universe playing Mantis in “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” followed by appearances in the last two “Avengers” movies, but that wasn’t her original superhero plan. “My dream was to be in X-Men,” she told Variety on Thursday at the Chanel dinner for its new fragrance Gabrielle [...]

  • Gwyneth Paltrow

    Gwyneth Paltrow to Be Honored at amfAR Gala Los Angeles

    Gwyneth Paltrow and art dealer Larry Gagosian are set to be honored at the 2019 amfAR Gala Los Angeles. The American Foundation for AIDS Research announced that the two honorees will receive the Award of Courage for their commitment in the fight against HIV and AIDS as well as for their other humanitarian efforts. Christina [...]

  • David Mandel Sam Richardson

    'The Handmaid's Tale,' 'Veep,' 'When They See Us' Writers Honored at Emmy Nominees Reception

    Ava DuVernay (“When They See Us”), David Mandel (“Veep”) and Bruce Miller and Kira Snyder (“The Handmaid’s Tale”) were among those honored at the Television Academy’s Emmy nominees writers reception on Tuesday night in North Hollywood. There, ceremony hosts, “Escape at Dannemora” star Eric Lange and “Veep’s” Sam Richardson, kept the show moving by tossing in [...]

  • Jon Stewart and Bruce Springsteen

    Bruce Springsteen, Jon Stewart Return for 13th Annual Stand Up for Heroes

    Bruce Springsteen, Jon Stewart, John Oliver and Hasan Minhaj will again Stand Up for Heroes. Comedian Ronny Chieng will join the multi-talented group on stage for a night of music and comedy in honor of military veterans and their families at the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 4. The 13th annual event [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content