Concert in the Garden (2nd Edition) (Grammy Award Winner for "Best Large Jazz Ensemble Recording")

liner notes
Birth is often a metaphor for the creative process. I certainly know my pieces become little personalities to me when I finish them–at least when I find enough distance to finally let them go. In the end, they are entities quite separate from me, but ones to which I continue to relate.

The first composition on this recording went through a few transformations, starting out as one thing and finishing as quite another. After laboring over writing it, one evening, rather lost, I went to Luciana Souza’s home to go over what I had written and see how her voice would fit in. As I was playing the introduction, she suddenly rushed to her table and brought me a book opened to a poem by Octavio Paz with a title I then knew would become the title of the piece, Concert in the Garden. From that moment, the piece took direction and I found it–it found me. And, instead of me bringing it to some place I intended, it brought me to a place I hadn’t visited in years–the memory of the tree house my father built on a small lake–a place we call Pintail Point. There he had a tiny cabin for his hunting camp outside of my hometown in southwestern Minnesota. I could sit in that little tree house for hours with binoculars, peering at birds: yellow-headed blackbirds, swallows, great blue herons, red-winged blackbirds, soras. There I’d sit breathing in tandem with the wind that would sweep the bay below, pulling the willows and the cattails along in powerful surges. I’d be lost in that world as we became one.

Three Romances is made up of three separate pieces. The first, Choro Dançado, is influenced by Brazilian choro–an early music that is very light, full of counterpoint and very beautiful and charming. My composition is far from being authentic. Its harmony differs for sure. At moments the harmony has something from Spain and something from Argentina. But nonetheless, I can say it would have never been written had it not been for my falling in love with choro and with the music of many Brazilian composers for whom it is a strong base, especially Egberto Gismonti. One sideline: choro is not music for dancing, so to call a piece Choro Dançado is by nature to take it directly into my world, which is strongly influenced by dance.

The second piece, Pas de Deux, was composed with a picture of Sylvie Guillem, my favorite ballerina, taped to my writing board. She is suspended in air in a frozen instant that shows her legs and feet fully and firmly extended, but her upper body, face, arms and hands utterly relaxed. There’s nothing hurried, nothing stressed. I’ve watched her dance several times, staring at her on stage through my binoculars as if spying on a magnificent creature, feeling the entire audience depending on her every move for its breath. My favorite moment in any ballet is almost always the pas de deux. In this piece I’m reaching for the flow, continuity and line of two dancers melding into one.

As a child, I would rush to the TV to watch anything with Gene Kelly or Fred Astaire, loving everything about those movies. Oh, to be one of those lucky women, carried by that incredible music, on the forearms and legs of Gene Kelly in that continuous horizontal glide that appeared so easy, so divine and so devastatingly romantic. I dreamed it as I watched stone-faced, not to be caught even wishing for such an impossible thing. The third piece, Dança Ilusória, means illusory dance. It’s my imaginary foxtrot. I gave it a Portuguese title because while a foxtrot is as American as can be, the harmony I’ve used here owes much more to Brazil.

The last composition, Bulería, Soleá y Rumba, could be seen as the most ambitious work on this recording, but strangely enough, it wrote me much more than I wrote it. I came to a realization through writing this that has taken me many years to find–I am indeed a musician. It’s not that I feel I’ve reached some level musically, but for other reasons entirely. As this commission deadline crept up on me, I was confronted with some personally difficult circumstances in my life, the kind we all have to face at one point or another. I had thought about canceling the commission because I didn’t think I could manage to concentrate. But I pushed through, and to my surprise, I was not only able to write, but I became completely dependent on writing to find my serenity. It became the only thing that could make me feel unshakable and unbreakable–like submerging in the ocean, far beneath the waves.

I could talk about the fact that this composition uses flamenco forms that I love–the sound I first fell in love with when I first heard Paco de Lucia perform. But what this particular work represents to me is much more. It showed me how much music means to me because of where I have to go to find it. Octavio Paz said, “When I am writing a poem, it is to make something, an object or organism that will be whole and living, something that will have a life independent of me.” I have this exact same relationship to my work. But I would add one more thing–that the spring one taps to bring forth all of that life is our very life source too.

Which brings me back to the title piece–I want to share Octavio Paz’ poem Concert in the Garden with you.

Concert in the Garden
For Carmen Figueroa de Meyer

It rained.
The hour is an enormous eye.
Inside it, we come and go like reflections.
The river of music
Enters my blood.
If I say body, it answers wind.
If I say earth, it answers where?

The world, a double blossom, opens:
Sadness of having come.
Joy of being here.

I walk lost in my own center.

By Octavio Paz, translated by Eliot Weinberger, from COLLECTED POEMS 1957-1987, copyright©1986 by Octavio Paz and Eliot Weinberger. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp.

Recorded at Avatar Studios, Room A, New York, March 8-11, 2004
Engineered by David Baker
Assisted by Brian Montgomery
Mixed at The Barn Studio, Vermont by David Baker, Peter Carini and Maria Schneider
Post-mixing and pre-mastering by Katsuhiko Naito and Maria Schneider
Mastered by Gene Paul at DB Plus
Assisted by Jamie Polaski
Produced by Maria Schneider with great assistance by all those listed above
Executive Producer, Maria Schneider
Production assistance by Ryan Truesdell
Photography by David Korchin
Design by Ann Bowen

Concert in the Garden - Monder (guit) Kimbrough (pno) Versace (acc)Listen!
Choro Dançado -- Rich Perry (tenor) Frank Kimbrough (piano)Listen!
Pas de Deux -- Ingrid Jensen (flügelhorn) Charles Pillow (soprano)Listen!
Dança Ilusória -- Frank Kimbrough (piano) Larry Farrell (trombone)Listen!
Bulería, Soleá y Rumba -- Donny McCaslin (tenor) Greg Gisbert (flügelhorn)Listen!

TIM RIES alto/soprano/clarinet/flute/alto flute/bass flute
CHARLES PILLOW alto/soprano/clarinet/flute/alto flute/oboe/English horn
RICH PERRY tenor/flute
DONNY McCASLIN tenor/soprano/clarinet/flute
SCOTT ROBINSON baritone/flute/clarinet/bass clarinet/contrabass clarinet
TONY KADLECK trumpet/flügelhorn
GREG GISBERT trumpet/flügelhorn
LAURIE FRINK trumpet/flügelhorn
INGRID JENSEN trumpet/flügelhorn
KEITH O’QUINN trombone
GEORGE FLYNN bass trombone/contrabass trombone
JEFF BALLARD cajon and quinto cajon on Bulería, Soleá y Rumba (right)
GONZALO GRAU cajon on Bulería, Soleá y Rumba (left)
GARY VERSACE accordion on Concert in the Garden
LUCIANA SOUZA voice on Concert in the Garden and Bulería, Soleá y Rumba
voice and pandeiro on Choro Dançado
PETE McGUINNESS trombone on Pas de Deux and Dança Ilusória
ANDY MIDDLETON tenor on Pas de Deux and Dança Ilusória

UPDATE  4/7/2006
We were proud to make Grammy history along with the ArtistShare fans when this recording became the first Internet-only CD to win a Grammy.  At the time we set out to make this record, no company in the industry was doing anything like ArtistShare.  ArtistShare, led by Brian Camelio, has done more to change this industry to benefit artists than anyone else up until this time.  Upon launching this project, people around me all said it was impossible.  I really risked it all, as the budget for a record like this is not small, and if I didn't manage to succeed, it would definitely hurt.  We tailored offers for specific types of fans and it just took off!  The rest truly is history.  I thank Brian and I thank all of you! - Maria

The Thompson Fields – Maria Schneider Orchestra
WINTER MORNING WALKS – Winner of 3 GRAMMY Awards (vocal, engineering, classical composition)
Sky Blue (2007) (Grammy Award Winner for 'Best Instrumental Composition' -- 'Cerulean Skies')
Concert in the Garden (2nd Edition) (Grammy Award Winner for "Best Large Jazz Ensemble Recording")
Allegresse (2000)
Coming About (1996/2008)
Evanescence (1994)
Days of Wine and Roses--Live at the Jazz Standard (2000)