THE BUFFALO NEWS <br/> by Jeff Simon

by Jeff Simon

“The Thompson Fields” (ArtistShare). “The subject is beauty,” writes Maria Schneider to explain her composition “The Monarch and the Milkweed” on this magnificent, nature-drunk masterpiece, one of the great jazz records period, not just one of the great recent jazz records. “What is it exactly? Why does it exist? Many species are drawn to beauty and evolve according to it, or so it appears. But who is the decider of what’s beautiful? … The latest news from key scientists is the discovery of a place in the brain they’ve named Field A1. It lights up on brain scans when something strikes a person as beautiful, whether musical, visual or even mathematical in nature. How many creatures have an A1? And if we judge beauty, not only within our own species, but also in the things around us, might other creatures recognize beauty outside their own species?” If so, not only have the A1s of jazz listeners been responding ecstatically to the music of this band (and variants thereof) for 25 years but, who knows, maybe Siamese cats and domesticated salamanders have, too. What is a sure thing is that the Field A1 in any jazz lover???s brain will be lighting up auroras in apprehending everything about this utterly amazing disc, from its physical beauty full of Audubon bird paintings to Brienne Lermitte’s gorgeous photographs of Schneider and her Minnesota home. Everything about this disc has a good chance of haunting you, from Schneider’s compositions and the soloists in her orchestra (including Donny McCaslin, Scott Robinson and pianist Frank Kimbrough) to the poem by Ted Kooser that inspired “Walking By Flashlight” (“November 18/Cloudy, dark and windy./Walking by flashlight/at six in the morning,/my circle of light on the gravel/swinging side to side/coyote, raccoon, field mouse, sparrow,/each watching from darkness/this man with the moon on a leash.”) This is by any possible assay at any possible time, a very special project. Schneider writes, “Making a recording like this is becoming increasingly difficult and would now be impossible without the generous support of many participants.” It is only available through the remarkable composer/orchestra leader’s website There is no more beautiful place on the Web in jazz to discover these days than that one.  Link to article

Press quotes

The Thompson Fields:  “... this magnificent, nature-drunk masterpiece, one of the great jazz records period, not just one of the great recent jazz records.”


The Thompson Fields: ***** "...there is nobody more capable of harnessing emotions in music and projecting and preserving the beauty and power of the natural world in sound than Maria Schneider. She's demonstrated that time and again, and she does it once more on this awe-inspiring release."

- ALL ABOUT JAZZ – Dan Bilawsky

The Thompson Fields:  "This marriage of sounds, words and images is ultimately breathtaking, a testament not simply to the hipness of jazz but to the uplifting and sustaining powers of art."


"The Thompson Fields breaks through to a new level. It's her most ambitious recording, and her most accomplished; it places her in the pantheon of big-band composer-leaders, just below Ellington, Strayhorn, and Gil Evans at his very best; it's a masterpiece"

- STEREOPHILE – Fred Kaplan

The Thompson Fields ***** (five stars)  "Her latest album, some 10 years in the making, shows just what a supple and powerful instrument a jazz orchestra can be."

- THE TELEGRAPH – Ivan Hewett

The Thompson Fields: ***** (five stars) "...a sound-world of rare eloquence ... the singularly most beautiful record I've heard this year."

- – Peter Quinn

"Maria Schneider is a national treasure."


The Thompson Fields: "... a masterpiece ... Schneider's lovely themes are immediately accessible, but this is also music whose intricate arrangements reveal new discoveries on repeated listening."


"The Thompson Fields is a testament to the ever-evolving talent of Maria Schneider."


"The Thomson Fields may be her finest triumph in a stellar career as a jazz orchestra leader, composer/arranger and conceptualist. No one in jazz today, or at least in big band jazz, writes in such evocative fashion. Five stars - and then some."

- Ken Franckling's Jazz Notes – Ken Franckling

"The Maria Schneider Orchestra's ravishing new recording, The Thompson Fields, demonstrates her evolving vision for the evocative and deep nuances of sonic beauty that her music now radiates."


The Thompson Fields (*****five stars)
"...when the artistic offerings competing for our entertainment dollars and attention are vast compared to the days of five television channels and a handful of records labels, one artist has risen—in terms of talent and the beauty and perfection of her recent output—to an Ellington-ian level: Composer/arranger Maria Schneider."

- ALL ABOUT JAZZ – Dan McClenaghan

"If you are able to cry over a piece of music. The Thompson Fields will make you cry."

- STEREOPHILE (Recording of the Month) – Thomas Conrad

"The Maria Schneider Orchestra: Led by Ms. Schneider, a composer and orchestrator of penetrating insight, this group has an ambitiously realized new album – "The Thompson Fields," its first release in eight years – that underscores its stature as the pre-eminent large ensemble of our time."

- THE NEW YORK TIMES - Nate Chinen

"The Thompson Fields" ***** (five-stars) "Heartening jazz suite that's too good to miss" 

- THE GUARDIAN – John Fordham