by Peter Quinn
With slowly chiming piano chords, an impossibly high sustained note on the accordion, and a melody of the utmost loveliness on alto clarinet, the achingly beautiful “Walking by Flashpoint”, the opening track of The Thompson Fields, welcomes you into a sound-world of rare eloquence.
Presenting eight new pieces written by the composer, arranger and bandleader Maria Schneider for her renowned 18-piece jazz orchestra, the ensemble's first outing since the superb Sky Blue (2007), the album celebrates its composer's love of her childhood home in southwest Minnesota. Entirely funded by Schneider's ArtistShare fan base, the CD package – with its maps, photos and illustrations – is a work of art in itself.
In some alchemical way, the orchestra appears to feel pulse, phrasing, dynamics and texture as if it is one living, breathing organism. As well as the impressive ensemble work, this is a band of stellar soloists too, as evidenced by trombonist Marshall Gilkes and flugel player Greg Gisbert in “The Monarch and the Milkweed”. With more transfixing solos from Donny McCaslin on tenor and Scott Robinson on bari sax, “Arbiters of Evolution” highlights that, in full flow, nobody does "ecstatic" quite like this band.
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 BUFFALO NEWS – Jeff Simon
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."
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."- OTTAWA CITIZEN – Peter Hum
"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."
"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."- ASSOCIATED PRESS – Charlie Gans
"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."
"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."
"If you are able to cry over a piece of music. The Thompson Fields will make you cry."
"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 Thompson Fields" ***** (five-stars) "Heartening jazz suite that's too good to miss"