SAN FRANCISCO CLASSICAL VOICE
by Jeff Kaliss
Kooser wrote the nine poems selected for Winter Morning Walks while he was working a successful recovery from cancer. Schneider proves an artisan in marrying melody to words, as in her tonic-dominant setting of the “side to side” swing of a flashlight in the early dawn. She also masters the colors of her strings and the rhythm and pacing of her ensemble and soloists to set affecting scenes of Great Plains naturescapes and domesticity. Upshaw delivers the evocative poems in a voice as clear and bright as the described “solstice morning, in bone-cracking cold.” The soprano divests herself of the inappropriate aspects of classical training, instead bringing the composer’s music across in the contemporary, talky style of Broadway, but with a rarely heard elevation of purity and heart. This is a sterling standard for American art song.
Having displayed an impressive variety of musical forms with the Kooser poems, from lushly romantic to quietly contemplative to quasi-atonal, following the poet’s different moods and subject matter, Schneider manifests a credible and affecting Latin American and Iberian tinge throughout the five tracks of the Drummond material. The Prologue, in fact, functions as a lovely homage to Heitor Villa-Lobos’ beloved Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5, entrancing vocalese included. Schneider dresses the lovelorn Don’t Kill Yourself in flamenco harmonies and buleria rhythms, while the Quadrille evokes a Piazzolla chamber setting, allowing for individual displays of string virtuosity by the Saint Paul ensemble. Upshaw’s passion and prettiness shine through all of this.
In that jazz setting more than 17 years ago, Schneider had voiced her wish “to be called an American composer.” With this offering, she’s more than earned the respect and appreciation of the best who claim membership in that group.
-- Jeff Kaliss
“Data Lords” . . . is her magnum opus, a riveting, remarkably intense double album, as profound as modern-day instrumental music gets. Link to article- MINNEAPOLIS STAR TRIBUNE – Jon Bream
Now it's finally here, in the form of a magnificent double album, Data Lords . . . it parses into thematic halves, "The Digital World" and, as an antidote, "The Natural World." On the whole and in the details, it amounts to the most daring work of Schneider's career, which sets the bar imposingly high. This is music of extravagant mastery, and it comes imbued with a spirit of risk. Link to article- NPR.com – Nate Chinen
“The Digital World” emerges as her manifesto against everything that limits the expressive range of the human spirit. “The Natural World” becomes a summarizing afterword in Schneider’s musical autobiography that illustrates the natural forces that keep her creative compass pointing true north. Link to article- The Arts Fuse –– Allen Michie
Data Lords: Schneider’s craft and judgment are such that music in the eerie, dystopian world has the marvellous feeling for structure, pacing and often sheer beauty that listeners who know Schneider’s music will be expecting. . . .
There are instrumental glories throughout this album, but the work of the low brass both as section and as individuals is quite unbelievable and is caught exceptionally well on the recording. Whereas Wagner once said “don’t look at the trombones, it only encourages them", I had the sense that Maria Schneider must keep looking at the trombones a lot. And they certainly deliver here. Link to article- TheArtsDesk.com – Sebastian Scotney
With Data Lords – a steeliness and even bleakness now shares a stage with her familiar pastoral side. . . . The inner tensions behind this compelling session promise a revealing new phase in Schneider's remarkable work. Link to article- THE GUARDIAN – John Fordham
Beyond the dualism in its format, Data Lords is a work of holistic creativity. The music of outrage and critique in the first album has all the emotion and conceptual integrity that the music of melancholy and reverence does in the second. I can’t conceive of anyone else creating this music, unless Delius has been writing with Bowie on the other side. Link to article- THE NATION – David Hajdu
Data Lords: Disc One offers highly imaginative, revelatory, at times breathtaking music as in the title track. . . . Expect this project, at a minimum, to be a Grammy contender with perhaps historic recognition in the wings at some point. Link to article
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
Maria Schneider wanted to send a strong message about the threat of a mass manipulation of humanity with Data Lords. Through her high standard for meticulous composing and arranging, delivered by some of jazz’s best musicians, she gets the message across in perhaps the grandest way possible.- SomethingElseReviews.com – S. Victor Aaron
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."