by Peter Bacon
The first jazz album for eight years from (many would claim – and I among them) our greatest living jazz composer opens with the perfect linking piece between that last jazz album, Sky Blue (AS0065), and what came in between, Maria Schneider’s first recording of her classical compositions, Winter Morning Walks (AS0121).
It is Walking By Flashlight, which first appeared on Winter Morning Walks, the Ted Kooser poem of the title sung by the soprano Dawn Upshaw. Here the melody is taken by Scott Robinson on alto clarinet, as close an instrument to the human voice as you might get. It is set at the start against the piano of Frank Kimbrough, the bass of Jay Anderson and the accordion of Gary Versace, and Schneider’s signature sound is impossible to mistake.
And the link to Sky Blue? Well, apart from the musicians involved, it signals that The Thompson Fields will continue where Sky Blue left off, and where Winter Morning Walks also ventured, though in a less personal manner: that is, exploring in tandem both the natural world and autobiography, the personal experience of this wondrous flora and fauna-filled landscape about us. In Maria Schneider’s music its everyday – maybe even mundane – happenings and details are given, through intimate study and then through artistic “transmigration”, a transcendence and beauty that fills the heart and uplifts the spirit.
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"