It's become something of a Thanksgiving tradition of mine to go see the Maria Schneider Orchestra at the Jazz Standard, where she's appeared each year this week for at least a decade. Schneider, a protege of both Gil Evans and Bob Brookmeyer, has two Grammys to her credit, along with a performance career that's now stretched over two decades. (Her orchestra used to have a weekly residency at the Village's late, lamented Visiones.) She's also, it must be said, the most prominent woman ever to lead a major jazz orchestra, and it shows in her elegant, virtuosic arrangements that conjure images of flowers, rainbows, and other less-than-macho objects.
Capping last night's late set was "Cerulean Skies," her Grammy winner from 2007's Sky Blue—a protracted ode to Schneider's love of birds, replete with bird calls, an extended solo for accordion, and a wild, ecstatic blast from saxophonist Donny McCaslin. Maria called it a night around 12:30, letting the band grab a well-deserved drink after their third set of the evening. No one wanted to leave, with lots of old friends catching up with Maria and the other members of the band until the wee hours.
Schneider's latest project is a collaboration with Dawn Upshaw on two new works for chamber orchestra, which she just finished recording with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. As with Schneider's other recordings, this one is being funded through fan support via Artist Direct; visit the website to find out more.