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Albums of 2015: The Maria Schneider Orchestra - The Thompson Fields | reviews, news & interviews

Albums of 2015: The Maria Schneider Orchestra - The Thompson Fields

Albums of 2015: The Maria Schneider Orchestra - The Thompson Fields

The Maria Schneider Orchestra serves up an incontestable masterpiece

Breathtaking textures, gorgeous melodies: the Maria Schneider Orchestra

My Album of the Year is The Thompson Fields, a stunningly beautiful collection of eight new pieces by the acclaimed composer, arranger and bandleader, Maria Schneider. It's one of those incredibly rare albums in which every element – breathtaking textural detail, gorgeous melodies, transfixing solos and the sheer expressivity of the playing – comes together in a kind of magical alignment.

The magisterial Arriving by Loose Tubes, the final piece of the band's valedictory residency at Ronnie Scott's in September 1990, following Dancing on Frith Street (2010) and Säd Afrika (2012), is as transporting and joyous an album as you'll hear this year. 2015 saw a number of outstanding vocal jazz releases, not least Liane Carroll's Seaside, a sublime 10-track love letter to her home town of Hastings. Featuring vocalists Kate McGarry and Theo Bleckmann, along with the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, John Hollenbeck's Songs We Like A Lot constructs sound-worlds that you can completely lose yourself in.

Together with the superb New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, Dee Dee Bridgewater's exuberant homage to New Orleans, Dee Dee's Feathers, includes a rousing duet with Dr John on "Big Chief" introduced by Don Vappie's ridiculously funky banjo vamp. Kurt Elling's Passion World serves up an eclectic 12-song collection revolving around love and heartbreak, from the beguiling simplicity of the "Loch Tay Boat Song" to the deluxe arrangement of "La Vie En Rose".

Cécile McLorin Salvant's For One To Love brilliantly captures both her startling versatility and her capacity for confounding expectations. And in the painterly album opener, "Fog", you hear her really coming into her own as a writer. A Clear Midnight, featuring the Julia Hülsmann Quartet with vocalist Theo Bleckmann, presents captivating, supremely understated interpretations of Weill and Whitman songs. Terri Lyne Carrington's Mosaic Project: Love and Soul features a stellar cast of female vocalists and instrumentalists putting a soul-jazz spin on her Grammy-winning 2011 album, The Mosaic Project. Possessing a kind of redemptive power that goes straight to the heart, Lizz Wright's uniquely expressive voice has never sounded more beautiful than on Freedom & Surrender.

Returning to The Thompson Fields, in a Q&A with Maria Schneider for theartsdesk earlier this year, she said: "For me, music isn't something to be interested in, amused by, or even challenged by. I want music to move me, just to grab me." From the serene melodic beauty of "Walking By Flashlight" to the dancing cross-rhythms of "Lembrança", this brilliant, deeply affecting album grabs you from the very opening bar.

It's one of those incredibly rare albums in which every element comes together in a kind of magical alignment


Editor Rating: 
Average: 5 (1 vote)

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