Monday, January 18, 2010

The Maria Schneider Orchestra, Birdland Jazz Club, New York City, January 11th, 2010

Maria Schneider Orchestra at Birdland

Birdland Jazz Club, New York City, January 11th, 2010

By E. Joyce Glasgow

All photo credits/copyrights: E. Joyce Glasgow

Photo identifications top to bottom:

Maria Schneider, composer/conductor, holding a variety of birdcalls used earlier in the evening during the Birdland performance of her 2008 Grammy Award winning instrumental composition, "Cerulean Skies".

The Maria Schneider Orchestra in performance at Birdland, January 11th, 2010

Scott Robinson, saxophonist, takes a solo.

Maria Schneider, talking to the audience at Birdland.

Saxophonist, Donny McCaslin

Saxophonist/Flutist, Steve Wilson

Accordionist/pianist, Gary Versace

Saxophonist, Scott Robinson

Trumpeter, Ingrid Jensen, with her husband, drummer, Jon Wikan

Jazz impresario and NEA Jazz Master, George Wein, came out to hear the Maria Schneider Orchestra at Birdland. Wein founded the Newport Jazz Festival, the Newport Folk Festival and the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival amongst others.

International jazz vocalist and co-owner of Birdland, Hilary Kole

Birdland owner, Johnny Valenti (L.) with Lowell Pickett, owner of the Dakota Jazz Club and Restaurant in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Birdland celebrated its 60th Anniversary in December, 2009.

Maria Schneider brought her large orchestra to the intimate, jazz club, Birdland, for a special showcase performance during the Association of Performing Arts Presenters (APAP) Conference, on January 11th. The two time Grammy Award winning composer and conductor is known for her lovely, sensuous and thoughtful compositions, rich, full sounding, dynamic ensembles, musical sophistication and for reveling in the changing nuances and sensitivities brought to her pieces by the individual personalities of the musicians performing in collaboration with her. Schneider encourages the musicians to freely contribute to the interpretations of her written music with their own unique musical sensibilities and self- expressive improvisations, making each performance fresh, exciting and different and making her popular to work with by musicians.

Schneider incorporates some of the finest jazz musicians in New York into her orchestra, some of whom are; saxophonist/flutist, Steve Wilson, saxophonist, Donny Mc Caslin, trumpeter, Ingrid Jensen, drummer, Jon Wikan, accordionist/pianist, Gary Versace, saxophonist, Scott Robinson and pianist, Frank Kimbrough and her performances are always eagerly awaited by jazz fans. Birdland was completely packed for this one, with a waiting line outside the doors.

Schneider is an avid birder and one of the highlights of the band’s performance was the final piece of the evening, the charming and sweet “Cerulean Skies”, winner of a 2008 Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Composition, which utilized a numerous variety of birdcalls and was evocative of being in a natural woodland of birds. Gary Versace played a gentle and subtle solo on accordion, reminiscent of bird conversation, that was so entrancing and calming that you could hear a pin drop in the crowded club.

Whether you are a die hard jazz fan or a jazz novice, the Maria Schneider Orchestra has a lot to offer, both for being very pleasing and accessible to listen to and for the stimulation and musical education of hearing great musicians performing and improvising wonderful material together.

For more information about Maria Schneider and her orchestra visit

For more information about up coming performances at Birdland visit

I highly recommend this week at Birdland -a rare and only second ever collaboration appearance by M’Boom (percussion ensemble) with the World Saxophone Quartet, January 19th-23rd, 2010.

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