petak, 31. siječnja 2014.

Maria Schneider featuring Dawn Upshaw - Winter Morning Walks (2013)

Od mainstream revijalnog jazza do dobre GMO klasike.

Maria Schneider's Winter Morning Walks was honoured with three 2014 Grammy awards, “Best Contemporary Classical Composition,” “Best Classical Vocal Solo,” and “Best Engineered Album, Classical,” which would seem to settle any questions about where to find it in the record store. And obviously the presence of the celebrated soprano Dawn Upshaw on the recording strengthens the impression of it as a classical work. But as jazz aficionados well know, Schneider recordings such as Coming About andAllegresse are more likely to be found in the jazz department rather than alongside Sibelius and Stravinsky.
With Concert in the Garden (2004) and Sky Blue (2007) both having been chosen as “Jazz Album of the Year” by the Jazz Journalists Association and in the Downbeat Critics Poll, the New York-based and Minnesota-born composer-conductor has clearly come a long way since she first began writing for her seventeen-member collective. To say that her music blurs the lines between jazz and classical is no exaggeration, as her extensive list of commissions includes works created for the Monterey Jazz Festival, the American Dance Festival, and Jazz at Lincoln Center, but also for the Kronos Quartet, the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, and the Australian Chamber Orchestra, the latter two of which appear on Schneider's latest recording.
Both compositions on Winter Morning Walks are wondrous creations, and while their combination makes for a cohesive album, there are differences between them that go beyond instrumentation and personnel. Winter Morning Walks, which features poetry by Pulitzer Prize winner and Poet Laureate of the United States (2004-06) Ted Kooser, is made up of nine distinct settings markedly contrasting in tone and style; the five parts that make up Carlos Drummond de Andrade Stories, on the other hand, largely follow one another without interruption, and the material's dreamlike character is strengthened as a result.
The texts featured in Winter Morning Walks are drawn from a book of the same name by Kooser, who composed its pieces during a time when he was recovering from cancer treatment and taking a two-mile walk each morning. Much of the text content concerns the intimate experience of being outdoors in different seasons and times of day, and to her credit Schneider has managed to translate the soul-nourishing stillness of the natural world into lyrical compositions of understated grandeur (hear, for example, how perfectly her sinuous writing matches the image of the married couple “braided together in sleep” in “All Night, in Gusty Winds”). One comes away from the piece sensitive to the appreciation Kooster feels for the country setting and the gratitude he expresses in being able to immerse himself within it.
Though Schneider has the full resources of the Australian Chamber Orchestra at her disposal, the arrangements are anything but ornate. Instead, she presents the songs as chamber-styled meditations where Upshaw's pure voice, strings, and woodwinds predominate, and where an occasional soloist lends the material an orchestral jazz feel. The playing of clarinetist Scott Robinson, bassist Jay Anderson, and pianist Frank Kimbrough establishes a bridge between the classical world of the orchestra and the jazz stylings of Schneider's own group. The vocalizing of Upshaw, still arguably best known for her celebrated performance on the landmark 1992 recording of Gorecki's Symphony No. 3, is as exquisite as ever. The soloists' playing is beautiful, too—consider Robinson's stirring contributions to “How Important It Must Be” a representative example.
The recording's second work sees Upshaw singing texts by Brazilian poet Carlos Drummond de Adrade (1902-87) backed by the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra. With Schneider's own musicians absent, the instrumental colour is orchestrally purer in this second setting, and an overall darker, even tragic tone, reflective of the poems' content, seeps into the writing. Faint echoes of Villa-Lobos's Bachianas Brasileiras (the well-known fifth, specifically) haunt the “Prologue,” especially in those passages where Upshaw contributes wordless singing, and during one woodwinds-heavy sequence, one pictures Gil Evans listening from above with a smile on his face (interestingly, Schneider was, many moons ago, Evans' musical assistant for three years). In addition, the noir-esque “The Dead in Frock Coats” and “Don't Kill Yourself” call to mind Raymond Chandler'sFarewell My Lovely and Astor Piazzolla, among other thingsDespite there being key differences between the recording's two works, the pastoral imagery and hopeful tone of the second's “Souvenir of the Ancient World” draw a firm connecting line from de Adrade to Kooster.
Winter Morning Walks is such an accomplished work, it's hard to imagine what Schneider will do to follow it up. But until the time arrives when her reply to that daunting challenge is revealed, one could do worse than spend time luxuriating in the refined artistry of this special collaborative achievement. -

Maria Schneider proved her genius as a composer and arranger beyond any doubt with Error! Hyperlink reference not valid. (ArtistShare, 2004), and she did it again on her second masterpiece of orchestral jazz, Sky Blue (ArtistShare, 2007). With Winter Morning Walks, Schneider introduces her first works with major orchestras, the Australian Chamber Orchestra on the nine part "Winter Morning Walks," and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra on "Carlo Drummond de Andrade Stories," both in partnership with soprano Dawn Upshaw.
"Winter Morning Walks," puts music to the poetry of Ted Kooser, the Poet Laureate of the United States from 2004 to 2006. These short, clear, simple and profound pieces were composed during his recovery from cancer treatment. Upshaw's vocals soar. The Australian Chamber Orchestra—along with long time Schneider compatriots Frank Kimbrough

(piano), Scott Robinson  (reeds), and Jay Anderson (bass)—caress the words, inject small surprises inside the pastel string washes, violins and violas whispering like soft breezes through the prairie grass, making the canopies of the tall trees sing.
After the subtle magnificence, the hushed beauty of "Winter Morning Walks," it's probably best to take a break, or to perhaps listen to the work again. It is an experience to be savored before moving on to "Carlos Drummond de Andrade Stories."
Carlos Drummond de Adrade (1902 to 1987) was one of Brazil's greatest poets. His writing was most often rooted in the everyday, often featuring contrasts between moods of darkness and light. The St. Paul Chamber Orchestra features a broader palette of colors, with the strings joined by woodwinds and brass embracing the vocals. The backdrop behind Upshaw is more colorful here, though the moods are often darker. "The Dead in Frock Coats" throbs with a deep, aching melancholy; while "Don't Kill Yourself" floats back and forth between whimsey and deep despair, narrated by the poet's street-wise and somewhat detached yet sympathetic—even loving—voice.
Winter Morning Walks features two major works by a major artist. Trumpeter Wynton Marsalis has long been an advocate for Duke Ellington as the greatest composer/arranger that the United States ever produced. That's a hard point to argue against. We may now, with the release of "Winter Morning Walks" and "Carlos Drummond de Andrade Stories," have to acknowledge Maria Schneider as our greatest "living" arranger/composer. -  DAN MCCLENAGHAN

Maria Schneider should write a musical. Her song cycle, Winter Morning Walks, features idiomatic vocal writing that wouldn’t be out of place in the Great American Songbook, the canny theatrical sense of Sondheim, and illustrative text settings that would be perfect for a Broadway stage.
Yet Schneider is one of today’s foremost jazz composers, with two Grammys to her credit; multiple albums as the leader of her big band, the Maria Schneider Orchestra; and an association with legendary pianist and composer Gil Evans. She also has ties to the classical world: her newest recording, Winter Morning Walks from 2013, fan-funded through ArtistShare, features the Australian and St. Paul Chamber Orchestras, and coalesced around soprano Dawn Upshaw, for whom both the title work and the Carlos Drummond de Andrade Stories were written.
Upshaw is an incredibly versatile singer, having performed everything from Handel to Crumb to Rodgers and Hammerstein. She easily adapts to Schneider’s style, singing mostly without vibrato in a cabaret-esque voice. Though most of the vocal lines are undemanding, her operatic technique comes in handy during vocalise passages, like “Prologue” from the Andrade Stories, performed with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. Her voice swoops and dips evocatively over lush strings and a pulsing Spanish groove, while her clipped staccatos are exactingly precise. The melancholy “The Dead in Frock Coats” from the same set blossoms into a jeweled chord underneath a poignantly beautiful high note on the word “everlasting.”
The next poem of the cycle, “Souvenir of the Ancient World,” describes a simple life of trivial worries over up-surging music that sounds like it could be in the musical “Wicked.” Exotic flavor spikes the last two songs. Enticing rhythms color the dramatic “Don’t Kill Yourself,” which pauses in ominous suspension before slinking away. “Quadrille” is wryly humorous, a skulking tango that fits its ironic poem. Cellist Peter Stumpf and violinists Steven Copes and Ruggero Allifranchini weep with their instruments in mournful solos scattered through the cycle.
Winter Morning Walks sets poetry by Ted Kooser that he wrote daily during early morning perambulations after surviving cancer treatment. Schneider’s music is accordingly sentimental, and quietly depicts Kooser’s understated images of nature. The Australian Chamber Orchestra begins in a mood of expectation, conjuring an icy dawn, on “Perfectly Still This Solstice Morning,” an exquisite highlight. As bassist Jay Anderson, clarinetist Scott Robinson, and pianist Frank Kimbrough enter with smooth improvisations, the scene warms, as though the sun has risen. (The trio are featured throughout the cycle, alternating between improvisation and written-out music).
“When I Switched On a Light” and “Our Finch Feeder” are a drastic contrast, with agitated flutters and nervous builds. The rest of the set is softly gracious and wears its heart on its sleeve, sometimes overly so. But most of the music is a moving evocation of Kooser’s poems, with a hushed strength rippling beneath. The blooming sunrise in “My Wife and I Walk the Cold Road” is a rapturous example, but “How Important It Must Be,” the last song, is the most touching. Simple music beautifully captures Kooser’s grateful glory in life, as “the sun stood/ right at the end of the road/ and waited for me.” -  Daniel Hautzinger

Born in Minnesota in 1960, composer-arranger-conductor Maria Schneider has enjoyed a remarkable and illustrious career. After earning her Masters of Music from the Eastman School of Music in 1985, she worked as Gil Evans' musical assistant for three years and studied with Bob Brookmeyer for five before establishing the seventeen-member Maria Schneider Jazz Orchestra in 1993 and carrying on the Ellingtonian tradition of composing pieces with specific soloists in mind. Critics have described her orchestral-jazz music as “evocative, majestic, magical, heart-stoppingly gorgeous, and beyond categorization.”
Though she's issued a modest seven albums since the release of Evanescence in 1994, each of those albums is distinguished by the immense effort and care that went into its creation. Her efforts have been rewarded with multiple awards, among them Grammy Awards for “Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album” in 2004 for Concert in the Garden and “Best Instrumental Composition” in 2007 for “Cerulean Skies” from Sky Blue; Schneider also was honoured as “Best Jazz Composer” and “Best Arranger” in DownBeat's Annual Critics' Poll in 2010, 2011, and 2012. Honoured with three 2014 Grammy awards (“Best Contemporary Classical Composition,” “Best Classical Vocal Solo,” and “Best Engineered Album, Classical”), her most recent recording, Winter Morning Walks (reviewed here) presents a bold new direction for Schneider: its two orchestral works are vocal-based settings whose texts are drawn from the writings of Pulitzer Prize winner Ted Kooser and Brazilian poet Carlos Drummond de Adrade and sung by esteemed soprano Dawn Upshaw—a sumptuous album that's amply deserving of the praise it's received since its 2013 release. In a recent interview with textura, Schneider spoke about the album in detail, her associations with Evans and Brookmeyer, and the challenges facing a composer in the internet age. It is an honour to feature an artist of Schneider's calibre in textura's pages, and we sincerely thank her for taking the time to speak with us.
1. Long ago you studied composition with Bob Brookmeyer and were even a musical assistant to Gil Evans for three years. Is their influence still present in your music today (and in what way specifically), even though it's been decades since you had those particular associations with them.
One could aspire for a lifetime to the greatness of these men. Bob's incredible skill at development is absolutely astounding and unparalleled—the way he could take a simple idea and morph it into so many different things, but making everything all flow so naturally and feel united. It's all so ingeniously constructed, yet it never feels forced. He did that in his improvisation and he did that in his composition. With Gil, his sense of ‘line' is, in my opinion, also unparalleled. Every single member of an orchestra playing his music always has a beautiful melodic contour, even the tuba. Gil wrote music full of tremendous detail that yet never feels cluttered. It's detailed, yet direct and simple somehow without being simplistic. I love those aspects of each of these men, and surely those things influence me on a continual basis, even if I would never claim to even come close to doing in these respects to doing what these men did.
2. In the liner notes to Winter Morning Walks, you state, “In setting poems to music, the poems themselves speak the rhythm, etch the melodic contour, and emotionally elicit the harmony.” Did you find that having the poems as a starting point made the composing process easier, as opposed to started out with a blank canvas in front of you, or were there times when you found yourself longing to be free of the delimiting constraint a text can impose?
Having the words was hugely liberating, but I didn't know that going into this project. I thought that it might be very difficult for me to write with that new limitation, but it was completely the opposite. Like you say, it was a relief not to have a blank canvas. The poems inspired me, and furthermore, it was almost like they told me what they wanted to be. They were like my muse. I miss writing to poetry now that I'm back to writing for the band. I will say this—I looked at a heck of a lot of poetry that I didn't feel a thing from musically. Ted Kooser's poetry is perfect for me. I wish I could write music to his poetry for the rest of my life. It's the whole world he creates; it's the world I come from. It's like going home to the most idyllic aspects of home.
3. Even though you've incorporated vocals into your recordings in the past, specifically Luciana Souza on a small number of pieces on 2004's Concert In The Garden and 2007's Sky BlueWinter Morning Walks adds a much greater vocal dimension to your music, though of course the development is a natural outgrowth of the project's text-based nature. Was it a greater challenge to compose the vocal melodies on the Winter Morning Walks compositions as opposed to, say, lead melodies for instrumental voices?
Honestly, the vocals on my other music were, for the most part, an afterthought. I didn't write the music with that in mind, with the exception of the third part of the “Bulerías” recorded on Concert in the Garden . Then I started thinking about it a little bit more in the Sky Blue music, and occasionally now when I'm writing, I just hear Luciana's beautiful voice singing the lines. I haven't yet decided if I'll do that again on this new album. It just depends where the music goes.
4. Were you ‘hearing' Dawn Upshaw's voice in your mind as you were composing its pieces and tailoring the material to specifically suit her?
I absolutely was hearing Dawn's voice in my mind when writing the music for Winter Morning Walks . And, as much as hearing her gorgeous sound, I was hearing her amazing diction and wonderful sincerity of her delivery. Dawn is just so completely ‘human' when she sings. I love that about her; her sound is just so real and unmanufactured sounding. What a joy it was to write for and to get to record that voice.
5. Every listener will experience different associations in response to a particular work. As I listen to the two works featured on Winter Morning Walks, I experience associations with Villa-Lobos, film noir, and Piazzolla in response to the second one, while the title piece evokes associations with Robert Frost and Aaron Copland's Appalachian Spring. In the release's liner notes you discuss the second piece's connection to Brazilian music (though you're also careful to clarify that you weren't attempting to turn the “Brazilian poems into Brazilian music” and that “(t)he only poem set with direct Brazilian musical influence is ‘Quadrille'”), which makes me curious about what other associations the two pieces might have for you.
Honestly, I never write music imagining any particular musical influence. I do now hear that the first movement has a little bit of something Villa-Lobos in it. I think that the second movement has a little something that reminds me of Puccini, yet I don't even know which Puccini. The fourth movement, I was definitely going for the drama of flamenco, so that was truly intentional, but it's about a style, not any particular composer. And the last movement, yes, I think you are right, it has a little bit of unintentional Piazzolla in it. But then it also has a little bit of Brazilian Choro in it—a little bit of influence from Egberto Gismonti, although I don't know that he would hear that way. That reminds me of something that happened years ago. I wrote an arrangement of “Days of Wine and Roses” that I really felt was very Brookmeyeresque. When I pointed that out to Bob, he didn't have any feeling of it reminding him of anything he'd ever written—and I was scared I actually came too close.

Photo: Dani Gurgel
6. It's interesting that you incorporated the playing of three of your musicians into the arrangement of the title piece yet didn't do the same in the second. Why did you choose to arrange the second piece for the orchestra alone?
The second piece was actually written first. It was commissioned by The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, and the instrumentation was pretty much set. After conducting the piece in concert three nights in a row, there was an aspect of performance that I have with my band that I personally was missing. It wasn't the fault of the orchestra, they were spectacular. But it was the nature of writing music that had absolutely no improvisation. After performances, I'm very used to hearing musicians celebrating all the great creative moments that just happened in a concert. I'm used to experiencing the thrill and joy of that myself. In concert, it's really fun to literally watch everybody in the band appreciating each others' creative moments. So, when Dawn asked me to write another piece for her for the Ojai Festival while we were sitting at breakfast the morning after our last SPCO concert, I had already been thinking all night how much I would love to write for Dawn again, but to do it with some element of improvisation. That was the birth of Winter Morning Walks. The musicians in my group all have a keen sense of improvising in a way that doesn't just have to feel like the language of jazz, so I knew they would be able to make the improvisation sound seamless to the music I would write, and not like jazz plopped on top of classical. I wanted to avoid that pitfall at all costs.
7. Without wanting to turn this interview into a People profile, I'm curious as to what a ‘Day in the Life of Maria Schneider' might look like. Are you one of those ultra disciplined artists who resolutely sits down every day for a set number of hours to produce a set amount of work?
It's going to be a bit of a boring and depressing response. Unfortunately, I have to report that because of the nature of the business amidst the Internet, I spend a huge part of every day of my life doing business, probably 70% of my life. I run a jazz orchestra, publish my own music, produce my own records, and raise money for the records through my ArtistShare website, which is a very extensive website. I document much of my creative process to give fans an experience of being inside the music-making, record-making experience. That's basically the model of ArtistShare. And the success I've found through this has afforded me to be able to make records that are now costing from $150,000 to $200,000 a piece. I unfortunately have to waste a lot of time battling companies that are selling or sharing my music illegally on the Internet.
Besides all of this, I plan gigs, and I do clinics and guest-conducting. I tend to go through spurts where I write music intensively and just let everything else go to pot. I wish that I could get up early every day, carve out time and be on a schedule, like back in school, but my life just isn't like that. I have to put out a lot of fires some days, and other days things afford me more time for writing. I'm devoting more and more time to advocating for music creators in regards to laws and issues in relationship with the Internet and various changes in our culture's view of creative work. This is becoming increasingly important to me. When I go teach and students ask how they can do what I've done in their careers, I'm now at a loss. In the economic environment in regards to the Internet and technology, I don't have an answer. Right now, if there isn't a serious change of course, all I can predict is doom. It's very complex and deeply frustrating.
8. Are there specific things you like to do that are non-musical in nature?
I sit on the board of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, and the most fun thing is that I'm on the board for the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. That brings me to the other great life love of mine, which is birds. I'm very passionate about the environment, bird habitat, and birds themselves. So I do put a fair amount of my life into that world, too. I'm trying to find balance, but it's not easy with so many things going on every day in my life.
9. While you have created an impressive body of work over the course of your recording career, you've also not saturated the market with recordings. That is, we don't see an excess of Maria Schneider recordings being released annually; instead, considerable time elapses between releases, suggesting that you take a great deal of time to ensure that each one is of the highest quality and has met a high personal standard before making its way into the world.
Firstly, I would say that I think most people make waaaaay too many records. Oh dear, there is so much music out there, and it just makes people appreciate music less. I wish that most people would make far fewer records, and try to make them that much better. Music reflects life experience, and unless you're doing a little bit of real living between records, you won't essentially have anything new to say. On the practical side, as I said before, these records are hugely expensive to make. It takes a long time to write the music, develop the music, and then I have to raise all the money through the Internet. And increasingly, it's harder and harder to sell music, because so many now expect music for free. The other hurdle is people are just so inundated with music, so deeply saturated, that they don't desire to hear anything new. I remember in the old days, I was so hungry for new music. I couldn't wait to go to Tower Records and just expected to drop a bundle of money because I was so in need for music. Who could feel that way now? We're all choking on media coming at us through links, emails, and YouTube! It's really insane. It's all too much.
I also need the time between the records to do the teaching gigs and guest concerts that afford me to pay people that help me, to pay for my life, and to pay myself for a fund in case I don't make my money back on these records. I'm putting out a huge huge financial risk. Most artists are doing that. That's the thing that people don't understand. Artists are now taking on tremendous financial risk to make our own records. So when someone just goes and listens on You Tube for free or whatever, it's killing the artist. The pennies Spotify pays don't buy someone a latte, much less pay the cost of a recording. It's a joke. Most these businesses aren't in the business of music anymore. They're in the business of advertising and big data, and what they need is content, and lots of it. Musicians are being used and getting worse than nothing; their work is being diluted and devalued, and they don't seem to yet know it.
10. Where do you see all of this heading?
I don't know where this is all going, but it's not good. It can't sustain itself. Does everyone want every artist in the world just living on grants? I've taken great pride up to now in being a financially viable business as an artist. It pains me to think that my government won't stand up to companies who essentially have a business model of selling stolen goods. It upsets me that people don't see the obviousness of the theft. What more can I say? When will this stop? Wait until 3D printers destroy manufacturing companies, then everyone will get it. Or maybe everyone will let that go too, because they'll all be so excited they can print something at home that they used to have to buy. I don't know about you, but I never minded spending money on music. It was entirely natural and expected. And, we savoured it more. How did that change? All I can say is, musicians are the canary in the cave.
So, in answer to your question, being so very busy, I couldn't possibly do more records from a time or financial standpoint, even if I wanted to. Check in with me again in ten years. I myself am curious where this will end up—maybe -

Nema komentara:

Objavi komentar