Hour 12 Big Band Suites – Maria Schneider, Jim McNeely, Rufus Reid, Darcy James Argue, Brian Krock

Maria Schnieder

Duke Ellington envisioned long-form jazz compositions before the technology was created to support them. Initially limited to around six minutes on two sides of a 78 RPM disc, the advent of the 12’ Long-Playing record liberated Ellington and other jazz composers to conceive and record extended compositions. Several contemporary composers are continuing to explore the format with enthusiasm. Recent suites from Maria Schneider, Jim McNeely, Rufus Reed, Darcy James Argue and Brian Krock in this hour of Jazz at 100 Today!

Maria Schnieder
Once in a long while a disc is released in the jazz world that receives universal accolades; that seems to approach the perfection that we imagine to be possible. Maria Schneider’s The Thomson Fields is one of those records. With her 18-piece orchestra as her instrument, Schneider, a student of Gil Evans, has crafted an exquisite autobiographical work about the Minnesota prairie of her childhood. On AllAboutJazz, Dan McClenaghan skillfully observed, “Throughout, Schneider’s orchestra soars, it wafts gentle breezes fragrant with smells of the plains, it blows in controlled gales, and it paints rainbows—sometimes in subtle pastels, sometimes in bold primary colors—that brighten the backdrops [with] some of the most inspired soloing imaginable. A magnificent album!”

Home. Maria Schneider Jazz Orchestra
(Augie Haas-tp/flh, Greg Gisbert-tp/flh, Mike Rodriguez-tp/flh, Tony Kadleck-tp/flh, Keith O’Quinn-tb, Marshall Gilkes-tb, Ryan Keberle-tb, George Flynn-btb, Dave Pietro-as/ss/cl/fl/afl/bfl/picc, Steve Wilson-as/ss/cl/fl/afl, Rich Perry-ts, Donny McCaslin-ts/cl/fl, Scott Robinson-bs/cl/acl/bcl, Frank Kimbrough-p, Gary Versace-acc, Lage Lund-g, Jay Anderson-b, Clarence Penn-d, Rogerio Boccato-per). From The Thompson Fields. ArtistShare. 2015.

Jim McNeely and Rufus Reid
Jim McNeely is a long-time composer and arranger for the Thad Jones – Mel Lewis Orchestra and its successor, the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra. Jerome Wilson at AllAboutJazz writes, of his disc Barefoot Dances and Other Visions, “It’s a powerful suite McNeely wrote for the Frankfurt Radio Big Band recorded in 2014, a collection of imaginary musical scenes and tributes to a couple of his departed influences… Falling Upwards is a rich ballad that features two tenor players. First Tony Lakatos lays down a beautiful statement over spectral guitar and drums. Then as the orchestra glides into a slow, sophisticated mood, Steffan Weber steps to the front, blowing his sax with grace and eloquence over rich band harmonies.”

In 2014, bassist Rufus Reid recorded his most ambitious project yet, a suite for big band inspired by the sculptures of African American activist and artist Elizabeth Catlett. So powerfully was he moved by these works that he sought to capture their spirit in his suite Quiet Pride – The Elizabeth Catlett Project.

Falling Upwards. Jim McNeely & The Frankfurt Radio Big Band
(Frank Wellert-tp/flh, Thomas Vogel-tp/flh, Martin Auer-tp/flh, Axel Schlosser-tp/flh, Gunter Bollman-tb, Peter Feil-tb, Christian Jakso-tb/euph/vtb, Manfred Honetschlager-btb, Heinz-Dieter Sauerborn-ss/as/fl/afl/bfl/cl, Oliver Leicht-ss/as/fl/afl/cl, Tony Lakatos-ts/fl/afl, Steffen Weber-ts/fl/bfl/cl, Rainer Heute-bs/bcl/afl, Peter Reiter-p, Martin Scales-g, Thomas Heidepriem-b, Jean Paul Hochstadter-d). From Barefoot Dances and Other Visions. Planet Arts. 2018
Recognition. Rufus Reid Large Ensemble
(Tanya Darby-tp, Tim Hagans-tp, Ingrid Jensen-tp, Freddie Hendrix-tp, Michael Dease-tp, Jason Jackson-tb, Ryan Keberle-tb, Dave Taylor-tb, John Clark-frh, Vincent Chancy-frh, Steve Wilson-as/ss/fl/cl, Erica von Kleist-as/fl/cl, Scott Robinson-ts/cl, Tom Christensen-ts/cl, Carl Maraghi-bs/bcl, Steve Allee-p, Vic Juris-g, Rufus Reid-b, Herlin Riley-d, Charenee Wade-voc). From Quiet Pride – The Elizabeth Catlett Project. Motema Music. 2014

Darcy James Argue
Written to complement the work of a graphic artist in live performance, Darcy James Argue’s 2013 Brooklyn Babylon is almost cinematic in its scope. In AllAboutJazz, Karl Ackerman writes, “Argue—like Maria Schneider—is among a small handful of exceptional composers who have taken ensemble music far beyond a vestige of a bygone era. He deals in complicated themes not easily made musically palatable but Argue and [his orchestra] the Secret Society take them to a level that is completely engrossing. With its humanity, complexity and transformational beauty, Argue has created a timeless modern masterpiece with Brooklyn Babylon.”

Argue’s follow up to Brooklyn Babylon, 2016’s Real Enemies, was influenced by sources as diverse as by Arnold Schoenberg’s 12-tone scale and paranoia-inducing film scores. The suite traces conspiracy theories through American postwar political life. The music is essentially a soundtrack to a multimedia performance presented in the year or so before the recording.

The Tallest Tower in the World. Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society
(Seneca Black-tp/flh, Tom Goehring-tp/flh, Matt Holman-tp/flh, Nadje Noordhuis-tp/flh, Ingrid Jensen-tp/flh, Mike Fahie-euph/tb, Ryan Keberle-tb, James Hirschfeld-tb/tu, Jennifer Wharton-btb/tu, Erica von Kliest-picc/fl/afl/ss/as, Rob Wilkerson-fl/cl/ss/as, Sam Sadigursky-cl/ts, John Ellis-cl/bcl/ts, Josh Sinton-cl/bcl/cbcl/bs, Sebastian Noelle-g, Gordon Webster-p, Matt Clohesy-b, Jon Wikan-d/tapan/surdo/cajon/shaker/tam/per). From Brooklyn Babylon. New Amsterdam Records. 2013.
Builders. Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society
(Seneca Black-tp/flh, Tom Goehring-tp/flh, Matt Holman-tp/flh, Nadje Noordhuis-tp/flh, Ingrid Jensen-tp/flh, Mike Fahie-euph/tb, Ryan Keberle-tb, James Hirschfeld-tb/tu, Jennifer Wharton-btb/tu, Erica von Kliest-picc/fl/afl/ss/as, Rob Wilkerson-fl/cl/ss/as, Sam Sadigursky-cl/ts, John Ellis-cl/bcl/ts, Josh Sinton-cl/bcl/cbcl/bs, Sebastian Noelle-g, Gordon Webster-p, Matt Clohesy-b, Jon Wikan-d/tapan/surdo/cajon/shaker/tam/per). From Brooklyn Babylon. New Amsterdam Records. 2013.
Dark Alliance. Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society
(Seneca Black-tp/flh, Jonathan Powell-tp/flh, Matt Holman-tp/flh, Nadje Noordhuis-tp/flh, Ingrid Jensen-tp/flh, Mike Fahie-tb, Ryan Keberle-tb, Jacob Garchik-tb/tu, Jennifer Wharton-btb/tu, Dave Pietro-picc/fl/afl/bfl/ss/as, Sam Sadigursky-cl/ts, Rob Wilkerson-fl/cl/ss/as, John Ellis-cl/bcl/ts, Carl Maraghi-cl/bcl/bs, Sebastian Noelle-g, Adam Birnbaum-p/syn, Matt Clohesy-b, Jon Wikan-d/cajon/per). From Real Enemies. New Amsterdam Records. 2016

Brian Krock and Big Heart Machine
The brainchild of composer and multi-reedist Brian Krock, and produced by Darcy James Argue, benefitting from their chance meeting on the New York subway,the eponymous release Big Heart Machine wears its diverse influences on its sleeve. The disc features the five-part Tamalpais Suite, which documents a series of sensory responses to the area in Marin County north of San Francisco.

Tamalpais – IV Dipsea Steps. Big Heart Machine – conducted by Miho Hazama
(John Lake-tp/flh, Nolan Tsang-tp/flh, Cody Rowlands-tp/flh, Kenny Warren-tp/flh, Nick Grinder-tb, Chris Misch-Bloxborf-tb, Isaac Kaplan-tb, Jennifer Wharton-btb, Charlotte Greve-ss/as/cl/fl/sopranino-recorder, Brian Krock-as/cl/picc/fl/afl/soprano-recorder, Timo Volbrecht-ts/ss/cl/soprano-recorder, Paul Jones-ts/cl/fl/alto-recorder, Jay Ratmann-bs/bcl/cl/fl/tenor-recorder, Yuhan Su-vib, Arcolris Sandoval-p/syn, Olli Hirvonen-g, Marty Kenney-b, Josh Bailey-d/per). From Big Heart Machine. Outside In Music. 2018

In a previous hour of Jazz at 100 Today!, we played selections from Henry Threadgill’s suite In for a Penny In for a Pound and Wadada Leo Smith’s suite Ten Freedom Summers, both of which have been honored by the Pulitzer Prize Committee. Decades after Duke Ellington’s first explorations of the format, long-form jazz compositions continue to stimulate jazz composers and make for some of the most compelling records released today.

Resources
McClenaghan, Dan. (2015, June 29). AllAboutJazz. Maria Schneider Orchestra: The Thompson Fields. https://www.allaboutjazz.com/the-thompson-fields-maria-schneider-artistshare-review-by-dan-mcclenaghan.php

Wilson, Jerome. (2018, November 15). AllAboutJazz. Jim McNeely: Barefoot Dances And Other Visions. https://www.allaboutjazz.com/barefoot-dances-and-other-visions-jim-mcneely-planet-arts-review-by-jerome-wilson.php

Bilawsky, Dan. 2014, February 21). AllAboutJazz). Rufus Reid: Quiet Pride. https://www.allaboutjazz.com/quiet-pride-rufus-reid-motema-music-review-by-dan-bilawsky.php

Ackerman, Karl. (2013, May 18). AllAboutJazz. Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society: Brooklyn Babylon. https://www.allaboutjazz.com/brooklyn-babylon-darcy-james-argues-secret-society-new-amsterdam-records-review-by-karl-ackermann.php

Leonardi, Angelo. (2016, October 3). AllAboutJazz. Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society: Real Enemies. https://www.allaboutjazz.com/real-enemies-darcy-james-argues-secret-society-new-amsterdam-records-review-by-angelo-leonardi.php

Dean-Harris, Anthony. (2018, August 23). NextBop – The Next Generation of Jazz. Big Heart Machine – ‘Self-Titled’ (Album Review). https://nextbop.com/blog/bigheartmachineselftitledalbumreview

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