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Maria Schneider Orchestra – Data Lords

April 17, 2021
Maria Schneider Orchestra – Data Lords on ArtistShare

I heard a lot of positive hype on this album in 2020, but not being familiar enough with Schneider’s work I was reluctant to lay out $25 for a hi-res download. My typical purchase of music (mostly vinyl and occasionally downloads and CDs) is predicated on my being very familiar with the artist or being able to test drive the album on a streaming service. This album wasn’t on streaming services, so I forgot about it.

I recently won a 24-BIT/96HZ FLAC version of Data Lords in a contest from the website All About Jazz. I have had a chance to listen to it and it lives up to the hype. It is an instrumental concept album. Per Maria Schneider:

“…I feel my life greatly impacted by two very polarized worlds: the digital world, and the organic world. While one world clamors desperately for our constant attention, the other really doesn’t need any of us at all. …Feeling both of these opposite worlds represented in my recent music, I have decided to make this a two-album release reflecting these two polar extremes.”

I did some research on Schneider and now I understand why she would not issue her work on a streaming service. She finds the streaming services and labels (along with the various digital Goliaths) as anathema. In an article/interview she states:

“The way the music streaming economy works is [based on] how many times people listen to a piece of music and everybody is paid according to a play. So now everybody starts making their music shorter, so they can get more plays and what’s really absurd about it is somebody like me is making a record that costs hundreds of thousands of dollars and if I agree to have my music on a streaming site I’m being paid the exact same rate as a kid who makes a record in his bedroom.”

I understand the frustration, but because of her stance, fewer people are hearing her music. There are few artists who can avoid the streaming services and labels and Schneider appears to be one of them. But point taken – record labels and streaming services suck for creators.

Per a piece on NPR Schneider was inspired by her work with David Bowie – the song “Sue” from Blackstar. Data Lords uses some of the same jazz musicians that Blackstar did. In an email to Bowie she said:

“I felt like someone twisted my head so far to the right, it snapped off. What have you done to me?!” Bowie’s reply was short and sweet: “my work here is done!!”

But what about the music? This an epic big band/jazz orchestra (18 pieces). The first half of the album is the “digital world” and the second half is the “natural world. Both halves are beautiful. The digital world half is aggressive and in your face – in Schneider’s words: clamoring desperately for our constant attention (thanks Mr. Bowie). The natural world half is pastoral and conventionally beautiful (from what I have read, Schneider’s wheelhouse).

It is hard to categorize music, but I would easily categorize this as jazz. It is orchestral – given the size of “the band” and the elaborate arrangements. The ensemble has mostly traditional jazz instrumentation: horns and more horns and a conventional rhythm section of piano, bass and drums. A guitar and one odd ball: an accordion.

The album is exquisitely recorded. The 24-BIT/96HZ FLAC is warm and easy to listen to.

Having had a chance to hear the album, I wouldn’t hesitate to pay. Available at ArtistsShare as a download or CD.

The band:

Steve Wilson – alto/soprano/clarinet/flute/alto flute
Dave Pietro – alto/clarinet/piccolo/flute/alto flute
Rich Perry – tenor
Donny McCaslin – tenor/flute
Scott Robinson – baritone/Bb, bass & contra-bass clarinets/muson
Tony Kadleck – trumpet/flügelhorn
Greg Gisbert – trumpet/flügelhorn
Nadje Noordhuis – trumpet/flügelhorn
Mike Rodriguez – trumpet/flügelhorn
Keith O’Quinn – trombone
Ryan Keberle – trombone
Marshall Gilkes – trombone
George Flynn – bass trombone
Gary Versace – accordion
Ben Monder – guitar
Frank Kimbrough – piano
Jay Anderson – bass
Johnathan Blake – drums/percussion


From → Music Reviews

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