KIOS-FM

Album Review: Maria Schneider Orchestra/Data Lords/ArtistShare

Oct 28, 2020

The Maria Schneider Orchestra has a lot to say about the ever encroaching, digital "always on" world in its latest recording.

Recent events such as a U.S. Government lawsuit against Google announced in October, 2020, underscore the seriousness of the music presented on the double album Data Lords. While the lawsuit accuses the search engine giant of illegally protecting its monopoly over search and search enging advertising, Data Lords confidently asserts a conclusion, via its intense musical imagery: The search engine driven online world that collects information about every user is fundamentally flawed.

Data Lords is  incredibly ambitious music that is relentless as it is comforting, featuring many of the star players of the orchestra that have been featured on previous releases and live performances of the band before Covid-19 put the live music world on pause.

The title track,"Data Lords," was fueled by a Library of Congress comission and is a forceful piece that features Mike Rodriguez on trumpet(with electronics) and Dave Pietro on alto.  

The arguement against the information gatherers continues on "Don't Be Evil", a direct musical critique of Google's unofficial motto several years ago . It's dark, moody intensity features Jay Anderson on bass, Ben Monder on guitar, Ryan Keberle on trombone and Frank Kimbrough at the piano. Also included in this part of the recording is "Sputnik", which presents long time band member Scott Robinson on the baritone saxophone for another dark and stirring performance.

By way of contrast, the second disc focuses on the natural world, as a healing balm to contrast with the digital one. Highlights of the second disc include "Bluebird", a beautiful number featuring saxophonist Steve Wilson and acclaimed keyboardist Gary Verschace on the accordion. The lovely "The Sun Waited For Me" features Donny McCaslin on tenor and trombonist Marshall Gilkes in a very pleasing performance that closes out the date.

Maria Schneider, is a five-time Grammy-winning composer and jazz orchestra leader. A native Minnesotan, Maria was studying piano and music by the age of 5. After studies at the University of Minnesota, the University of Miami and the Eastman School of Music, she relocated to New York City in 1985. She immediately sought out Bob Brookmeyer to deepen her studies of composition. At the same time she became an assistant to the legendary Gil Evans, working on various projects with him, most notably the film The Color of Money and music for the Gil Evans/Sting tour in 1987.

The Maria Schneider Jazz Orchestra came into being in 1993, appearing at Visiones in Greenwich Village every Monday night for a stretch of five years. As a result, her orchestra received invitations to perform at many jazz festivals and concert halls across Europe as well as in South America.

In recent years, Maria Schneider has become one of the music world's most strident critics of copyright abuse and unfair revenue structures in the streaming age--revenue structures that reduce the online earnings of jazz musicians to a a small fraction of their actual worth.  

Schneider argues that when the user is the product, everything is fair game. The recording Data Lords is titled after her term for corporations such as Google and Spotify. "It's seducing us, mesmerizing us into the beauty of just having everything [available]," she said onstage previous to the piece's world premiere in 2016, "while these big data companies are gathering data, information about us — this huge amount of intelligence that is making a small few incredibly rich and incredibly powerful."

KIOS jazz host Chris Cooke spoke with Maria Schneider in 2004. Schneider spoke at length about the spiritual inspiration which fuels her artistry as well as the practical aspects of sustaining her music and big band. The Maria Schneider Orchestra performed in person in Lincoln, Nebraska some years ago, creating an unforgettable night of music.  

For more information, you may visit www.mariaschneider.com