Arranger-composer Maria Schneider's abilities have never been in doubt to me. Her debut, Evanescence (dedicated to her mentor, Gil Evans), clearly illustrated her knowledge, but until the release of Allegresse, I couldn't help but view her as an artist still a little on the outskirts of her potential.
No more: This collection's six titles are rife with the lush yet subtle voicings she's always created. What's new, however, is the palpable, infectious sense of emotion and joy present in originals such as "Hang Gliding," which also benefits greatly from Greg Gisbert's lyrical and dancing flugelhorn and Rick Margitza's equally enthusiastic tenor sax contribution. By contrast, "Nocturne" sublimely displays Evans' melancholy influence, though the leader's spare, pensive harmonic guideposts are clearly her own.
The collection's overall vibe centers in and around the deft, witty feel heard on "Hang Gliding" and the title track, where Ingrid Jensen's questing flugelhorn and trumpet weaves around the sumptuous chordal base.
Schneider has clearly learned Lester Young's gentle advice for those mining the jazz tradition: "You got to be original, man." Allegresse is a landmark release for Schneider