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New Century, Same Genius: Ornette Coleman at JVC

Maria Schneider

On the second performance of her four-night/five-show stay at the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild, bandleader Maria Schneider explained that the first set would be devoted to “autobiographical pieces.” “Tork’s Café” (named for a truck stop where she once worked) and “Scenes from Childhood” referenced coming of age in Windom, Minnesota, but the theme carried over into the second set as well, which included “The Pretty Road” a multi-section piece that conjured the visual landscape of her hometown. Although some of her writing veers towards impressionistic, quasi-classical soundtracks of Middle American tales, Schneider balances that with inventive uses of each section’s timbres.

The strength of the performance came in part from the high quality soloists playing in the Schneider Orchestra. Guitarist Ben Monder was first to show off as “Tork’s Café” opened the evening. The acoustics of the Craftsmen’s Guild, coupled with Monder’s creative voice and use of the volume pedal, enabled him to unleash some dirty licks at low volume. As she would throughout the night, Schneider made the ensemble come together like one huge instrument, in this case as a big, cloudy one that evoked the surroundings of a diner.

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