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David Bowie and Maria Schneider’s Enigmatic Collaboration

A big band project, but not that Duke

David Bowie
David Bowie
Maria Schneider and David Bowie

Even for a man known as a musical chameleon, David Bowie’s latest creative direction was a surprise. On Oct. 8, the legendary rocker announced via press release that he had completed a new recording, a track entitled “Sue (Or in a Season of Crime),” to be released in November as a limited-edition single and as part of a career retrospective called Nothing Has Changed (Columbia/Legacy). The surprise, however, was that “Sue” was a collaboration with Maria Schneider, the award-winning jazz composer and bandleader, featuring her namesake orchestra and solos by tenor saxophonist Donny McCaslin and trombonist Ryan Keberle.

Four days later, the seven-minute track premiered on BBC’s Radio 6, and from there it (inevitably) leaked to YouTube. It’s a dense, dark, theatrical piece, with betrayal and murder in the lyrics (by Bowie alone) and heavy dissonance in the music (by Bowie and Schneider together), and has met with deep division among Bowie’s fans. “Some people hate it!” says Schneider, good-naturedly, at her home in New York City. “Some love it; some are probably on the fence. And it’s been funny to read some of the Internet comments: ‘I hate jazz!'”

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