Bird Count

Bird Count

Maria Schneider Orchestra Live at the Jazz Standard You have to be careful not to miss Maria Schneider’s discs these days. Now that it seems she’s releasing exclusively on ArtistShare, her albums don’t turn up in stores; they’re only offered online. This live recording from sets in January 2000 at the Jazz Standard is heavy on the standards and her early material, but the high level of musicianship will probably make that all right with fans of Schneider’s more recent original work. Perhaps the recognizable tunes will even serve as a sort of welcome mat to the more conservative jazz fans in the house.

Schneider gives the back story on a number of the album’s tracks in her earnest liner notes. The closer, “Bird Count,” is a sort of self-contained nine-minute party. She recalls that’s how she also chose to close the last set she played with her band in 1998 after five years of Monday-night gigs at Visiones Jazz Club. “The club was packed,” she writes, “and I’d invited guys who had played with us over the years to sit in for a few farewell choruses. ‘Bird Count’ bounced along, chorus after chorus, leaving Tim Horner and Tony Scherr ready to drop. I just couldn’t bring myself to cue in the final chorus that would end an era for the band.” Clearly it wasn’t the end but rather the beginning of Schneider’s career in jazz, and though this album is a more straight-ahead effort than her Grammy-winning Concert in the Garden, if you squint your ear you almost feel like you’re back at the Standard in 2000, elbowing your friend during the applause and knowing you had stumbled on something quite remarkable.


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