When the Covid-10 pandemic shut down the world as we know it in the spring of 2020, the jazz scene in Seattle retreated into isolation, including dates that would have seen top touring bands appear in the city. Perhaps most notable of these missing dates was the Earshot Jazz presentation of the seven time Grammy winning Maria Schneider Orchestra, slated to appear in the Great Hall at Town Hall Seattle. It served then, as a large measure of social healing when the orchestra at last appeared in the historic hall on February 28, 2023, some three years delayed by the hundred year pandemic. An enthusiastic house of seven hundred patrons greeted the full New York ensemble, led by NEA Jazz Master, Maria Schneider, herself.
While hosting jazz legend is not a foreign entity to the city of Seattle, the receivership of the entirety of an eighteen member ensemble such as this is a rarity indeed. The price tag for a national tour of a large ensemble of this magnitude is indeed high, making such a phenomena practically non-existent. With Earshot picking up the tab, the Seattle audience needed to do its share by purchasing tickets, which in fact, it did. The stage was set for a historic evening that seemed to arrive at the perfect time, hastening our recovery from post-pandemic lethargy.
Schneider led the band through her highly visual compositions, including those on her Pulitzer nominated most recent release, Data Lords, and her pastoral masterpiece, The Thompson Fields. The band roster was full of some of the genre’s most notable stars, most of whom have been constants in Schneider’s band for more than a decade. The band in full: Saxophones: Rich Perry (tenor), Dave Pietro (alto), Steve Wilson (alto), Donny McCaslin (tenor), Scott Robinson (bari); Trombones: Ryan Keberle, Keigth O’Quinn, Marshall Gilges, George Flynn (bass); Trumpets: Mike Rodriguez, Greg Gisbert, Michael Dudley, Nadje Noordhuis; Accordion: Julien Labro; Guitar: Ben Monder; Piano: Gary Versace; Bass: Jay Anderson; Drums: Johnathan Blake; Sound Engineer: Fred Vogler.
Captured vividly by ace stage photogs Jim Levitt and Lisa Hagen Glynn, one can almost hear Schneider’s highly visual melodies emanating from the images. Many thanks to Jim and Lisa for generously and graciously lending us their time and talents. While many decades of Seattle’s vibrant jazz history is shrouded in mystery in lacking photographic documentation, the current era of Seattle jazz bears no such distinction. Jim and Lisa seem to be everywhere, and at the same time, respectfully hidden in the shadows of a performance. They have perfected the art of non-intrusion as far as the audience is concerned. Their colorful and emotive images add a dimension to written documentation of the scene that brings the events and characters of subject to vivid life. If you attended the concert, allow these images to refresh your memory. If unable to attend, witness some of the energy and beauty that filled the Great Hall on this one, very special evening.