In the past jazz was mostly a male-dominated genre in particular when it came to bandleaders. Today there are plenty of women leading their bands, and orchestras. I'm partial to pianists and came upon this super-talented pianist, composer, conductor, and orchestra leader after hearing her song Hang Gliding. Watching her leading her orchestra through the chord changes and flawless transitions was awe-inspiring.
She grew up in Windom, Minnesota, and studied music theory and composition at the University of Minnesota. Things really started cooking when she became the assistant and copyist to Gil Evans, the greatest jazz arranger, and orchestrator in the 20th century. She collaborated with Gil Evans on many tours for well-known artists such as Sting and rock legend, David Bowie. She won a Grammy for her arrangement on the song Sue (Or In a Season of Crime)that she co-wrote with Bowie. The song appears on David Bowie's compilation album, Nothing Has Changed. She has been playing with her group the Maria Schneider Orchestra since 2000 and there is no stopping this dynamo. She made her album debut in 2004 with Concert In The Garden and has been releasing albums for years now. She is also a fiercely vocal advocate for musicians' rights and copyright. She has testified before Congress and is now included in meetings with the United States Copyright Office.
This past March Maria Schneider won a Grammys for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album for Data Lords as well as Best Instrumental Composition for her latest album, Data Lords. If she comes to your town be sure to check her out because she is amazing and the orchestration and arrangements will leave you breathless. Support independent music and musicians. Happy listening!