Maria Schneider Orchestra – 11:15 p.m. – Dizzy’s Den
Returning to Monterey after a 13-year absence, composer/bandleader Maria Schneider is looking back in more ways than one. Monterey was the scene of Schneider’s first major commission (and her latest, “Willow Lake,” which premiered earlier in the evening). So for this late set at Dizzy’s Den, Schneider and her 18-piece band revisit that earlier work, “Scenes from Childhood.”
The suite is less intricate than Schneider’s recent work, but shows all the thematic mastery and fluidity that has made Schneider such a critical favorite over the years. With long solo spaces linking a shifting set of moods and textures, the nearly hour-long work — presented as a seamless whole rather than in sections — draws a great response from the equally varied crowd.
“Bombshelter Beast” kicks things off in high gear. It’s brash and paranoid, feeding baritone saxophonist Dave Riekenberg plenty of tension to energize his nervy solo. Things calm down as guitarist John Hart goes into a relaxed yet sharp-edged break, which eventually destabilizes and spills over to restore the original feeling of neurosis. Later, as the orchestra shifts into a stealthier mode, it provides a cushioned backdrop for extended, conversational solos by tenor saxophonist Rich Perry and trumpeter Ingrid Jensen. Reaching deep, Jensen draws forth a series of jittery, chattering phrases that get the crowd worked up.
Local product Donny McCaslin is next to step into the featured soloist’s chair, as the remainder of the suite bounces its focus between his saxophone and Frank Kimbrough’s piano. Kimbrough sets things up with a dreamlike, cascading run countered by a reflective, wistful turn by McCaslin. The melancholy reverie eventually gives way to wild exuberance from McCaslin, standing straight and tall as he blasts phrases to the rafters. It’s past midnight now, but on the bandstand the night is young.