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ALBUM REVIEWS / JAZZ

**, MARIA SCHNEIDER, JAZZ ORCHESTRA, "Coming About", Enja

August 16, 1996|DON HECKMAN

Schneider, who served a valuable apprenticeship as Gil Evans' musical assistant, is one of the most highly praised arranger-composers to arrive on the jazz scene in the '90s. For the last few years, she has been maintaining a fairly regular ensemble for Monday night appearances at New York City's Visiones jazz club.

The stability of the ensemble, with its easy feeling of togetherness, is what comes through as the most attractive quality in this otherwise dark and introspective album. Much of the space is dedicated to "Scenes From Childhood," an intermittently murky three-part work commissioned by and performed at the 1995 Monterey Jazz Festival.

Like Evans, Schneider's metier is rich textures and unusual instrumental combinations rather than melody and lyricism. There's no denying her ability to create lush, colorful orchestral timbres, but, with the possible exception of her singular take on John Coltrane's "Giant Steps," too many of the tracks ultimately emerge as little more than thickly layered, riff-tinged collages of sound.

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good, recommended) and four stars (excellent).

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