Sue (Or In A Season Of Crime) single – United KingdomWritten by: David Bowie, Paul Bateman, Bob Bhamra, Maria Schneider
Recorded: 24 July 2014; 2 February 2015; 23, 30 April 2015
Producers: David Bowie, Tony Visconti

Released: 17 November 2014

Available on:
Nothing Has Changed


2014 recording

David Bowie: vocals
Maria Schneider: arranger, conductor
Donny McCaslin: soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone
Jesse Han: flute, alto flute, bass flute
David Pietro: alto flute, clarinet, soprano saxophone
Rich Perry: tenor sax
Scott Robinson: clarinet, bass clarinet, contrabass clarinet
Tony Kadleck, Greg Gisbert, Augie Haas, Mike Rodriguez: trumpet, fluegelhorn
Ryan Keberle, Keith O’Quinn, Marshall Gilkes: trombone
George Flynn: bass trombone, contrabass trombone
Ben Monder: guitar
Frank Kimbrough: piano
Jay Anderson: double bass
Mark Guiliana: drums

Blackstar recording

David Bowie: vocals, guitar
Donny McCaslin: tenor saxophone, clarinet, alto flute
Ben Monder: guitar
Tim Lefebvre: bass guitar
Jason Lindner: Wurlitzer organ, Prophet ’08, Prophet 12, Mopho X4
Mark Guiliana: drums
James Murphy: percussion

‘Sue (Or In A Season Of Crime)’ was David Bowie’s first released music since 2013’s The Next Day. It was a single in 2014, included on the compilation Nothing Has Changed, and re-recorded for the ★ (Blackstar) album.

Jazz had been running through Bowie’s music since his earliest days, from one of his first original recorded compositions, the Georgie Fame-inspired ‘Take My Tip’, to the fusion funk of Black Tie White Noise, and later Mike Garson-led piano improvisations such as ‘A Small Plot Of Land’ and ‘Bring Me The Disco King’. And yet, although Bowie and producer Tony Visconti both had roots in jazz, they were yet to collaborate on a release solely based in the genre.

On 8 May 2014, Bowie visited New York’s Birdland club to see the Maria Schneider Orchestra perform. Schneider’s group was a collective ranging from 17 to 20 musicians, talented and versatile multi-instrumentalists for whom she wrote original music which was recorded and performed live.

I was totally floored by the beauty and power of her music. I learned she was a student of Gil Evans and worked as his score copyist. Gil Evans and Stan Kenton were jazz composers David and I were both very fond of, and so was Maria, apparently.
Tony Visconti
NME, 11 October 2014

Shortly after their meeting at Birdland, Bowie visited Schneider’s Manhattan apartment, bringing with him a demo of what would become ‘Sue’.

He contacted me about a song he had started. He had another one, too, but I didn’t have time for two. I was getting ready to record my new album, and I wasn’t even sure I had time for one, but he brought it over and we sat and listened to it to see if we could do something with it together and have me arrange it for my band.

I sat at the piano and played around with harmony a bit and said, ‘Maybe I can imagine doing something with this.’ We got together several times and fooled around with ideas. I would work on some things, and he would, and then we’d share them, and he would say ‘I love that’ or ‘No, I don’t like that’ … [And eventually] we went into the studio and recorded.

Maria Schneider
MinnPost, 2 September 2015

Schneider was given a co-writing credit for her work on ‘Sue’. Although it was their only collaboration, the pair had hoped to work together again.

He has talked about doing something together again, so maybe we will do more. I would enjoy it. I think we collaborated really well, and he loved working with the band. He’s a great fan of music – many kinds of music. He’s so brilliant it’s scary. He knows so much music and so many things – art and books and just everything, and he loves jazz.

He really likes my dark music. I was talking earlier about my music going to this bright place after Brazil. Who knows? He might have brought my dark side out. That’s one of the last things I wrote before I started working on the new record. Maybe my music will get incredibly dark now, because it was sort of fun.

Maria Schneider
MinnPost, 2 September 2015

On 15 February 2016, at the 58th annual Grammy Awards, Maria Schneider won the Grammy Award for Best Arrangement, Instrumental and Vocals for her work on ‘Sue (Or In A Season Of Crime)’.

The song’s melodic and rhythmic similarities to ‘Brand New Heavy’, a 1997 single by Plastic Soul, led to its writers Paul Bateman and Bob Bhamra being added to the list of composers.

He had said he wanted it to be dark, but I said to him, ‘This melody is Lydian, which is the brightest of modes.’ We put in this dark interval at the bottom, which created this density. I started playing what I was hearing. We worked on harmonising and creating form, and worked on a ‘B section’ together. I liked the idea of something like ecclesiastical chanting – on one note. He wasn’t sure what the lyrics were. I said, ‘What’s it about?’ and he said, ‘I don’t know. Maybe vampires?’ And he laughed.

At the session he came in with the new lyrics. I looked at them and said, ‘Oh, my god.’ He looked quite delighted with himself. I was reading them and it was very dark, like, ‘Sue… beneath the weeds’ and ‘Sue… goodbye’ and he just said to me, ‘He murders her…’

Maria Schneider
David Bowie: Ultimate Record Collection (Uncut)
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