Drummer John Hollenbeck's Claudia Quintet has created a sound. Let's not call it jazz, or chamber music, or rock for that matter. It is the Claudia sound, period. The trouble, of course with being original, is that the pigeon-holers cannot pigeonhole you and the radio folks won't play you. But then, everyone with an ear for the edge can hip their friends to this Claudia sound.
Not that Hollenbeck and company make it easy for you. Their fourth album, For, draws from a unique cast of musicians playing a slightly skewed instrumental combination, with the players come from seemingly disparate backgroundsbassist Drew Gress (Tim Berne, Uri Caine, Fred Hersch), vibraphonist Matt Moran (Slavic Soul Party, Mat Maneri, Luciana Souza), accordionist Ted Reichman (Anthony Braxton, Marc Ribot, Paul Simon), and clarinetist Chris Speed (Human Feel, Alas No Axis).
Then again, it is the combination of players that sparks Hollenbeck's writing here. The 'for' in For are dedications for folks like Dick Cheney's daughter Mary, a meditation founder, and various friends, family, musicians, and music teachers.
The repetitive chamber feel of "August 5th, 2006 flows with an ease, and simple clarinet, accordion, and twinkling vibraphone wash, that is like a gentler Philip Glass. Then zap, "Rug Boy slams a bit of hardcore free jazzbut where could the nasty come from with this crazy instrumentation? Chris Speed foists a tenor saxophone exploration in and out of his partners' swirling cauldron. Elsewhere, deep space ambient music is probed on "For You, with all kinds of electronic tape preparations and some spoken word.
Just when you think Hollenbeck will zig, he zags. The band combines the Carpenters' (that's right the whacky 1970s pop unit) hit 'Rainy Days with Stan Kenton's arrangement of "The Peanut Vendor. Now, you're wondering, does Hollennbeck have big ears or is he the Raymond Scott of this new millennium?
The answer is yes and, hopefully, yes.
Personnel: Chris Speed: clarinet, tenor saxophone; Ted Reichman: accordion; Matt Moran: vibraphone, vocals/lyrics (6); Drew Gress: acoustic bass; John Hollenbeck: drums, percussion, electronic tape preparation (6).