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John Hollenbeck: Exploring the Boundaries, Part 2-2

By Published: March 3, 2005

AAJ: What's on the horizon for the Claudia Quintet? Do you have new tunes, recording plans?

JH: We just recorded a couple weeks ago. We did the new music in Europe in November and did a southeast tour, and the recording is pretty much done. The hard stuff is still to come: the mixing and all that, but it's been recorded. One thing about the Claudia Quintet is that sometimes the instrumentation of the group is kind of emphasized. A lot. And because of that, and also just to cleanse the palate we're going to go into the studio and do some very short pieces that I'm going to link to the pieces we've already recorded and in these pieces we're going to play other instruments. Not any Claudia Quintet instruments.

AAJ: Any plans to present the Large Ensemble live?

JH: I don't right now, but I am hoping the record will give us some opportunities. We've had some really nice gigs at the Jazz Standard in New York, and I would always be up for a gig there if they'd give us one. Mark Christman, in Phillie—who has presented the Claudia Quintet a couple times—is writing a grant to bring us down there. I'll be applying for a gig at the IAJE convention in New York. A big band, you know, is pretty much an economic nightmare.

AAJ: Well, I had a question here that you've just answered, which is, "Is it possible to tour with big bands?

JH: Not really. If I were to win a MacArthur grant or something like that, then yes. Not at my level. The Lincoln Center Orchestra has a lot of support, so maybe they can do it. But they're one of the only ones that I know of. If you want to treat your musicians well, it's just really hard. If we were backing up Björk, well, then maybe we could. Even Maria Schneider's not doing as much as you would think with her own band; she does a festival here and there but not many tours from what I can see. And the Bob Brookmeyer band, it's just a constant struggle to get anything going on. We try and try and try and once in a while we get a little thing. A week a year is about as much as we can do. I have a second big band record that's coming out in August and that's with a band called Jazz Big Band Graz, from Austria, and we're doing some gigs in April and some in November, and I was just talking with those guys last night. It's just really hard to get any gigs with a big band and do any kind of touring. It's almost impossible but there are a few of us that are still trying.

AAJ: There is a link to Vipassana Meditation on your website. Do you practice that and does it inform your work in any way?

JH: Yeah, definitely. I wish I could do more and I will do more, but yes. When I was growing up and checking out musicians, I would hear some of them talk about meditation. After a while, I realized a lot of them had checked it out, at least, and a lot of them do it. When I teach I have this one exercise, really my core exercise, the most important exercise I give someone. It's basically teaching them how to meditate without calling it meditation and we're doing it on the drums, but it's all of the things you go through when you meditate. I think meditation is the most important thing that anyone can do. If everyone was meditating, well—shit would be different.

AAJ: You get the impression from the way things are going in the world that everybody is definitely not meditating.

JH: [Laughter.] Yeah, but you can only worry about yourself. Hopefully, I will inspire some people through the music and then maybe they'll find out about meditation through the music. Hopefully, when people hear this music they'll feel like I did when I heard John Coltrane and realized—well, I am sure he had a sense of humor, but he's a serious dude. There is something serious going on.

Part 1 | Part 2

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