John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble: A Blessing (2005)
Drummer/composer Hollenbeck makes remarkable use of a remarkable voice (Theo Bleckmann), both verbal and non-verbal, similar to Maria Schneider's use of Luciana Souza's soaring vocals on Concert in the Garden and Dave Douglas' inclusion of Tom Waits' grumbling, growling, mumbled undercurrent on his Witness (Bluebird, 2001). Add some unusual timbresa bowed vibraphone, a sound sort of like a rung bell, slurred through an electronic filtering device; and English horn.
The "is it jazz?" question can come into play. This is a true ensemble outing, without any particular solos standing out. Rich and varied colors, unusual rhythms, and strong compositionsa very prickly and abstract sound on the twelve-minute "Abstinence," for examplemake for a very confident, forward-looking musical vision. Hollenbeck uses some familiar names from the Maria Schneider Orchestra: trumpeters Laurie Frink and Tony Kadleck, and pianist Gary Versace (who played accordion on Concert in the Garden); but he uses less a pastel approach, employing brasher, sharper-edged colorations and denser textures.
An intriguing direction for large ensemble jazz.
Visit John Hollenbeck on the web.
Track Listing: A Blessing, Folkmoot, RAM, Weiji, Abstinence, April in Reggae, The Music of Life
Personnel: woodwinds: Bob Kono, Chris Speed, Tom Christiansen, Dan Willis, Alan Won; trombones: Rob Hudson, KurtisPivert, Jacob Garchik, Alan Ferber; trumpets: Laurie Frink, Jon Owens, Tony Kadleck, Dave Ballou; bass: Kernit Driscoll; drums: John Hollenbeck; piano: Gary Versace; mallets: Matt Moran
Record Label: OmniTone
Style: Beyond Jazz