Though his love of music was built on rhythm and the love of the tambourine sessions with his older brother, Hollenbeck additionally deserves to be recognized as an equally effective composer having shaped a still young body of work that challenges all limits. Creative and versatile, Hollenbeck continues to pen a new musical language that goes where few composers have gone or are comfortable to go. When asked about entering into the world of composition and keeping it as important as his playing Hollenbeck says, "I always saw one with the other. To me if you were going to be a musician you should know how to compose music. His "never want to write the same piece twice philosophy has Hollenbeck working and composing not only at the piano, but with drums, voice or computer as a starting point on any given day. "There are a lot of failures in the process, he says. "It is very experimental...I always found popular music growing up sounding the same [and] I do not want that for my music. I want each piece to have its own universe.
The recipient of a B.M. in Percussion and a M.M. in Jazz Composition from the Eastman School of Music, Hollenbeck has received many awards and commissions including a National Endowment grant to study composition with Bob Brookmeyer (1994), winner of the Jazz Composers Alliance Composition Contest (1995 and 2002) and a grant from Arts International to travel with The Claudia Quintet to Brazil (Spring 2002). His list of accomplishments goes far and wide from there.
As an accomplished bandleader who understands his place, Hollenbeck's Large Ensemble is under the watchful eye of conductor J.C. Sanford (in the past he had tried being both drummer and conductor!), allowing him to move away and focus on being the ensemble's drummer. Similarly, the approach he maintains with his Quintet is all about communication between the players. To get the most out of both bands is what Hollenbeck strives for and the end result of both these projects shows how successful he is as bandleader - defining what a bandleader is and what a bandleader should and could be. It is without question that on any of his releases and live performances, Hollenbeck flies under the radar knowing how to make his impact on the music.
· John Hollenbeck - The Claudia Quintet (Blueshift-Composers Recordings, 2001)
· John Hollenbeck - No Images (Blueshift-Composers Recordings,2001)
· Bob Brookmeyer/Kenny Wheeler - Island (Artists House, 2002)
· John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble - A Blessing (OmniTone, 2003)
· John Hollenbeck - I, Claudia (Cuneiform, 2004)
· John Hollenbeck - Semi-Formal (Cuneiform, 2005)