John Hollenbeck: Rainbow Jimmies (2009)
Percussionist and composer John Hollenbeck has led a diverse and multifaceted career since his early studies with legendary trombonist/composer Bob Brookmeyer. As a sideman, Hollenbeck has served alongside Brookmeyer, Satoko Fujii, Fred Hersch, Jim McNeely, Patrick Zimmerli, and others in addition to leading his own group, the unclassifiable Claudia Quintet. On a larger scale, he has written for big band, collaborated with new music composer Meredith Monk, and received numerous commissions from wind and percussion ensembles.
Whether writing for the Claudia Quintet or his big band, Hollenbeck's compositions always bear the distinctive stamp of his singular stylean eclectic but cohesive amalgam of advanced jazz harmonies and post-minimalist rhythms bolstered by tuneful melodies and driving rock-like intensity. Rainbow Jimmies is no exception, but where previous efforts have focused on his writing and drumming skills equally, this session spotlights his work as a composer first and foremost.
Revealing a keen ear for melody, the opening series of "Gray Cottage" studies features the unique pairing of renowned classical violinist Todd Reynolds and jazz vibraphonist Matt Moran (a member of the Claudia Quintet) intermittently supported by the understated flourishes of Hollenbeck's trap set. Conceived as a series of meditative etudes to test the limits of the violin, these introspective variations reveal Reynolds' lyrical virtuosity as he unfurls bittersweet cadences ranging from austere to soulful, interweaving with Moran's scintillating accents and Hollenbeck's subtle interjections.
Hollenbeck's intricate yet melodious writing for large percussion ensemble is deftly realized on two versions of "Ziggurat." The first, "(Exterior)" employs the Youngstown Percussion Collective and Saxophone Quartet in a primal exercise in counterpoint reminiscent of the harmonious canons of Moondog. In a similar vein, the Ethos Percussion Group interprets the percolating exotica of the Balinese gamelan-inspired "(Interior)" with the minimalist rigor of Steve Reich and the kaleidoscopic detail of Max Roach's M'Boom.
The Claudia Quintet makes an appearance on "Sinanari," a fusion of Turkish melodies and Zeppelin-esque stomp from the leader that knits rock intensity to infectious minimalism. The title track closes out the album by adding guitarist Mark Stewart to the quintet. Navigating a series of complex meters and unusual time signatures, Stewart delivers a prismatic array of asymmetrical contours over the quintet's increasingly dramatic prog-rock finale.
Rainbow Jimmies is a welcome addition to Hollenbeck's discography, appending an already impressive resume as a creative percussionist and adept bandleader with composer of note.
Track Listing: Gray Cottage Study #1 "Lost In Fog"; Gray Cottage Study #2 "Getting Chilly"; Gray Cottage Study #3 "My Dear"; Gray Cottage Study #4 "Healing And Gratitude"; Gray Cottage Study #5 "Dustish"; Gray Cottage Study #6 "Jazz Hands"; Gray Cottage Study #7 "Tax Penalty Payment Approaching"; Sininari (Acoustic Remix); Ziggurat (Exterior); Ziggurat (Interior); Rainbow Jimmies.
Personnel: John Hollenbeck: drums (1-7), vibraphone (7); Todd Reynolds: violin (1-7); Matt Moran: vibraphone (1-7); Mark Stewart: guitar (11); The Claudia Quintet (8, 11); The Youngstown Percussion Collective and Saxophone Quartet (9); Ethos Percussion Group (10).
Record Label: GPE Records