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John Hollenbeck / Alban Darche / Sébastien Boisseau / Samuel Blaser: J.A.S.S.

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J.A.S.S. as in the first letters of the names of American drummer John hollenbeck, French saxophonist Alban Darche and double bassist Sébastien Boisseau and Swiss trombonist Samuel Blaser. But Jass also as the term used by the Original Dixieland Jass Band in March 1917 for the very first jazz-album recording or just the name of centuries-old popular card game in Switzerland and Austria. All of the above references relevant to this quartet who first played together in Berlin in July 2011 and recorded its debut after an artist's residency in Nantes, France, the hometown of Darche ...

INTERVIEWS

John Hollenbeck's September Songs

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John Hollenbeck's productivity would be astonishing in its own right, but the uniformly high quality of this high output places the drummer among the top tier of jazz (and not only jazz) musicians. Hollenbeck's recordings, compositions and performances defy certain expectations. He can be as seriously intellectual as a stereotypically stuffy classical musician, but his music is interlaced with humor and fun. As befits a 21st century drummer, he is rhythmically complex but the music is underlain with a deep groove. He borrows ecumenically from a diversity of musical (including the rhythms of the spoken word) sources and manages to ...

EXTENDED ANALYSIS

John Hollenbeck: Songs I Like a Lot

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There are four potent musical personalities at play on Songs I Like A Lot. The first is the erstwhile leader, drummer John Hollenbeck, musical raconteur and general high-art roustabout. He has had a long association with vocalist Theo Bleckmann, both in big band settings on A Blessing (Omnitone, 2005) and with Claudia Quintet on What Is Beautiful? (Cuneiform, 2012). Bleckmann, in turn, is friends with vocalist Kate McGarry, who's Girl Talk (Palmetto, 2012) was a highlight of the year. From McGarry's past releases, including Girl Talk comes pianist/organist Gary Versace, completing our power quartet. Songs I Like ...

EXTENDED ANALYSIS

John Hollenbeck: Songs I Like a Lot

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It's hard to resist, at the very least, looking at an album with as honest and unassuming a title as Songs I Like a Lot; but it's even harder to resist when it turns out that the instigator is John Hollenbeck, founder of and primary composer for Claudia Quintet--the chamber jazz ensemble which has, over the course of six albums in nine years, completely defied definition and categorization, beyond combining improvisational prowess and the ability to subtly interpret through-composed music. When Hollenbeck releases a recording under his own name, it's generally in a larger-scale environment, and Songs I Like a ...

EXTENDED ANALYSIS

John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble: Eternal Interlude

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John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble Eternal Interlude Sunnyside Records 2009

The music on Eternal Interlude by drummer John Hollenbeck cannot be described in one word, but if it could that word would be “poignant." But of course, one word is not enough, so in settling for two, those would be “poignant" and “challenging." But then two words appear so insufficient, and the search widens and reveals, perhaps, an additional word to go with “poignant" and “challenging," and that word is “epic." But then another listen reveals that even three words do not do ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble: Eternal Interlude

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In addition to leading the unclassifiable Claudia Quintet and performing numerous sideman duties, composer and percussionist John Hollenbeck is renowned for his inimitable multi-layered writing. Hollenbeck studied under composer Bob Brookmeyer before charting a unique path in creative improvised music, incorporating elements of minimalism, post-rock and indigenous folk music into his eclectic compositions. As leader of a twenty piece Large Ensemble, he expands the sonic palette of traditional big band writing with his unorthodox approach.

Featuring a series of commissions from jazz orchestras around the globe, Eternal Interlude is the Large Ensemble's sophomore effort, following their debut, A ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble: Eternal Interlude

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Like fragments of crystal, John Hollenbeck's large ensemble casts angular lines, unusual shapes and refracts music (rather than light) differently than typical jazz big bands. The prolific drummer/composer's progressive slant has been at the core of The Claudia Quintet's For (Cuneiform, 2007) and Semi-Formal (Cuneiform, 2006); music marked by enigmatic ideas of swing, modern chamber music and wider influences. Like his first large ensemble recording A Blessing (Omnitone, 2005), Eternal Interlude documents Hollenbeck's inventions on grander scale with a 20+ piece band (that includes notables such as Tony Malaby, Ellery Eskelin, Gary Versace and Kermit Driscoll), working ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

John Hollenbeck: Rainbow Jimmies

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In 2007, percussionist and composer John Hollenbeck won a Guggenheim Fellowship he used to study the extent to which the violin can be pushed instrumentally. To do this, he worked with consummate violinist Todd Reynolds and vibraphonist Matt Moran and created “The Gray Cottage Studies," which provide the majority of pieces for Rainbow Jimmies (the remaining four tracks of the recording spotlight other musical groups). Hollenbeck's muses are his direct experiences with his work surroundings. Generally, he translates them into highly rhythmic and repetitive phraseology. The intended simulation of building a temple is evident in “Ziggurat (exterior)," ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

John Hollenbeck: Rainbow Jimmies

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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 style--an eclectic ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

John Hollenbeck: Rainbow Jimmies

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When encountering drummer John Hollenbeck in a traditional jazz setting, there's usually the distinct feeling that he is something other than a jazz drummer. Where some drummers muscle their way through a set, he prefers to finesse the music, accenting the songs in always new and creative ways. Maybe it is his past experience in other formats such as klezmer, Latin, classical and especially world music, that affords him the freedom to dream beyond the parochial nature of jazz.

His prior discs have been filed under jazz, but seem to want to migrate toward the chamber music section ...

LIVE REVIEWS

John Hollenbeck's Claudia Quintet and Large Ensemble at Two NYC Venues

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The Claudia QuintetCornelia Street CaféNew York, NYOctober 13, 2007 The John Hollenbeck Large EnsembleJazz StandardNew York, NYNovember 5, 2007 Drummer and composer John Hollenbeck comes across as a combination of benign control freak and supremely modest humorist. He's very much the director of his (and his bandmates') pieces, applying some beautifully precise drum-patterns that also have a slippery funkiness sitting alongside their new-music accuracy. He's like a clockwork toy creation, frequently placing objects on his skins to facilitate a rickety, robotic click-clacking. Yet Hollenbeck's between-number ...

MULTIPLE REVIEWS

John Hollenbeck: Joys & Desires & Sequence

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John Hollenbeck & Jazz Bigband Graz Joys & Desires Intuition 2005 Jorrit Dijkstra + John Hollenbeck Sequence Trytone 2006

Jazz' tradition police may have a necessary role to play, but that role is purely negative if it inhibits the music's continued creative mutation, especially as manifest in new work by iconoclastic trailblazers like John Hollenbeck and Jorrit Dijkstra. At this point, seeing how jazz is near the bottom of the heap ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

John Hollenbeck Jazz Bigband Graz featuring Theo Bleckmann: Joys & Desires

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This release would look like the dozens of big band recordings that surface every year, except for the small print mentioning Theo Bleckmann. Bleckmann, a fixture in New York City performance art circles, was a conspicuous presence on this year's Winter & Winter recording Las Vegas Rhapsody: The Night They Invented Champagne. Bleckmann isn't singing this time, but his mere presence means something unusual, and perhaps very significant, is up.

The first bit of subterfuge surrounding Joys & Desires is the Bigband Graz, directed by Heinrich von Kalnein and Horst-Michael Schaffer. The Bigband Graz is is centered in ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

John Hollenbeck & Jazz Bigband Graz: Joys & Desires

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Only days into the new year, and there's already a strong contender for 2006 “best of lists. That it comes from John Hollenbeck--a drummer who, in recent years, has emerged as one of the most distinctive composers in and out of jazz--is no surprise. After all, last year's--A Blessing (OmniTone), with his Large Ensemble, and Semi-Formal (Cuneiform), with the Claudia Quintet--were critically acclaimed, genre-busting albums with roots in jazz, but equally drawn from other styles too numerous to count.

Joys & Desires, with Austria's Jazz Bigband Graz, shares much in common with the broadly-textured A Blessing. The ensembles are about ...



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