367

John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble: A Blessing

John Kelman By

Sign in to view read count
John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble: A Blessing One clear benefit of the global community we live in, with its inherently broad reach, is that many artists have developed into stylistic integrators. On a smaller scale, even people who live within the boundaries of the United States can experience greater artistic diversity than ever before. Only a century ago, people living in small rural towns would have no way of knowing what kind of music was developing in larger urban centres; now, with the broad reach of the internet, it's possible that someone who lives in the most remote town can not only hear what's going on outside their relatively small physical universe, they can incorporate the experience into their own musical development.

That's one of the reasons why the definition of jazz is such a slippery slope. Reductionist thinking aside, the very assimilation of a multitude of cultural and stylistic concerns is what keeps jazz alive and well, living and breathing and, most importantly, constantly evolving. Drummer/composer John Hollenbeck has proven over the course of his relatively short career that it's possible to blend a multitude of approaches while working within an idiom that's still somehow indefinably jazz. His latest release, A Blessing, expands on the stylistic melange of his smaller Claudia Quintet with an eighteen-piece ensemble that offers greater textural possibilities and a grander vision.

The recording explores the almost unlimited possibilities of one voice, five woodwind players, four trombonists, four trumpets, and a rhythm section that—in addition to the more traditional piano-bass-drums triumvirate—also includes a variety of mallet instruments. There's nothing excessive or bombastic about Hollenbeck's approach, which isn't afraid to let smaller subsets do the talking. Nor is Hollenbeck averse to finding organic ways to emulate ideas that other artists have developed through looping and other electronic means.

All kinds of trace elements can be found scattered throughout A Blessing. The sixteen-minute title track unfolds gradually, beginning with Gary Versace's simple piano arpeggios, Matt Moran's bowed vibraphone, and Kermit Driscoll's bass creating a subtle ambient backdrop of gentle beauty for vocalist Theo Bleckmann's crystal pure evocation of "An Irish Blessing. The piece builds slowly, with Hollenbeck's drums developing an ever-strengthening forward motion underneath horn lines that start as long tones, but ultimately evolve into repetitive patterns that take on a rhythmic life of their own, resolving into a kind of post-minimalist Steve Reich-meets-Maria Schneider vibe.

Elsewhere there are elements of primal jungle rhythms ("Weiji ), Brian Eno ambience that builds into a free cacophony before heading for straight-ahead swing ("RAM ), and a kind of free jazz reggae ("April in Reggae ). While it's difficult to single out any one player, Bleckmann's voice—while most often integrated into the overall texture of the ensemble, rather than standing out—ranges from pristine beauty to percussive panting, and even some miraculous throat singing over the stasis of "The Music of Life.

Captivating and compelling from a larger narrative perspective, A Blessing is continued evidence of Hollenbeck's unfailing instincts and endless imagination. A masterpiece.

Visit John Hollenbeck on the web.

Track Listing: A Blessing; Folkmoot; RAM; Weiji; Abstinence; April in Reggae; The Music of Life

Personnel: Ben Kono (flute, soprano and alto saxophones); Chris Speed (clarinet); Tom Christensen (tenor and soprano saxophones, English horn); Dan Willis (tenor and soprano saxophones, English horn); Alan Won (baritone saxophone, bass clarinet); Rob Hudson (trombone); Kurtis Pivert (trombone); Jacob Garchik (trombone); Alan Ferber (trombone); John Owens (trumpet); Tony Kadleck (trumpet); Dave Ballou (trumpet); Laurie Frink (trumpet); Kermit Driscoll (bass); John Hollenbeck (drums); Gary Versace (piano); Matt Moran (mallets); Theo Bleckmann (voice)

Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: OmniTone | Style: Modern Jazz


comments powered by Disqus

Shop

More Articles

Read Neko CD/LP/Track Review Neko
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: May 25, 2017
Read Alcanza CD/LP/Track Review Alcanza
by Troy Dostert
Published: May 25, 2017
Read New Life CD/LP/Track Review New Life
by Geno Thackara
Published: May 25, 2017
Read A Social Call CD/LP/Track Review A Social Call
by James Nadal
Published: May 25, 2017
Read The Big Wig CD/LP/Track Review The Big Wig
by Ian Patterson
Published: May 24, 2017
Read The Dreamer Is the Dream CD/LP/Track Review The Dreamer Is the Dream
by Mark Sullivan
Published: May 24, 2017
Read "Loafer's Hollow" CD/LP/Track Review Loafer's Hollow
by Mark Sullivan
Published: March 4, 2017
Read "Pigs & Fairies" CD/LP/Track Review Pigs & Fairies
by Jack Bowers
Published: May 16, 2017
Read "Live In The South Bronx" CD/LP/Track Review Live In The South Bronx
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: December 31, 2016
Read "The Seasons" CD/LP/Track Review The Seasons
by Troy Dostert
Published: April 11, 2017
Read "Ephimeral" CD/LP/Track Review Ephimeral
by Glenn Astarita
Published: April 28, 2017
Read "Rumbler" CD/LP/Track Review Rumbler
by Paul Rauch
Published: January 2, 2017

Why wait?

Support All About Jazz and we'll deliver exclusive content, hide ads, hide slide-outs, and provide read access to our future articles.

Buy it!