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John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble: Eternal Interlude

Mark F. Turner By

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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 through charts that are filled with imagination, exhaustive discipline and touching on themes of spiritually and humanity.

With newly commissioned works by the likes of The Scottish National Jazz Orchestra and Portugal's Orquestra Jazz de Matosinhos, the six tracks cover a wealth of galaxy-expanding ideas, from the cyclonic "Foreign One" where the piano's stride- like intro moves into swirling horns, moments of serenity and varying changes, to the short twelve tone poem/piece, "No Boat."

While there may be similarities to the works of Gil Evans, Maria Schneider, and other modern day composers, these charts are uniquely Hollenbeck's own, as witnessed in the 19-minute title track. It's ebb and flow, the gentle sounds of percussion, elongated horns, darting flutes, added voices and church organ; each moving towards a thematic climax.

If "Guarana" might seek a groove transcendence with its infectious percussion dance and exhilarating horns, then the ethereal aura of "The Cloud"—with a chorus of whistlers, voices and meditative spoken word by Theo Bleckmann, one of the most singular voices in improvised music—is cerebral bliss.

The most swinging piece is "Perseverance," written for modern saxophone leaders Chris Cheek, Joshua Redman and Mark Turner, with bolstered reed/brass sections, electronics, throaty sax solos, and impressive drumming and percussion. The aforementioned "No Boat" closes the CD with mystery and Hollenbeck's wondrous vision, leaving no doubt that Eternal Interlude is a large ensemble recording for the 21st century.

Track Listing: Foreign One; Eternal Interlude; Guarana; The Cloud; Perseverance; No Boat.

Personnel: John Hollenbeck: drums, composition, whistler (4); Kermit Driscoll: acoustic, electric bass; Gary Versace: piano, organ, keyboard; Theo Bleckmann; voice, whistler (4); Ben Kono: flute, soprano, alto saxophone, whistler (4); Jeremy Viner: clarinet, tenor saxophone; Tony Malaby: tenor, soprano saxophone; Dan Willis: tenor, soprano saxophone, flute, english horn, whistler (4); Bohdan Hilash: clarinet, bass clarinet, contra-alto clarinet, whistler (4); Ellery Eskelin: tenor saxophone (5, 6); Rob Hudson: trombone, whistler (4); Mike Christianson: trombone, whistler (4); Jacob Garchik: tenor horn (2), whistler (4); Alan Ferber: trombone; trumpet/flugelhorn: trombone; Tony Kadleck: trombone; Jon Owens: trombone, whistler (4); Dave Ballou: trombone; Laurie Frink: trombone; Matt Moran: mallet percussion (1, 3, 4); John Ferrari: mallet percussion (2, 5, 6); JC Sanford: conductor.

Title: Eternal Interlude | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Sunnyside Records

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