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It's a challenge to describe the Claudia Quintet's sound: there are patent references, but distinct departures from these references as well. For, their newest project on Cuneiform, reunites Drew Gress (bass), John Hollenbeck (drums and electronica), Matt Moran (vibes), Ted Reichman (accordion) and Chris Speed (clarinet and tenor sax), continuing a trajectory established on three previous releases.
Hollenbeck's nuanced part-writing fully exploits the tonal similarities of the frontline (clarinet, vibes & accordion); tracks like "Be Happy, "This Too Shall Pass, "Rug Boy and "Peanut Vendor Mash-up are replete with seamless blends and subtle variations that oblige close listening to determine who's playing what. Elsewhere, these voices interweave with the democratic freedom of a Beethoven string quartet; the interplay on "Peanut Vendor and "August 5th, 2006 is less like a typical parade of solos, more like a circle of hacky-sack players working together to keep the bag aloft; the beginning of "Rug Boy is free improvisation, but the result is much the same. There is also a nod to the minimalist figurations of Philip Glass and others; "August and "Be Happy have concentric looping themes that twist and turn in on themselves like musical möbius strips.
The drummer-composer's hand is felt in the preponderance of odd time signatures and asymmetrical phrase lengths that, for all their mathematical complexityand to Hollenbeck's creditseem to roll effortlessly off the snare drum. In a slight departure, "For You adds a series of concept words ("Tree...True...Blue...Reach... ) spoken erratically over a prepared electronic tape, metallic percussion, a deep bass drone, and single droplets of vibraphone. In sum, the Claudia Quintet seems to champion process over product, its collective individuality stemming not so much from what is played, but because of how it's played.
Track Listing: I'm So Fickin' Cool; August 5th, 2006; Be Happy; This Too Shall Pass; Rug Boy; For You; Rainy Days/Peanut Vendor Mash-up; Three Odes: Admiration, Nostalgia, Pity.
Personnel: Drew Gress: acoustic bass; John Hollenbeck: drums, percussion, electronic tape preparation; Matt Moran: vibraphone, vocals/lyrics; Ted Reichman: accordian; Chris Speed: clarinet, tenor saxophone.