All About Jazz

Home » Articles » Extended Analysis

3

John Hollenbeck: John Hollenbeck: Songs I Like a Lot

C. Michael Bailey By

Sign in to view read count
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 A Lot reveals Hollenbeck's omnivore musical taste. His recital includes Jimmy Webb's "Wichita Lineman" and "The Moon's A Harsh Mistress," Ornette Coleman's "All My Life," and Freddie Mercury's "Bicycle Race." That is a long throw. On just these pieces, Hollenbeck's arranging genius reveals itself in the vastness of his orchestration. "Wichita Lineman" swells over the horizon featuring a guitar introduction by Martin Scales that stops before McGarry in perfect voice. Bleckmann, equally pristine, sings the second verse, showing why he is considered a top vocalist of any genre.

Hollenbeck prefers softer tones, never overpowering the harmony with high brass and thunder. He has conceived his arrangements around the singers, allowing them an expansive comfort zone in which to operate. Imogen Heap's "Canvas" is set in moody confines, with McGarry and Bleckmann defying registers, singing as birds fly. "The Moon's A Harsh Mistress" is a sprawling, yet well-behave, fourteen-plus minutes. John Kelman described the performances as:

If "Wichita Lineman" is cinematic, then Hollenbeck's arrangement of Webb's "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" is positively IMAX...


That is no understatement. Hollenbeck's arrangement and orchestration are both fully realized, with an other-dimensional counterpoint that is telegraphed throughout the piece, giving it a deceptive simplicity clothed in the complex. This performance is about as distant from Joe Cocker's organic 1974 recording on I Can Stand A Little Rain (A&M) as we are from the edge of the universe. Hollenbeck's transformation of the traditional "Man of Constant Sorrow" is no less expansive. The piece is introduced with tsunami of low reeds, establishing a confident tone picked up by Bleckmann, singing with a sophisticated combination of intelligence and grace. McGarry supplies some tasteful vocal gymnastics, her voice doubling the brass. Versace's impellent organ playing drives the piece through verses and solos. The piece's coda is Dixieland in the sixth dimension.

Ornette Coleman's "All My Life," originally sung by Asha Puthli on 1972's Science Fiction (Columbia), is given fresh treatment by Hollenbeck's inventive orchestration, capturing the Coleman's early '70s freedom, slowing the tempo down while adding colors with the Frankfurt Radio Big Band. Hollenbeck, with McGarry and Bleckmann, turn Freddie Mercury's "Bicycle Race" into a 22nd Century show tune, or, at least what we hope that would sound like. Songs I Like A Lot actually surpasses this wish. This is forward-thinking music whose nearest peer may be Nicholas Urie's My Garden (Red Piano Records, 2011), but otherwise knows no other...invention to return to again and again.

Track Listing: Wichita Lineman; Canvas; The Moon's a Harsh Mistress; Man of Constant Sorrow; All My Life; Bicycle Race; FallsLake; Chapel Falls.

Personnel: John Hollenbeck: arranger, conductor, mallet percussion, bicycle; Theo Bleckmann: voice; Kate McGarry: voice; Gary Versace: piano. Organ; Heinz-Dieter Sauerborn: alto and soprano saxophones, flute; Oliver Leicht: alto saxophone, clarinet, alto clarinet, flute; Steffan Weber: tenor and soprano saxophone, flute; Julian Argüelles: tenor and soprano saxophone, flute; Rainer Heute: bass saxophone, bass clarinet; Frabk Wellert: trumpet, flugelhorn; Thomas Vogel: trumpet, flugelhorn; Martin Auer: trumpet, flugelhorn; Axel Schlosser: trumpet, flugelhorn; Günter Bollman: trombone; Peter Feil: trombone; Christian Jaksjø: trombone, tenor horn; Manfred Honetschläger: bass trombone; Maretin Scales: guitar; Thomas Heidepriem: bass; Jean Paul Höchstädter: drums.

Title: John Hollenbeck: Songs I Like a Lot | Year Released: 2013 | Record Label: Sunnyside Records

Tags

Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

CD/LP/Track Review
Best of / Year End
CD/LP/Track Review
Live Reviews
Read more articles
Mix of Sun and Clouds

Mix of Sun and Clouds

Yolk Records
2017

buy
Super Petite

Super Petite

Cuneiform Records
2016

buy
J.A.S.S.

J.A.S.S.

Yolk Records
2014

buy
Jass

Jass

Yolk Records
2014

buy
John Hollenbeck: Songs I Like a Lot

John Hollenbeck:...

Sunnyside Records
2013

buy
September

September

Cuneiform Records
2013

buy

Related Articles

Read Trouble No More - The Bootleg Series Vol. 13 / 1979-1981 Extended Analysis
Trouble No More - The Bootleg Series Vol. 13 / 1979-1981
by Doug Collette
Published: November 19, 2017
Read Love, Gloom, Cash, Love Extended Analysis
Love, Gloom, Cash, Love
by Patrick Burnette
Published: October 21, 2017
Read Motel Shot: Expanded Edition Extended Analysis
Motel Shot: Expanded Edition
by Doug Collette
Published: July 16, 2017
Read Long Strange Trip: The Untold Story of the Grateful Dead Motion Picture Soundtrack Extended Analysis
Long Strange Trip: The Untold Story of the Grateful Dead...
by Doug Collette
Published: July 14, 2017
Read Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band 50th Anniversary Super Deluxe  Edition Extended Analysis
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band 50th...
by Doug Collette
Published: May 27, 2017
Read Singles: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack - Deluxe Edition Extended Analysis
Singles: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack - Deluxe Edition
by Doug Collette
Published: May 20, 2017
Read "The Rascals: The Complete Singles A's & B's" Extended Analysis The Rascals: The Complete Singles A's & B's
by Doug Collette
Published: April 1, 2017
Read "Love, Gloom, Cash, Love" Extended Analysis Love, Gloom, Cash, Love
by Patrick Burnette
Published: October 21, 2017
Read "Charlie Watts Meets the Danish Radio Big Band" Extended Analysis Charlie Watts Meets the Danish Radio Big Band
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: April 3, 2017
Read "Alex Cline's Flower Garland Orchestra: Oceans of Vows" Extended Analysis Alex Cline's Flower Garland Orchestra: Oceans of Vows
by John Kelman
Published: March 23, 2017
Read "Trouble No More - The Bootleg Series Vol. 13 / 1979-1981" Extended Analysis Trouble No More - The Bootleg Series Vol. 13 / 1979-1981
by Doug Collette
Published: November 19, 2017