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John Hollenbeck's September Songs

Jeff Dayton-Johnson By

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AAJ: That will be very exciting. You did an interview with All About Jazz in 2005, and Paul Olson, the interviewer, asked you what you learned from Bob Brookmeyer. [Hollenbeck was Brookmeyer's student, and collaborated with Brookmeyer's New Art Orchestra. After Brookmeyer's death in 2011, Hollenbeck dedicated his composition "Bob Walk" to his mentor; the piece was included on Shut Up And Dance!, his collaboration with the Orchestre National de Jazz of France (BeeJazz, 2011).], I was struck by your response: you didn't talk about him as a composer or arranger or musician. You said, "He really knew how to rehearse a band!" It was this logistical dimension of his work that you highlighted. It was really revealing, because for those of us listening to the records, it's easy for us to imagine that you're always in a log cabin composing, that it's always September for you, you're always composing great music and thinking great thoughts. But no, there's this huge logistical, administrative, organizational dimension, and that's probably multiplied by ten when it comes to writing for a symphony orchestra. Having mentioned Brookmeyer, if I could re- pose that question, what did you learn from him as a musician?

JH: Besides my brothers and my father, he's the most important man in my life. This is not an answer to your question, but I'm going to say it anyway. He's the only man, outside my family, who told me he loved me. That meant a lot. You know, he was a great friend. As a musician, I don't even know where to start. He's like the history of jazz. He was around and playing with everybody. He had an incredible, incredible sound. That's the first thing. He was also a great pianist, he has a couple of piano records, I absolutely love his piano playing...

AAJ: ...with Bill Evans [The Ivory Hunters, United Artists, 1959], that's a great record!

JH: ...yeah, but he also made a piano trio record, maybe ten years ago or so, it's really great, I love that record [(Holiday, Challenge, 2001), with bassist Mads Vinding and Alex Riel]. As a composer, he's extremely influential for a lot of people. Almost everybody who's writing successful big-band music at this moment studied with him. I can't think of anybody who didn't study with him. He was huge. I think I appreciated him when he was alive, but then once he died, I realized even more how great he was.

Selected Discography

Claudia Quintet, September (Cuneiform, 2013)
Claudia Quintet (featuring Kurt Elling and Theo Bleckmann), What Is The Beautiful? (Cuneiform, 2011)
Claudia Quintet (featuring Gary Versace), Royal Toast (Cuneiform, 2010)
John Hollenbeck, Rainbow Jimmies (GPE, 2009)
Claudia Quintet, For (Cuneiform, 2007)
Claudia Quintet, Semi-Formal (Cuneiform, 2005)
Claudia Quintet, I, Claudia (Cuneiform, 2004)
Claudia Quintet, Claudia Quintet (Blueshift/CRI, 2002)

Photo credits: Tomas Ovalle, Theo Bleckmann.

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