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John Hollenbeck: Rainbow Jimmies

Lyn Horton By

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In 2007, percussionist and composer John Hollenbeck won a Guggenheim Fellowship he used to study the extent to which the violin can be pushed instrumentally. To do this, he worked with consummate violinist Todd Reynolds and vibraphonist Matt Moran and created "The Gray Cottage Studies," which provide the majority of pieces for Rainbow Jimmies (the remaining four tracks of the recording spotlight other musical groups).

Hollenbeck's muses are his direct experiences with his work surroundings. Generally, he translates them into highly rhythmic and repetitive phraseology. The intended simulation of building a temple is evident in "Ziggurat (exterior)," where the Youngstown Percussion Collective and Saxophone Quartet perform unison sax lines at differing intervals, overlaying tribal-like drum beats, vocal calls and tinkling percussive ornamentation. For the title cut, The Claudia Quintet, of which both Hollenbeck and Moran are members, exhibits a similar principle of repetition (to imitate sprinkling decorative jimmies on ice cream) but, in this instance, specific and typically modified phrases overlap one another in a continual progression of changes in tempo, key or instrument.

The elegant and poignant "The Gray Cottage Studies" (reflective of The Blue Mountain Center in New York State where Hollenbeck wrote them) seem to break the pattern of recurrence by moving into more narrow, yet fluid, examination of timbral alteration. Reynolds employs every violin attack imaginable with precision, from legato to pizzicato, staccato and more. The vibes echo or complement the violin's dynamic to create a full vibrancy and resonance. In four out of the seven studies, Hollenbeck offsets the tone colors of the integrated string and vibe sound with the dryness of clicking stick to cymbal or snare combinations.

Track Listing: Gray Cottage Study #1 "lost in fog"; Gray Cottage #2 Study "getting chilly"; Gray Cottage Study #3 "my deer"; Gray Cottage Study #4 "healing and gratitude"; Gray Cottage Study #5 "dustish"; Gray Cottage Study #6 "jazz hands"; Gray Cottage Study #7 "tax penalty payment approaching"; Sinanari (acoustic remix); Ziggurat (exterior); Ziggurat (interior); Rainbow Jimmies.

Personnel: John Hollenbeck: drums (3, 4, 6-8, 10, 11), piano (8, 11), vibraphone (7); Todd Reynolds: violin (1-7); Matt Moran: vibraphone (1, 2, 4-8, 11); Mark Stewart: guitar (11); Drew Gress: bass (8, 11); Chris Speed: clarinet and tenor saxophone (8, 11); Ted Reichman: accordion and organ (8, 11); The Youngstown Percussion Collective and Saxophone Quartet (9): Glenn Schaft: faculty advisor; Michael Anderson: percussion, Dean Anshutz: percussion, Cory Doran: percussion, Tim Hampton: percussion, Brian Sweigart (leader): percussion; Chris Coles: alto saxophone; Sara Kind: alto saxophone; Evan Hertrick: alto saxophone; Tim Sharek: alto saxophone; Ethos Percussion Group; Trey Files: percussion; Eric Phinney: percussion; Yousif Sheronick: percussion; David Shively: percussion.

Title: Rainbow Jimmies | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: GPE Records


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