When encountering drummer John Hollenbeck in a traditional jazz setting, there's usually the distinct feeling that he is something other than a jazz drummer. Where some drummers muscle their way through a set, he prefers to finesse the music, accenting the songs in always new and creative ways. Maybe it is his past experience in other formats such as klezmer, Latin, classical and especially world music, that affords him the freedom to dream beyond the parochial nature of jazz.
His prior discs have been filed under jazz, but seem to want to migrate toward the chamber music section of your record store. Just as the Modern Jazz Quartet and the work of Anthony Braxton refuse to be categorized, Hollenbeck's music reaches out towards European, modern, and ethnic music almost simultaneously.
Rainbow Jimmies draws together several commissioned works by Hollenbeck for different groups, but all somehow reconcile Hollenbeck's musical vision and vocabulary.
The first seven pieces feature some combination of Hollenbeck, vibraphonist Matt Moran, and violinist Todd Reynolds. Written to showcase the extensive range and technique of Reynolds, the "Gray Cottage Studies" (mostly very brief) are imaginative, exhilarating and at the same time quite meditative.
The "Ziggurat" (or ancient buildings) compositions were written with construction in mind. The composer is accompanied by the Youngstown Percussion Collective and Saxophone Quartet on "Ziggurat (exterior)" and Ethnos Percussion Group on "Ziggurat (interior)." Where the exterior piece amplifies the harmony of all the builders working as one, the interior work song showcases the independent percussionist working towards a whole. The rhythms of teamwork are juxtaposed against the on/off switches of autonomy, and as such these two constructions necessitate they be played side-by-side.
The remaining two sections reunite The Claudia Quintet. "Sinanari (acoustic remix)" is a faux remix of a traditional Turkish song, with bassist Drew Gress, Moran, clarinetist Chris Speed, accordionist Ted Reichman and Hollenbeck playing a precise, machine-like version. The title track allows time to fluctuate as guest guitarist Mark Stewart winds his way through Hollenbeck's complex writing. Not quite jazz nor truly classical, it may just be the middle way. Somebody call the Buddha.
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:
Jazz is for me the most important cultural revolution of the 20th century and I'm proud to
play this kind of music. For me, jazz is more than a kind of music, it's the best way of playing
any musical material.