Percussionist John Hollenbeck's Claudia Quintet belongs to a sub-genre all by itself : it combines elements of jazz, prog rock and chamber music. The band is already on its fourth album ("four"?), and always with the same line-up : Chris Speed on clarinet and sax, Matt Moran on vibes, Ted Reichman on accordion, Drew Gress on bass and Hollenbeck himself on drums. The compositions are like lightly flowing rivers, with repetitive undertones, complex interacting melodies and often changing rhythms. The overall musical effect is more important than the musician's soloing. There are solos of course, but they don't carry the weight of the performance. There are no emotional outbursts here, no screaming saxes, no hourlong explorations. The whole is tightly composed, with the unusual melodies shifting on top of each other, with each instrument playing together, then following different paths, just to come back together at regular intervals. It requires skilled musicians with experience together to achieve all this, and is it should hence be no suprise that The Claudia Quintet gets better with each album, and that holds also true for Hollenbeck's creative compositions. On of the strongest and longest pieces is "Be Happy", on which clarinet, vibes and accordion play a unisono repetitive theme not unlike a Philip Glass piece as support to an enchanting bass solo by Gress, which evolves into a moving but also hard-hitting performance by the whole band. The emotionally strongest pieces is "This Too Shall Pass", on which the accordion creates some eery monotonous sounds, and the arco bass and clarinet tear the the mother of all sadness out of their instruments, and on which especially Moran's bluesy vibes steal the show. But not everything is peace and quiet. On the short uptempo "Rug Boy", the rhythm sections unleashes all its energy, while clarinet and and accordion play a slow melody.
In analogy to Ken Vandermark's habit, all tracks are dedicated to someone (hence the title "For"), and even one to "all music teachers" and one "for you". I thought you might appreciate that I told you so. Recommended.
Listen to some sound samples :
I'm So Ficking Cool
This Too Shall Pass