Click here to [close]

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

John Hollenbeck - Rainbow Jimmies (GPE, 2009) ****

The album's cover gives a good idea about the music: it is sparse, organic/human and repetitive. Drummer/percussionist John Hollenbeck is obsessed with rhythm, rhythmic patterns, musical forms, and the integration of musical styles. His Claudia Quintet is possibly his best known band, and one that brings music that defies categorization.

This album is a collection of compositions, brought in three groups.

The first, the "Gray Cottage Studies" are seven vibraphone and violin duets between Matt Moran and Todd Reynolds, with Hollenbeck adding percussion on some pieces. These compositions are the highlight of the album, because of their refinement: succulent and austere at the same time.The combination of the restraint and sophistication of chamber music with the nervous energy of jazz works very well.

The second, "Ziggurat", are two percussion compositions: one performed by the Youngstown Percussion Collective and Saxophone Quartet, and the other by the Ethos Percussion Group. Especially the first, "Ziggurat (Exterior)" is quite powerful, with its shouts and yells, adding some great drama to the overall sound of organised chaos, fake tribalism, and even some tango excursion. The combination between the warm and controlled saxes and the wild percussion is excellent.

The third, "Sinanari" and "Rainbow Jimmies" are performed by the Claudia Quintet. Over repetitive themes, rhythms and accents shift, like a jazz version of Philip Glass, with mind-boggling rhythms that drag you along on a fast roller-coaster full of unexpected twists and turns, negotiated with dexterity by these stellar musicians. The compositions find a perfect balance between calm and forward drive, lightness and gravitas, rigid forms and musical openness. 

The three quite distinct parts and approaches diminish the album's unity, and make it more a kind of a repository for unreleased material, yet the quality of the various parts compensates for that weakness.

© stef