Thu, 10 February 2005
Euphonic Productions present:
9pm, Thu, Feb 10, 2005
($7 at the door)
290 MLK Jr. Drive, Suite 8
www.eyedrum.org Eyedrum's programming is supported in part by the City of Atlanta Bureau of Cultural Affairs
The Claudia Quintet is:
John Hollenbeck: composition/drums/percussion
Ted Reichman: accordion
Drew Gress: acoustic bass
Chris Speed: clarinet & tenor sax
Matt Moran: vibraphone
The Claudia Quintet’s 2nd release, "I, Claudia" demonstrates that "Innovative jazz does not have to be harsh, angry, loud, shrill or grating; it can be delicate, witty, ethereal and radiantly lyric, as the Claudia Quintet pointed out...." [Chicago Tribune]. Formed by composer/drummer John Hollenbeck in 1997, this New York ensemble creates music that explores the edge in a manner that captivates and enthralls novice listeners, and keeps experienced fans returning for more. ‘Claudia’s’ newest release, "I, Claudia" is a highly seductive work, ripe with compelling, propulsive grooves, dynamic sensitivity and telepathic improvisation.
In the words of Nate Chinen for the Philadelphia City Paper: "It’s impossible to classify The Claudia Quintet (postmodern- ethnic-ambient- chamber- jazz anyone?) but surprisingly easy to understand its language." Perhaps you could call it postjazz, for it is as carefully crafted as anything from contemporary classical music’s minimalist camp, and wouldn’t sound out of place played next to postrock acts such as Tortoise or Stereolab. As the NY Times stated recently: "if this music were a little bit dumber, it would resemble the music of the rock band Tortoise. No disrespect to Tortoise." "I think of it as party music for smart people," says Hollenbeck-though this is the farthest thing from a jam-band set. The solos are tightly structured, the tunes flow in and out of odd time signatures, and the melodic palette draws more from classical, Balkan, and Latin American colors than the predictable rock-funk mélange. Yet in truth, the ingredients are almost too diffuse to be isolated. "The way I write, hopefully, approaches some sort of universal music," says Hollenbeck. "It sounds like everything."
The Claudia Quintet is one of the most promising groups to emerge in recent years from ‘downtown’ NY’s new alt jazz scene, nourished by the venues alt.coffee and its successor, Tonic. The ensemble grew out of the Refuseniks, a collective trio consisting of John Hollenbeck (percussion), Ted Reichman (accordion), and Reuben Radding (bass), that played weekly at alt.coffee. After Radding left, Hollenbeck formed a quintet to perform his own compositions, which he named The Claudia Quintet. He named his quintet "Claudia", after an ephemeral and near-mythic Refusenik fan, because "I wanted to lose myself in the group - emphasizing the ensemble."
Over the past few years, John Hollenbeck has been making waves as one of NYC’s more versatile and passionate musician-composers. He moved to the city in the 1990s, as did The Claudia Quintet’s other members. With degrees in percussion (BM) and jazz composition (MM) from the Eastman School of Music, he has worked with numerous musicians in jazz (Kenny Wheeler, Village Vanguard Orchestra), ambient rock (Cuong Vu Trio), and ethnic music (David Krakauer’s Klezmer Madness; Pablo Ziegler). Besides his work with The Claudia Quintet and other projects, Hollenbeck currently tours and/or records with Theo Bleckmann, Bob Brookmeyer’s New Art Orchestra, Fred Hersch, Meredith Monk and Achim Kaufmann. Hollenbeck made his recorded debut as a composer in the winter of 2001/2002, when he released 3 critically acclaimed CDs on CRI/Blueshift: "no images" - An ambitious composer’s statement that Gary Giddins included in his "best jazz records of the year 2001" list in NYC’s Village Voice. The cast of star players - such as Ray Anderson, Ellery Eskelin, Ben Monder and Dave Liebman - meld into Hollenbeck’s appealing and unusual vision. The disc contains a fitting piece for Martin Luther King Jr. Day airplay - The Drum Major Instinct, a stirring and complex King speech set to equally stirring music by Hollenbeck. "quartet lucy" - "An emotional, spiritual exploration" Skuli Sverrisson, Jonas Tauber on bass and cello and reedsman Dan Willis add texture to a unit that is dominated by vocals (Theo Bleckmann) and percussion. Hollenbeck and Bleckmann forge an ethereal bond born of a long track record of working together on various projects. Hollenbeck has received numerous commissions, grants (NEA, Meet the Composer), and awards for compositions. His chamber piece, "The Cloud of Unknowing", was commissioned by the Bamberg Symphony Choir and issued by Berlin Classics. His Gil Evans Fellowship Commission, "A Blessing", premiered at the IAJE’s 2002 Conference and his IAJE/ASCAP Commission, "Folkmoot", premiered at its 2003 event. Hollenbeck was recently nominated as the "Up and Coming Jazz Musician of the Year" by the Jazz Journalists Association and a 2003 "Rising Star Composer" in Downbeat’s Critic’s Poll.
Drew Gress is one of NYC's most in-demand bassists, performing in numerous ensembles and currently playing with Tim Berne’s Paraphrase, Uri Caine, Don Byron, Fred Hersch Trio, Dave Douglas String Group, Marc Copland Trio, and many others. He has recorded with many artists, including Ray Anderson, Erik Friedlander, and Ellery Eskelin, and was a founding member of Joint Venture, a quartet with 3 albums on Enja. As a composer, Gress has received grants from NEA and Meet the Composer, and leads the group Jagged Sky (Soul Note) and Spin and Drift (Premonition).
Vibraphonist Matt Moran received an MM from the New England Conservatory of Music, studying jazz composition with Joseph Maneri. He leads the group Sideshow (songs of Charles Ives) and works with Mat Maneri Quintet, Butch Morris, Theo Bleckmann, and Zlatne Uste Balkan Brass Band. He has recorded and/or performed with numerous artists, including Lionel Hampton, Combustible Edison and Ellery Eskelin. Moran has received Meet the Composer grants, and recently composed a Balkan inspired piece, "Berance" (2001) for a BAM commission. He is a key figure in New York’s Balkan music scene, leading Slavic Soul Party, performing in Lefteris Bouranas and other traditional bands, teaching and curating a music series.
Woodwind player Chris Speed played piano and clarinet as a child, becoming interested in sax, jazz and improv in high school. Like Moran, he studied at the New England Conservatory of Music, where he co-founded the band Human Feel (New World/Countercurrents). Speed has worked in bands led by Tim Berne, Jim Black, Uri Caine, Dave Douglas, Myra Melford, Erik Friedlander, Mark Dresser, Ben Perowsky, Briggan Krauss, and others. He has recorded for such labels as Arabesque, BMG, Screwgun and Tzadik. In addition, Speed leads several bands with Jim Black and Skuli Sverrisson, including the Balkan-influenced Pachora (Knitting Factory), and Yeah, No (Songlines).
First trained on piano, Ted Reichman, began playing accordion while studying jazz at Wesleyan with Anthony Braxton. He has performed and recorded with countless artists, playing accordion in an astounding variety of music, including klezmer and avant-klezmer (w/ David Krakauer, Roberto Rodriquez), free (Anthony Braxton, Eugene Chadbourne, Marc Ribot), alt country (Sue Garner), and pop (Paul Simon), appearing on numerous recordings. Reichman has just released his first solo CD, Émigré, on John Zorn’s Tzadik.
For more information on:
The Claudia Quintet, & John Hollenbeck: www.johnhollenbeck.com
Drew Gress: www.drewgress.com
Matt Moran: www.mattmoran.com
Ted Reichman: www.tedreichman.com
Chris Speed: www.chrisspeed.com
I, Claudia (Cuneiform)
"Just Like Him" was written in response to an old girlfriend’s tune of jealousy entitled "just like her". I loved her intro, so when she dumped me I could think of no other way to get back at her then by stealing this intro and creating a "bigger, better, harder, faster, longer" piece. The middle accordion/clarinet section is the therapy section where I worked out my angst vicariously through Ted and Chris, followed by the mature "with perspective" coda, where I have demonstrated they I have matured since beginning the piece and have moved on.
"Opening" was first written for the one and only Refuseniks reunion concert at Tonic in 2002. I was hoping to get my piece played first so I slyly titled it in a way that would help it get its rightful place in the program. I was also thinking of the concept of opening: opening one’s mind, one’s body and what this might sound like. Computer-driven music of the 70/80’ s seems to have been an influence on this one too!
"Arabic" was written about a day I had that started out wonderfully, was turned upside down by some bad news (as you can probably guess, it had something to do with a woman), and then I recovered. I wrote the title in an Arabic font (which I have since lost), so that the guys couldn’t read my embarrassingly personal title. I also thought having the Arabic writing at the top of the page might influence their playing (I wanted a little dervishishness.
"The Cloud of Unknowing" is an excerpt of a piece I wrote for the Bamberg Chorus and Winds. The title refers to a mediation guide written by a unknown Christian mystic of the Middles Ages. The lyrics and music incorporate a Sanskrit chant of transformation with a Christian Chant of peace.
"Adowa was written for my grandmother, Madeline Heath. The rhythm and title is taken from a West African dance played mostly at funerals. Happy funeral music - Yippee! Towards the end I was thinking of what a gigantic kalimba would sound like.
"Can you get through this life with a good heart?" is a quote from a recent PBS documentary on Joni Mitchell. She was referring to her own life and struggles with maintaining a good heart. During the first section I was also thinking of the harmonic clouds and space of Morton Feldman, so it is really meeting of Joni and Morton.
"Misty Hymen" is dedicated to the Olympic Gold Medalist of the same name. While I hope the music encapsulates the power and speed of her butterfly strokes, the real reason I wrote this was so that I could say "Misty Hymen" in public as much as possible.
"Couch" was written for my couch and its undeniable power to induce wonderful naps. The music is programmatic. While some dream of hobbits and wizards, I dream of accordion, vibes, bass and clarinet.
This recording was done at Brookyln Recording, a new studio owned and run by Andy Taub (engineer on the recent Marc Ribot latin recordings among others). Andy really captured the vibe and intent of the band and Brent Lambert in North Carolina also did a beautiful job mastering. And I can't forget the incredible design by karlssonwilker, who have done all of the artwork for my CD's. They were able to use the "I" in I, Claudia as a theme in their usual cool but playful way.
Writing about this music is in one sense painful because I want the music to stay mysterious, I don’t want to know (in words) what it sounds like. But I would like to say that although I drive the van and compose the tunes, this is a BAND. And while I love "jazz" music and will always play it, I think this recording flows beyond the boundaries of the "jazz world" to occupy a wider aural universe.
Claudia recently toured the west coast and in Santa Fe, New Mexico we had our dream audience. A large, very diverse and enthusiastic crowd: Legions of older, less mobile fans sitting in back, but very attentive and alert. And in the front, scores of writhing sirens-dancing up a storm. We’ve always thought it could be like this - that this music can hit people in the heart/mind and body simultaneously. We strive to create groove music with depth and integrity!
- John Hollenbeck, December 2003
" John Hollenbeck's Claudia Quintet gives off a slinkier, mistier feeling than Mr. Charlap's trio. That's mostly a function of instrumentation, which tends here toward the mellower end of the spectrum. Vibraphone and xylophone (Matt Moran), accordion (Ted Reichman) and clarinet (Chris Speed) play principal roles, and the parts of the band shift around like tectonic plates. In a typical chunk of the group's new album, "I, Claudia" (Cunieform), an ostinato figure on the vibraphone gradually gives way to clarinet and accordion; there's a sliding-off into kind of sound-soup, and then a redeveloped version of the vamp begins again.
Nobody promised you this would be jazz; it just happens that most of the musicians in the band have their training in that area, so you get the vestigial feeling of jazz from the tone of Drew Gress's acoustic bass, Mr. Moran's occasional harmonic improvisations in a given rhythm and Mr. Hollenbeck's use of brushes.
Instead of swing, the pulse tends toward the even, hammering one of baroque, Eastern European folk dance, Philip Glass and drum-and-bass. But sometimes it's slow funk. And sometimes there's no pulse at all. A track called "Can You Get Through This Life With a Good Heart?" begins with discrete chord clouds, a little bit after the style of Morton Feldman, joined together by some sort of buttery radio-transmitter static.
Whatever it is, Mr. Hollenbeck has gotten at a special group sound, and he's such a sensitive, technically deft drummer — you notice the steadiness of his timekeeping right away — that his music can just be what he wants it to be; it's curious, and sometimes lightly funny without sour, satiric edges. It doesn't need alignments with jazz or rock or anything else to vindicate itself."
- Ben Ratliff, NY Times
"A blurb says this group's inspiration is "electronica", which at least affords one lead in trying to say what this quintet sounds like: a drummer, a vibist / percussionist, a clarinetist / saxophonist, a bassist, and an accordionist. They open with the drummer (John Hollenbeck, also the composer) sustaining an almost rock-mechanical beat, with which the vibes make free, while the squeezebox is applied to generate some ethereal sounds. It recurs to these after having its own little time as lead. It's further allowed some unaccustomed dramatic atmospherics before the vibes enter, with a strong jazzman playing bass. The vibes come near to a jazz solo before the accordion completes the ensemble and they jam to a close.
"Opening" is the second track (Duke Ellington had an item called "The Opener" which usually turned up as the final one before the half-time interval). This thing is a play of textures very much on an electronic or Philip Glass model, and one does get the impression that this is really a composer's band, like the Michael Nyman Band in England.
My favourite may be "Arabic", opening with the clarinet, which continues over a sort of Chinese chimes entry. The squeezebox's entry to the accompaniment is a reminder that the bass has been working away all the time. It's a decent tour-de-force for clarinet, and, after some wilder vibes playing, the squeezebox synthesizes synthesizer sounds of an engine sort. The clarinet resumes and produces a nice diminuendo.
"The Cloud of Unknowing" is titled after a very well known German mystical text and has already appeared and been recorded as a composition commissioned for the Bamberg Symphony Chorus. Bamberg is a modest-sized German town unique in having been spared wartime bombing, and in having a major Symphony Orchestra disproportionate with the size of its hometown, to which it was relocated after 1945, having previously been the German orchestra in Prague. This was a sizeable commission! The composer has also won a jazz award.
Here, the accordion enters in very elderly, thready, not quavery little old church organ dress, with the piping sound of one old organ sound made by the clarinetist, and the vibes -- as near as can be managed on vibes -- join in with another ancient organ voices. The bass gets into the act, and there's a sort of inverted Wurlitzer effect, or rather pre-Wurlitzer, ancient organs having begun to try to emulate little orchestras. Something dreamy or hypnotic keeps coming to the fore in Claudia Quartet performances. With the establishment of a distinctive drum rhythm, the vibist moves into something of a jazz solo. The bass is fairly forceful, and presumably these musicians could do a good job as jazz sidemen. The music isn't, however, jazz, or necessarily all that jazz-influenced or jazz-like. It's more a case of extremely well developed jazz techniques being turned to ends of contemporary modern classical music. Perhaps Claudia is really a composer's instrument, an odd ad hoc sort of assembly, who might be previewing music that will subsequently have a different, more conventional orchestration. Regardless, it is a group of players each very much concerned with the expressive and tonal capacities of his specific instrument. "
- Robert R. Calder, Pop Matters
Chamber-fusion duo of Rob Rushin (guitars) and Jeff Crompton (sax & keys) serves a surprising mix of inside and outside playing delivered by two guys developing a common vocabulary derived from distinctly different approaches and traditions. RoboCromp whispers, roars, struts and slides their way through strange originals and prismatic interpretations of lesser-known masterpieces by the likes of Thelonious Monk, Steve Lacy, Cecil Taylor, Ornette Coleman, Benny Goodman and Robert Fripp.