O, Claudia

September 11, 2010 § Leave a comment

Tonight composer-percussionist John Hollenbeck reappears downstairs with The Claudia Quintet, the planet-crawling close-formation fireteam he debut in Alphabet City 13 years ago and has since wound into a group DownBeat monicker’d “a sonic tapestry”. Hollenbeck writes, arranges and plays challenging music that’s too beautiful and funky to ever call attention to its challenges. Amidst an avant-garde landscape overgrown with bitter spinach, Hollenbeck’s vegetables are sauted, stir-fried, deep-fried even. All vitamin, no stomachache; all talent, no flash. His bandmates rock forever: Drew Gress (John Surman, Uri Caine, Ravi Coltrane), Matt Moran (Slavic Soul Party, Mat Maneri, Theo Bleckmann), Ted Reichman (Anthony Braxton, Marc Ribot, Paul Simon), and Chris Speed (Human Feel, Bloodcount, AlasNoAxis), and, tonight, guest pianist Matt Mitchell.

Hollenbeck writes for three, for five, for Large Ensemble ; he writes proto-pop jazz non-standards, new music chamber ballads, spinning, flying, team-heartbeat work that doesn’t fit neatly anywhere except a stage. I asked him for a favorite genre tag, whether spot-on or pigeonholing, but he demurred. “That is not my area of expertise,” he told me. “I’m specifically trying to write something ‘in the cracks’. Cuneiform likes to call it post-jazz which ain’t bad..’party music for smart people’ is another one that ain’t bad.” He plays tonight at 9pm and again at 1030pm.

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