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.

A Weekend of Tony Malaby

December 11, 2009 § 1 Comment

Top-class soprano and tenor saxophonist Tony Malaby takes over Cornelia this weekend, appearing in three separate constellations on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. In May 2009’s All About Jazz, Andrey Henkin had this to say about Malaby’s last performance at the Cafe:

The heart and pulse are often used as musical symbols for beat and rhythm. Make then what you will of saxophonist Tony Malaby‘s Exploding Heart with William Parker and Nasheet Waits. His Double Heart Band, a conceptual variation of that group as well as his recent Cello Trio, performed a remarkable set at Cornelia Street Cafe Apr. 12th. That it was Easter Sunday may have subconsciously contributed to the solemnity of some of the music but more likely it was Malaby laying back, reveling in the double double basses of Norwegians Eivind Opsvik and Ingebrigt HÃ¥ker Flaten, two sides of the same kroner. When Malaby plays a set (solely on tenor in this case) with his eyes mostly shut, listeners should know they are seeing him at his most focused. That was the case during the first set as he either floated nebulously over the dense weave of the two uprights, communed with one or the other or just stood motionless, smiling at the thrum. Drummer Tom Rainey laid his rhythms adroitly between Flaten and Opsvik, punctuating Malaby’s lines. Visually, the quartet seemed like a plane: Malaby in the cockpit, Rainey the crucial tailfin, the two bassists coasting through the air currents. The material was taken from the albums featuring Exploding Heart (Flaten subbed for Parker on a tour) and Cello Trio as well as four new pieces. Apart from the opener, the rest of the 65-minute set was played as a delicious medley,Malaby more interesting in braising than flambeing.

Malaby appears Friday night at 9 and 10:30pm with Tony Malaby’s Double Heart, featuring the aforementioned Ingebrigt Hacker Flatten and Eivind Opsvik on bass, and Tom Rainey on the drums. Cover charge is a mere 10 beans.

Malaby then REappears on Saturday night at 9 and 10:30pm with Tony Malaby’s Apparitions, featuring bassist Drew Gress and two drummers, Tom Rainey and John Hollenbeck, the latter of whom was recently nominated for a Grammy. Malaby has described playing with two drummers as “just the most comfortable couch, or like taking a warm bath, just being surrounded by that sound and falling into it.” Cover is once again $10.

Sunday night at 8:30pm finds MALABY-SANCHEZ-RAINEY taking the stage, with Angelica Sanchez on piano and Tom Rainey on the drums. Of this combination Troy Collins has said “Even without settling into typical rhythmic patterns or harmonic frameworks, the trio manages to insinuate forward momentum with a linear logic that reveals abstract lyricism. Working collectively, Malaby’s horn stands on equal footing with Sanchez’s electric piano, and Rainey’s drums provide as much harmonic color and texture as they do fluctuating rhythm. Conversational in the extreme, this is one trio that listens as well as it plays.” $10 more  dollars and they’re yours for a night.

Here’s a short clip of the Apparition in action:

and a tune to whet your appetite:

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