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Two Delightful Evenings With “Al Berkowitz” Not To Be Missed Out On…

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Reinventing Jude Perform “Buddy Holiday” On The Chevy Music Showcase

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* * * * * The Claudia Quintet * * * * *

[ Royal Toast ] ~ A good chamber music composer lets you hear all of the combinations a group can offer. A great chamber music composer makes the group sound larger than it is. John Hollenbeck is in the latter category, and this newest Claudia Quintet offering confirms his mastery of form and orchestration on an expertly programmed disc.

The decade-old quintet has long been praised for eschewing category. Hollenbeck, Matt Moran, Drew Gress, Chris Speed and Ted Reichman are all veterans of musical situations that involve boundary busting; Hollenbeck brings their talents together, along with guest pianist Gary Versace, in a compositional vision that encompasses everything from groove-based minimalism to tonally ambiguous ballads. His trademark rhythmic interplay and tempo juxtaposition is ever-present, as is his penchant for beautifully chosen instrumental color.

That said, a new level of concentration is achieved here, making these fairly brief tracks seem longer than they are. Watch the miniature masterpiece “Paterna Terra” travel its path from atomistic free jazz toward increasingly dense layers of counterpoint and rhythmic complexity to see how much Hollenbeck can pack into five and a half minutes. By the climax, the quintet seems to have grown to twice its size. Yet, each gesture also connotes a world as Speed’s tenor dialogues with modified percussion — possibly bowed vibes — before the groove slides into place.

Throughout the disc, my concentration veered continually between micro and macrocosm. The recording is as good as the music, so that the reediness of Reichman’s accordion and Speed’s clarinet contrast and merge in Technicolor, Moran’s vibes often providing a glassy sheen. As if to highlight these relationships, almost as a subtext, there is a series of improvised and multi-tracked duets at strategic points throughout the album where each player dialogues with himself. Each then transitions seamlessly into the following composition. The serpentine “Ted Verses Ted” leads without pause into Reichman’s solo entry on the rhythmically morphing “Armitage Shanks.” The vignettes lend the whole a certain unity in juxtaposition which mirrors the moment-to-moment changes in timbre and tempo.

Gary Versace’s pianism is a perfect addition to the group aesthetic. He’s certainly no stranger to Hollenbeck’s music, having toured with Claudia and participated in Hollenbeck’s large group projects. His playing is intellectually rigorous and exciting by turn, and he is comfortable in the very different roles of ensemble player and soloist. His contributions are just one more reason for Royal Toast’s overwhelming success. For those unfamiliar with this exemplary quintet and its composer, there’s no better place to begin. __[ By Marc Medwin ].
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[ FOR ] ~ Since their founding in the late 1990s, The Claudia Quintet has walked a unique path in contemporary jazz. Unlike most jazz ensembles where the particular musicians may come and go, drummer, composer and leader John Hollenbeck always wanted Claudia to be a ‘band’ with a sound not only determined by the compositions and the instrumentation, but with the actual players who perform the music. This conception is why Claudia has had an immediately identifiable sound since its inception and why I am taking the time to name the other musicians in the group who are able to both play the intricate compositions that John hands them but to also improvise within and around these compositions and give them life. Drew Gress-acoustic bass, Matt Moran-vibes, Ted Reichman-accordion and Chris Speed-clarinet and tenor sax all make Claudia the fantastic band that it is.

Since Cuneiform started working with Claudia on their second album in 2004, the band has met with tremendous and growing acclaim and success, both for their records and their live shows, which has pleased me immensely, as they are pursuing a completely singular path in ‘jazz’ music and while they completely deserve to have an audience for their singular music, it was by no means assured. An astonishing band with a huge range of emotional depth and range and with appeal far beyond strictly ‘jazz’ listeners. For this, their fourth album, they’ve released an album of dedications. My cornering John after a show in 2002 and basically badgering him about why he needed to sign with Cuneiform may be the smartest thing I’ve done this decade.

[ Semi-Formal ] ~ The Claudia Quintet utilize unusual rhythmic patterns, creative repetitions, and such instruments as accordion, vibes, and clarinet to create a dramatic set of music. As much a soundtrack for a nonexistent movie as it is a jazz set, the music on Semi-Formal is quite cinematic, moody, and thoroughly intriguing. Although some of the individual pieces could stand alone, this is very much a 13-song suite, with one selection leading logically if unpredictably to another. In a similar way, the individual musicians, although impressive by themselves, are most important being part of the group sound, adding to the wide variety of tonal colors. Semi-Formal, which will take time to fully appreciate, is well worthy of several listens.

< < < < < [ [ MYSPACE ] | [ FACEBOOK ] ]. > > > > >
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Artist – The Claudia Quintet +1 The*
Album – What Is Beautiful?
Release Date – 2011
Genre – Experimental, Instrumental, Chamber-rock, Contemporary-jazz [ EXCELLENT ]

Tracklist

01 Showtime / 23rd Street Runs Into Heaven
02 The Snow Is Deep On The Ground
03 Mates For Life
04 Job
05 Do Me That Love
06 Flock
07 Flock
08 Beautiful You Are
09 Peace Of Green
10 The Bloodhounds
11 Limpidity Of Silences
12 Opening The Window
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The Claudia Quintet +1 The* – What Is Beautiful?
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Artist – The Claudia Quintet
Album – Royal Toast
Release Date – 2010
Genre – Experimental, Instrumental, Chamber-rock, Contemporary-jazz [ EXCELLENT ]

Tracklist

01 Crane Merit 6:47
02 Keramag Prelude 1:01
03 Keramag 8:08
04 Paterna Terra 5:30
05 Ted Versus TedComposed By – Ted Reichman 0:42
06 Armittage Shanks 5:03
07 Drew With Drew Composed By – Drew Gress 0:48
08 Spinx 3:59
09 Matt On Matt Composed By – Matt Moran (2) 0:52
10 Zurn 6:42
11 Chris And Chris Composed By – Chris Speed 0:56
12 Royal Toast 5:32
13 “Ideal” Intro Composed By – Gary Versace 1:16
14 “Ideal Standard” 8:04
15 American Standard 6:02
16 For Frederick Franck Accordion – Gary Versace 7:56
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The Claudia Quintet – Royal Toast
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Artist – The Claudia Quintet
Album – For
Release Date – 2007
Genre – Experimental, Instrumental, Chamber-rock, Contemporary-jazz [ EXCELLENT ]

Tracklist

1. I’m So Fickin’ Cool (For Fritz Pauer) 5:50
2. August 5th, 2006 (For Kate Schroeder And Family) 9:41
3. Be Happy (For S.N. Goenka) 11:08
4. This Too Shall Pass (For Tom Moran And Family) 7:29
5. Rug Boy (For Debbie Clapper) 3:57
6. For You 6:13
7. Rainy Days/Peanut Vendor Mash-Up (For All Music Teachers) 9:30
8. Three Odes- Admiration (For Peter Garland), Nostalgia (For Jan Garbarek), Pity (For Mary Cheney) 7:54
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The Claudia Quintet- For
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Artist – The Claudia Quintet
Album – Semi-Formal
Release Date – 2002
Genre – Experimental, Instrumental, Chamber-rock, Contemporary-jazz [ EXCELLENT ]

Tracklist

01 Major Nelson (3:35)
02 Drewslate (7:33)
03 Kord (3:09)
04 They Point… Glance… Whisper… Then Snicker… (9:32)
05 Bindi Binder (1:41)
60 Susan (5:18)
07 Two Teachers (6:07)
08 Growth (2:22)
09 Limp Mint (7:52)
10 Guarana (8:12)
11 Where’s My Mint? [Mint=President] (2:55)
12 Boy With A Bag And His Guardian Elephant (2:44)
13 Minor Nelson (3:43)
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The Claudia Quintet- Semi-Formal
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