Greetings from heaven…
Greetings from heaven…heaven on earth I should say just to be clear…or as some people call it, The MacDowell Colony!
I have been living in the “Watson” cabin pictured above for the past 5 weeks with one more to go – eating great food, meeting amazing people, working 8+ hours per day, running, biking – I would go on but don’t want to make you jealous. So instead, to distract you, here is a short video of my daily bike tour of the MacDowell Colony:
[The musical accompaniment is "Tongs of Joy" from the album Shut Up And Dance performed by Orchestre National de Jazz]
While not on the bike, I have been writing three new arrangements for a recording session in a few weeks with the Frankfurt Radio Big Band with the delicious Kate McGarry, the sumptuous Theo Bleckmann, and the delectable Uri Caine. Yes, I skipped lunch (bad idea).
What tunes am I arranging you ask?
Well since you asked: “How Can I Keep From Singing”, “The Snow is Deep” (my own composition from CQ’s What is the Beautiful?), and a de-rangement based on what I think the Russian Police Choir should have sounded like when they sang “Get Lucky” at the Sochi Olympic Games opening ceremony. We are also recording “True Colors”, “Close to You”, and “Up, Up and Away.” The album will be called Songs We Like A Lot and should be out in the spring.
The John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble with Theo and Kate will definitely be playing these new ones live at the next Newport Jazz Festival on July 31, 2015!
I’ve also been working on some new music for the Claudia Quintet. We’ll be performing in Boston, New York and close to Philadelphia:
>>> Wednesday, SEPTEMBER 24 - CAMBRIDGE, MA
THE CLAUDIA QUINTET @ Lilypad
>>> Thursday, SEPTEMBER 25 – BROOKLYN, NY
THE CLAUDIA QUINTET + Anna Webber’s SIMPLE CD Release! (I hear the drummer in Anna’s trio is hot)
>>> Friday, SEPTEMBER 26 – BLACKWOOD, NJ
THE CLAUDIA QUINTET @ Camden County College
From MacDowell, I go directly to the New England Conservatory where I’m teaching this semester for Ken Schaphorst, who is on sabbatical. In addition, the Claudia Quintet will be offering a masterclass at NEC during the day on September 24th. And here why this is such a special thing for me! (from the NEC press release which you can read in its entirety HERE):
“NEC has impacted my life as a musician/composer quite significantly over the course of my life,” says Hollenbeck. “I had an unforgettable rehearsal with George Russell and his Living Time Orchestra in the basement underneath Jordan Hall when I was 18. Two years later I heard/saw Ken Schaphorst conduct The True Colors Big Band with incredible players that I would later meet and play with professionally. Moving to NYC, I quickly realized that most of the musicians I felt to be kindred spirits had studied at NEC. The faculty at NEC past and present is extraordinary and among them are several of my heroes: my brother Pat Hollenbeck, George Russell, Jimmy Guiffre, Vic Firth, Bob Moses and my musical father, Bob Brookmeyer. It is an absolute honor to have this opportunity to teach for a semester and be surrounded by the NEC legacy.”
I’m also very happy to be teaching at the next Creative Music Foundation Workshop at Full Moon Resort, located one half hour west of Woodstock, New York from SEPT 29 – OCT 3.
“Intensive Workshops, Jam Sessions and Intimate Concerts in a Spectacular Mountainside Setting: Composer/multi-reedist Marty Ehrlich, composer/drummer John Hollenbeck, Indian music masters Steve Gorn (flute) and Badal Roy (tabla) will join Creative Music Studio Artistic Directors/Co-founders Karl Berger and Ingrid Sertso as Guiding Artists for the CMS Fall Workshop intensive, September 29 – October 3, at the well-appointed Full Moon Resort in Big Indian, NY. “
Last but not least:
Team Hollenbeck along with ActiveColor is very close to unveiling a NEW WEBSITE! We’re very excited, working diligently away at it, and anticipate it’s arrival sometime soon during the month of September.
John’s Summer Blog
From John Edward:
In Blogging for Dummies, I read that it is important to be active and consistently blog…never stop! Up until the last few months, I have been pretty good at keeping up, but recently I just needed some “alone” time.
(Disclaimer: while I imagine it does exist, I have never read Blogging for Dummies, which will become more apparent as you read on…)
Also, on April 1st, Jacques blew my cover so I had to hide out for a while. Jacques is fine by the way, but I did have to break his arms so that he, at least temporarily, couldn’t do what he did on that last blog. I should mention here that one should look closely at the date of the last blog in conjunction with what that day signifies around the world in order to truly understand if it is true or in fact a good joke. Enough said!
On the serious side, I have been just sick of the Internet, social media, and the blogosphere, so I needed to take a break, and also not add to the traffic that’s already out there for a while.
So now I’m back in my truest form to let you know what I’ve been up to in all the time I’ve saved by not hanging out on the Internet. Plus you’ll get a lot of ideas on topics you can bring up with me in conversation the next time we meet.
Berlin is a lively place with a lot of live music and events:
In past month I have seen/heard: Wye Oak, an indie-rock duo with “touches of noise and dream pop”; TuneYards, just look it up!; The Notwist, a popular German indie-rock band; Ben Frost’s Wasp Factory, a visually amazing production; Boris Chamatz’s ”20 dancers for the XX Century” at Treptower Park’s Soviet Memorial; Urban Sound Solar Art Installation in Tempelhofer Feld, a surround-sound experience in a vastly open space; Achim Kaufmann with Wilbert de Joode and Frank Gratkowski at a lovely house concert; Billy Hart Quartet, where I had the honor of packing up his drums with Joey Baron; Max Andrewski’s Hütte; the new incarnation of the ONJ; and Josef Dumoulin with Dan Weiss and Ellery Eskelin. My fingers were getting tired so feel free to ask me for more details about any of these that might interest you.
I also saw the David Bowie exhibit at the Martin-Gropius Haus and I surprised myself by how much I enjoyed this.
In the film category, we saw (I say we, because I’m usually accompanied by the lovely Kate Schroeder on these excursions): two recent documentaries on Ai Weiwei; a documentary about the Tiny house movement appropriately called Tiny; the exquisite and alarming Watermark; Jim Jarmursh’s Down by Law; and finally Boyhood (which we saw at a quintessential East German movie house on Karl Marx Allee). And a couple of these movies we were lucky enough to view at one of the many open-air movie festivals in Berlin in the summer – a perfect way to be outside but enjoy a good movie!
Speaking of good movies: I’m often asked about my time in Berlin and what I like about being here. Coming from a city like New York, what I always notice first about Berlin is the immense amount of open space when I look up in the sky and around me on ground level. The city has a relaxed vibrancy that feels healthy without being boring. One of my favorite things about Berlin is the incredible infrastructure of bike paths that make biking a fun and easy way to get to pretty much anywhere in the city.
To demonstrate this, I made a video to show my typical Berlin commute. For me, I appreciate being able to ride a bike considerably more than what my “normal” commute looks like, pictured below:
So without further fanfare here is “My Berlin Morning Commute”
(Dear Mother, I do not ride the bike this fast, I used fast motion to speed up the “boring” parts. Love, John)
UPCOMING SHOWS & whatnot >>>
While Germany is still on my mind, this Sunday, July 20 at 3:05pm EST (which is 9:05pm Central European Time), DeutschlandFunk (German Radio) will be broadcasting the JOHN HOLLENBECK LARGE ENSEMBLE from our gig at Munich’s Unterfahrt Jazz Club in February. To LIVE STREAM the concert, go to Deutschlandfunk live.
Back to America:
If you need your CLAUDIA QUINTET fix, we are performing a FREE CONCERT AT BRYANT PARK in Manhattan on August 8th at 6pm.
We will be performing our CMA commission, Royal Toast which features the quintet plus Matt Mitchell on piano.
Since I’m me, I have to go, but if I were you, I would definitely go!
In August, I’m lucky enough to be a MacDowell Fellow this summer, so I will be writing a whole bunch of new music while there for the Claudia Quintet, JHLE, JASS and more arrangements for the 2nd volume of Songs I Like A Lot (tentatively titled Songs We Like A Lot, which I know leaves me vulnerable to a volume 3, Songs You Like A Lot…which I guess could work out OK if “You” have similar tastes to “We” and “I”). This next volume, which we’ll be recording in Germany in September, is also with Theo Bleckmann, Kate McGarry and the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, plus we’ve got the great Uri Caine on this one!
After that, I will be back on US soil again for some Claudia gigs where we will be playing in New York, Boston, and Philadelphia in late September – more info to follow soon!
BTW, we will be in Florida in late February, 2015 (first time for the quintet…Florida in February!!)
And lastly, last week Jon Schaefer of WNYC fame did an enjoyable New Sounds show on Drummers/Bandleaders. It is an honor to have my name mentioned in the company of the other drummer/bandleaders he featured. The JHLE playing eternal interlude concludes the show.
That’s all for now. Jacques’ arms will be healed soon and he will be back on the keyboard, which I’m sure will make some of you happy…or happier.
Over and outish,
An Important Revelation From John Hollenbeck
We interrupt our normal broadcast to deliver this important statement, written by John and sent via PGP from an undisclosed location. Below is the full, unredacted text:
Dear Friends, Colleagues, and Fans.
What I’m about to disclose may change your view of me forever, but I’m trusting our relationship to withstand the backlash. That said, I am ready for what may come.
I can’t hide any longer. While you may know me as John Hollenbeck, musician, bandleader, composer, and collaborator, there is another life I’ve been leading. A life in the shadows.
I’m sure you’ve heard of Edward Snowden. Well, that man is not who he says he is. And neither am I. That Edward Snowden, the one who’s been photographed by every daily paper in the world, who appears via satellite to do TED talks at SXSW: that man is my cousin, Ron Hollenbeck. The real Edward Snowden is me.
Only my most trusted friends and family know that, in addition to a nonstop touring schedule with upwards of four different groups, a continual stream of new compositions, and extensive teaching duties, most recently in Berlin, I’ve also spent most of the last two decades working as a contracted intelligence analyst for the US government.
This might be hard to believe, but think about the parallels in our lives, from cross-border travel, to the hours spent working in seclusion on complex texts and programs with funny codenames. And really, what is music but yet another form of creative data processing?
As you all know, the time came when I couldn’t set by and let the NSA trample the privacy we all cherished. I knew once my escape was made and the stolen data began slowly leaking to the public, my safety would be at grave risk. That’s why I needed a decoy.
Because he’s my nearly-identical cousin and someone equally passionate about privacy in civil society, Ron Hollenbeck was the only choice to act as the face of these disclosures, enduring mortal risk and detention in Russian exile, all so that I could continue creating, and making intelligence disclosures of the musical kind.
With the publication of this statement, the US Government now knows the truth: the man they believe is Edward Snowden is really Ron Hollenbeck, while I, John Hollenbeck, am really Edward Snowden. And John Hollenbeck.
This latest revelation will certainly make touring much harder for me—but I’m not afraid. If I just keep doing what I’ve been doing, crossing quickly from country to country, using different monickers with a rotating group of co-conspirators, and traveling with a caravan of unmarked equipment, I should be able to stay out of harm’s way.
If not, and I end up in doing five lifetimes in an Ohio supermax, always remember: If you want to set the truth free, make sure your work is hard to classify.
Carry on the good fight.
Extra thanks to Ron.
…It was news to me too.
CLAUDIA LIVE IN NYC AT CORNELIA NEXT WEEK
CQ will gig at Cornelia Street Café in New York on Thursday, April 10th, at 8:30pm. The show will be RECORDED, and if everyone in attendance is extra-good, drinks silently, and then makes copious noise between songs, then the set may end up as a Live Record!
Why be a session musician when you can be a session audience? Come get transcoded into history. Call 212.989.2319 for reservations, and visit the CSC site for whatever more details you may need.
Videographer Nika Bellianina has edited this haunting footage of FDR so that it syncs up with Claudia’s Roosevelt-interpolating tune, “September 29th, 1936 Me Warn You,” off the recent September. Check it out:
Speaking of September
Oliver Arditi recently filed this review of the record, excerpted here and also unredacted.
Under the guidance of percussionist-composer John Hollenbeck this is an ensemble that bucks the commonplace assumptions of jazz, and indeed it sounds like jazz only because its instrumental resources are predominantly characteristic of that tradition, not because its musical materials are in lock-step with the established idiom (as are far too many recordings by many fine improvisers). The compositions collected here, each named for a date in September, represent an attempt by Hollenbeck to counterbalance the overwhelming affective value of that now most famous of September days, whose impact is addressed directly on ‘September 12th: Coping Song’. (Apparently my birthday reminds him of lemons.) There is an enormous degree of invention and imagination in play here, ranging from the uni-tonal rhythmic developments of the opening ‘September 20th: Soterius Lakshmi’ to the melodic transcription a Franklin Delano Roosevelt speech in ‘September 29, 1936: Me Warn You’, and many other creative choices that rigorously discount the usual limitations and boundaries of jazz composition. There is a lot of probing improvisation from a band of extremely accomplished musicians, but there is an equal (or greater) amount of structured ensemble writing, and although much of the material is quite challenging to the ear, its radical force does not rob it of aesthetic appeal. Both fiercely intelligent and empathically beautiful, September is an album that can only have resulted from a sustained and intensive feat of concentration, with not a single lazy gesture or idiomatic cliché from start to finish. Extraordinary compositions, brilliantly performed.
We leave you with this “Best Of” compilation from John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble’s recent performance at the Wiener Konzerthaus/Vienna Concert House
These words have been brought to you by Jacques Swartz, Chronicler of John. Jacques would like to reaffirm for all interested parties that he is not, in fact, Mr. John Hollenbeck, nor is he Mr. Hollenbeck’s imaginary alter-ego, but rather a fully discrete being in his own right.