Hello World!

This is John Hollenbeck AKA “lame blogger”. The key to lame blogging is mainly to not do it!
But then, as I get into this defensive stance…
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…I’ve got lots of great excuses.

Anyway, enough about me. Let’s talk about my summer!

The Adirondack Mountains

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From July 17th-August 16th, I was in one of the most beautiful places in the world, The Blue Mountain Center! I wrote music for 6-8 hours daily, met great people, saw old friends, ate delicious food, played lots of tennis! I would tell you more about this place, but then I will have to compete with you in the next round of applications…so I will stop here. (I am still wearing my shirts with the top button buttoned in celebration of the good times and BMC peeps!)

Newport, RI

On August 31st, JHLE with special guests Kate McGarry, Ben Monder and Scott Robinson (with our amazing vocalist, Theo Bleckmann) performed selections from the recent release Songs We Like A Lot at the Newport Jazz Festival. The band bonded under adversity that came at the hands of our bus driver who showed up late to pick up the band, took strange paths, and drove so-slo-slowly. Definitely not a good combo! But we did eventually make it on stage and I have photos to prove it…
(plus jumbotron photos here!)


Rheinsberg, Germany

Later in August, I spent the week in Rheinsberg, Germany with the BuJazzO band and choir, an amazingly talented group of musicians. I was lucky in that I was able to invite musician friends to work with the band, plus we had the opportunity one evening to perform together (see below with Sissel Vera Pettersen, Dave Ballou, Marko Lackner, Geoffroy DeMasure, Hilmar Jensson, Robert Landfermann, Me!…plus an anonymous leg-which sounded great BTW)

bujazzo concert night

BuJazzO (Germany’s “National Youth Jazz Orchestra”) is a dream band for any composer/conductor. We rehearsed 9 hours a day, and during the breaks, most of the musicians would immediately go to some fun activity like singing standards together, having electro dub jams, jazz jams, playing football (soccer), ultimate frisbee, yoga or playing many rounds of flunkyball (I had to try one round and discovered it is a very fun drinking game, but decided to stop after downing two beers…which is like six beers for me!) It is refreshing to hang with people with seemingly unlimited amounts of energy and enthusiasm!


On our last day, the town was visited by a small group of Neo-Nazis who were planning a rally. In response, the BuJazzO-ers paraded around town playing New Orleans style music, delighting and engaging the locals with great, happy music that drew all of the attention away from and ultimately deterred the Neo-Nazi rally from happening. It was a fun and joyful moment where good (music!) triumphed over bad in a most peaceful manner. The mayor personally thanked everyone afterward and I have to say it was a truly moving experience that I will never forget! (If you know German, you can read about it here.)

New York City/Chicago

Then it was off to NYC to record the next Claudia Quintet album. I know I told some of you it was going to be a live record, but it will be even better than that – it will be a studio record AND a live DVD!

After two days of recording we went directly to Chicago for the Chicago Jazz Festival. I had a great time hanging for a bit with Steve Bernstein and hearing him with Henry Butler. I saw an old friend, John Wojciechowski, whom I featured in my Billy Strayhorn arranging commission for the Chicago Jazz Orchestra. And then Claudia Quintet +1 + Theo Bleckmann + Kurt Elling played in one of the most beautiful venues in the world, the Jay Pritzker Pavilion at Millennium Park. Thank you Frank Gehry, Thank you Chicago.

Jay Pritzker Pavilion

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We ate (well some of us anyway) a lot of deep dish pizza (Lou Malnatis won in my personal competition), played a good amount of ping pong (thank you Hard Rock hotel), saw the incredible AACM exhibit at MCA, and I topped it off by watching a great Cubs game from the bleachers with Red Wierenga and his wonderful wife Kate (with a grand slam included!) Thank you Miguel Montero, Thank you Chicago.

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Montreal, Québec

Back to the excuse section, one of the main things that has been occupying my time is all the logistical work related to the fact that my wife and I are “transitioning” to Montreal from Berlin. I have been appointed a professorship at McGill University (go Redbirds!), which is super exciting! And at the same time, sad that at the end of the academic year, we will leave Berlin. I love teaching at Jazz Institute Berlin, so it will be immensely hard to leave.

Speaking of McGill, I will be having a “coming out” party there at Pollack Hall on October 21st with the John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble. This is part of a little tour, or tourlette (not to be confused with toilet) that also includes:

Ithaca College – October 19th
Eastman School of Music (my alma mater)  October 20th
National Sawdust, the great new NYC venue – October 22nd

We will be premiering new music and playing some old favs! I know you are coming with friends, so “see you there!” (he said optimistically.)