An Important Revelation From John Hollenbeck

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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.

Yours faithfully,



…It was news to me too.


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.

FDR reborn

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.

Merci, Oliver.

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.