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An Important Revelation From John Hollenbeck

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

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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,

John

 

…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.

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. 

 

John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble Trans-Europe Tourlette Recapitulation

Saturday, March 1st, 2014

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.All queries, complaints, kind remarks and general feedback regarding this blog may be directed to Jacques at johnhollenwebpr@gmail.com

JHLE_Rehearsal Wiener Konzerthaus_0790_©Lukas Beck downsize

JHLE rehearsal in Schubert Hall at the Vienna Concert House, February 18th. Photo Credit: LukasBeck.com

SATURDAY, MARCH 1st (2pm EST/8pm CET) ➜➜

Watch Songs I Like A Lot streamed live from Germany! 

LIVE STREAM of the Frankfurt Radio Bigband concert featuring Kate McGarry, Theo Bleckmann (vocals) & Matt Mitchell (piano) performing a few originals, plus NEW and old! arrangements from the Songs I Like a Lot project goes off at 2pm Eastern Standard Time (8pm Central European Time, .375 beats Internet Time).

They will premiere John’s new arrangements of True Colors (by Billy  Steinberg and Tom Kelly, made famous by Cyndi Lauper/Phil Collins); Close to You (by Burt Bacharach and Hal David, made famous by the Carpenters); and Up, Up & Away (by Jimmy Webb, made famous by The 5th Dimension).

You can TUNE IN and see them light fires Live on the Internet right HERE!

And now, our Tales from the Tourlette…

The John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble’s sluice through Europe was well-received, well-attended, and highly photogenic. To wit, peep these photos from the Vienna Concert House performance:

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[Photos copyright ©LukasBeck.com]

Beautiful indeed! The only thing you can’t see in these lovely photo is the audience, enrapt and in multitudes—1400 strong! Such multitudes!

But how did it sound, you ask? Well, in the words of Austria’s KRONEN Zeitung: 

Kronen review_Austria_JHLE Feb 2014

 

A bit of that roughly translated, for our non-German-speaking readership:

Minimal Music meets Persian mysticism meets big band sound in contemporary garb: John Hollenbeck leads his large ensemble, composed of mostly jazz instrumentation, with ease…Delicately designed musical structures and magnificent patterns give in to meditative repetition and deepen in richness and intensity, offering a color-saturated backdrop…Fragile passages with clashing piano tunes and picturesque saxophone dashes erupt in full volume…A delightful stimulant for the spirit!

A delightful spirit stimulant! Don’t mind if we do, Herr Hollenbeck!

But what about Zagreb, you ask? Well there’s testimony from there too, in its original Croatian HERE and likewise translated, by the Renaissance man Bohdan Hilash like so:

Kada i telefon postane instrument – nesvakidašnji koncert John Hollenbeck Large Ensemblea…

When the Phone Becomes an Instrument – an Unusual Concert by the John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble

Last night’s performance at Lisinski Hall by the John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble was the best way to mark another concert in the “Jazz Hour” cycle. The series, already in its fourteenth consecutive year, is organized by Croatian Composers’ Society.

John Hollenbeck is an accomplished drummer with enviable experience, a composer, and leader of an unconventional big band that breaks genre boundaries and defies musical categorization.

The performances are dominated by contemporary arrangements in which the main theme is often just a starting point, the home port from which to sail uncharted waters of jazz improvisation and experience musical dialogue between instruments and instrumentalists. The emphasis of the concert was the creation of sounds and colors which utilized rarely used instruments in big band music such as flute, bass clarinet, and marimba, but also – smart phones ! In fact, at the end of “Eternal Interlude” the ensemble members used their phones as part of the performance and thus created the basis for a live digital interplay between music and improvisation to the surprise and delight of those gathered. There were many noteworthy and inspired individuals in the ensemble, especially singer Theo Bleckmann whose vocalisms and unobtrusive musical ornaments served as a very special “instrument” during the evening.

Hollenbeck impressed as being more than just a pleasant figure, with witty announcements throughout the show and benign remarks addressed to the members of the gang. The audience learned that what inspires the compositions such as the memories of family members’ reaction to guarana, a Brazilian plant that helps with impotence.

For more tour photos, check out this comprehensive snapshot album HERE, plus this outstanding DVD-bonus album of pictures taken by the band (quite expertly) HERE.

Lastly but never leastly…

after john’s Large Ensemble leadership duties are over, he will rest on his laurels immediately take up playing drums on this trio tour (during which he will teleport to Champaign Urbana, Illinois on March 6th for a performance of On Behalf of Nature with the Meredith Monk Ensemble):

TOUR with SAMO SALMON AND JULIAN ARGUELLES

2.3.2014 – Pfaffenhofen, GERMANY

3.3.2014 – Maribor, SLOVENIA

4.3.2014 – Ljubljana, SLOVENIA

8.3.2014 – Divača, SLOVENIA

9.3.2014 – Linz, AUSTRIA

 

The John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble’s European Expedition

Thursday, February 13th, 2014

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.All queries, complaints, kind remarks and general feedback regarding this blog may be directed to Jacques at johnhollenwebpr@gmail.com

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Above flyer made for the Zagreb concert by the great Sigi Feigl,
who leads the HGM Jazzorkestar Zagreb, a tremendous support! 

—JHLE TOUCHES NEW SOIL IN EUROPE—

Say, it’s been months since we last spoke. Happy New Year from Camp Hollenbeck! How go the resolutions? Didn’t make any? Splendid! Us neither!

New question: where on earth has John not yet been? Better question: where on earth has John not yet brought over a score of musicians and their equipment? A partial answer may be found in this latest continental tour:

VIENNA – BUDAPEST- ZAGREB – MUNICH – GENEVA

That’s right! The John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble’s debut performance in each of these European cities! A rare opportunity (really, it’s nearly impossible, with the schedules and the logistics—oy!) a seriously rare opportunity for European audiences to hear this exceptional ensemble, composed of a select group of the most talented and accomplished musicians from New York City performing LIVE! If you live in one of the above countries or you’ve got a Schengen passport, you should already be searching the Internet for tickets! (But if you don’t have the time, we’ve done it for you – see below for details!)

Just listen to what Martin Longley had to say:

“Hollenbeck’s composing for his Large Ensemble has now developed a deeply personal language, retaining jazz values as it launches into a pan-stylistic orbit.”  — Martin Longley, All About Jazz

Are you somehow unfamiliar with the John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble? Unlike most contemporary big bands, this is no random agglomeration of freelancers – the John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble is an actual band consisting of top New York musicians. John had been writing for big band since he was in college at the Eastman School of Music, and eventually formed the John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble in 1998 as an outlet to write the kind of music that wasn’t being written for this style of big band.

As he put it, “I saw some things that could be done that weren’t being done, and I thought there might be some other possibilities with a group that still has traditional instrumentation but the music itself is not traditional.” He gathered together a core group of musician friends who he had studied with at Eastman, and then selected a group of New York City musician friends and colleagues to complete the ensemble, creating a fine balance of camaraderie, integrity and talent, the perfect outlet for the creative expression of his music.

WHERE AND WHEN JHLE MAY BE SEEN—

Großer Saal

Großer Saal Wiener Konzerthaus/ Large Hall Vienna Concert Hall

FEB 18 Wiener Konzerthaus  – Vienna, AUSTRIA

FEB 19 Palace of the Arts – Budapest, HUNGARY

FEB 20 Vatroslav Lisinski Concert Hall – Zagreb, CROATIA

FEB 21 Jazzclub Unterfahrt – Munich, GERMANY

FEB 22 AMR/Sud des Alpes Concert Hall – Geneva, SWITZERLAND

 

in other news…
—MIDWINTER’s LOVE for ’SEPTEMBER’—

Praise and consideration continues for Claudia Quintet’s latest, September, out this past Q4 in record shops everywhere. Below, we’re proud to reprint two brief but effusive reviews.

From John Shand in Australia (in which we’re reminded that September is not September everywhere):

 The relationship between silence and music is like that between a virgin coastline and the threat of residential development. Just as some buildings blend and others obliterate, some music embraces the silence on which it is painted, and some seeks to expunge all traces.

Silence is a relative term: it can mean a sense of air around the notes rather than gaping wounds of nothingness, and in this regard certain instruments are more telling than others.

Vibraphone is king, its every note seeming to have air swishing around it. Accordion and clarinet are others, and these three colours are central to the aerated sound of the Claudia Quintet, the New York band that realises the unique sonic dreams of drummer John Hollenbeck.

 All these Hollenbeck compositions were penned in the month of September – our March – when the warmth of summer lingers during the days, while the evenings hint at the cold to come. Hollenbeck writes cosmopolitan melodies that are by turns charming and wistful, sometimes underpinning them with surprisingly knotty rhythms, given that the end music is seldom dense.

Clarinettist Chris Speed can play storming tenor saxophone when required, and the bass of either Drew Gress or Chris Tordini completes the line-up with accordionist Red Wierenga and vibraphonist Matt Moran. Have a listen. It is like a breath of fresh air.

 

And this thoughtful and heartfelt appreciation from Grego Applegate Edwards:

 Some times of life are born of frustration. Like this Monday morning when I try and get my reviews done, the PDFs are slow, slow, slow in coming up, as is everything else, I wonder if my virus software is actually functioning as a virus by slowing everything to a crawl, the superfast internet connection seems about as fast as my old telephone modem, spell-check not working right, the tasks and life waiting for me when done perhaps as horrifying as any I’ve experienced. And on and on, bitch, gripe, bla bla bla.

 But then the Claudia Quintet plays as I write this and I remember why in every way I was attracted to music, why I play it, listen to it, why I’ve been doing these reviews so long, and I try to forget the rest.

 The Claudia Quintet? Yes. Their album September (Cuneiform Rune 377). Who is it? Drummer-composer John Hollenbeck. Red Wierenga, accordion, Chris Tordini, contrabass, clarinetist/tenor saxophonist Chris Speed and vibraphonist Matt Moran, and Drew Gress on bass for all but the four cuts that have Tordini.

This is their ump-teenth album. It’s the first I’ve heard and I am glad to be in on it now. It’s progressive jazz, compositional jazz, jazz that has a sound very much its own, a touch of rock, things that appeal to musicians because they have something behind them musically, and yes, should appeal to “real” music lovers, too.

 The album is all about the month of September. But it sounds good in any month. There is a sampled speech by FDR, taking the opposition to the New Deal to task for their insincerity. The rhythm and tonemic thrust of the speech is turned into a compositional structure–much as Reich has done with works like “Different Trains”, only perhaps more “jazzed”.

 Well and so there are other nice things to like here. This is ensemble music of a high sort. It is important music. It is not in any way expected music. It is not the same old music. So if you are a bassist, a guitarist, a music lover, it is music to hear and grow your ears with.

And so I put it to you, dear readers, as an example of something that’s excellent about the time we live in.

We live. This music helps that along. It is very recommended.

 —CON-GRAMMY-U-LATIONS—

In closing, John Hollenbeck and company wish to extend thoroughgoing kudos to fellow Eastman alums Maria Schneider and Renée Fleming, who also gave a stirring rendition of the National Anthem at the Super Bowl. Eastman rocks!