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The Claudia Quintet 

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Chris Speed  clarinet/tenor saxophone

John Hollenbeck  drums

Red Wierenga  accordion/piano

Drew Gress  acoustic bass

Matt Moran  vibraphone

“+1″  Matt Mitchell  piano

The Claudia Quintet has walked a unique path in contemporary jazz since their founding in the late 1990s. 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 concept is why Claudia has had an immediately identifiable sound since its inception. In that sound, the exceptional artistry and individuality of each musician is skillfully revealed throughout Hollenbeck’s original compositions.

Formed by Hollenbeck in 1997, this NYC ensemble’s sound continues to explore the edge without alienating the mainstream, proving that genre-defying music can be for everyone. The Claudia Quintet has amazed audiences from Alabama to the Amazon. Their singular sound has inspired dancing hippie girls at a New Mexico noise festival, the avant-garde cognoscenti in the concert halls of Vienna and Sao Paolo, and a generation of young musicians worldwide. In the course of the thousands of miles they have traveled together and hundreds of concerts they’ve played, the Claudia Quintet has evolved and grown, developing a dynamic live sound based on trust and spontaneity. They bring this powerful energy into the studio, where they record the old-fashioned way, live, playing as a band.

Over the past decade, the group has released six CDs that are critically acclaimed worldwide and whose appeal extends well beyond, as well as including traditional jazz audiences. The group’s first album, “The Claudia Quintet,” was released on the Blueshift CRI record label. The group has since established a long time relationship with the Cuneiform label, releasing five albums with them.

For their latest album, What Is the Beautiful?, The Claudia Quintet brings together the acclaimed compositional approach of Hollenbeck with two of the most important male singers in improvised music, Kurt Elling and Theo Bleckmann. Elling and Bleckmann recite and sing the poems of avant-garde/proto-beat American poet, Kenneth Patchen, an innovator in his time.

Kurt Elling, probably the most popular male jazz vocalist today, brings to these words – words that are, by turns, funny or poignant or thought-provoking – a hipster swagger somewhere between Ken Nordine and Tom Waits. Theo Bleckmann is, as always, Theo Bleckmann; one of the truly singular and distinctive singers in jazz today. Having both vocalists on board, with their radically different styles, gives What is the Beautiful? a tremendously wide sweep.

In the Claudia Quintet, Hollenbeck has assembled a group of the foremost innovators in this new sound to create a powerhouse band. They are: Drew Gress – bass (John Abercrombie, Uri Caine, Ravi Coltrane); Matt Moran – vibraphone (Slavic Soul Party, Mat Maneri, Nate Wooley); taking over for Ted Reichman in 2011 is Red Wierenga – accordion (Respect Quartet, Signal, Brad Lubman); and Chris Speed – clarinet and tenor saxophone (Uri Caine, Endangered Blood, Alas No Axis). The Quintet is supplemented as well by a +1, the Philadelphia-based pianist Matt Mitchell (Tim Berne, Dave King, Rudresh Mahanthappa). His virtuosity and spontaneity make him a perfect fit with the long-running core group.

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