Newport Memories, Shapeshifters, and Sweet 15

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


I chose to end the weekend on a quiet, if forceful note at the Harbor Stage: drummer John Hollenbeck’s augmented Claudia Quintet, which mixed the leader’s motoric rhythms and lyrical melodies with the love poetry of Kenneth Patchen. Theo Bleckman sang, and Kurt Elling — guesting after leading his own razzle-dazzle, foot-stomping set at the Quad — recited. Aside from Hollenbeck’s drums, the band included Matt Moran’s vibes, Red Wierenga’s accordion, Matt Mitchell’s piano, and Chris Speed’s clarinet and tenor sax. Patchen’s poems were funny and profane. The audience laughed and even grooved a bit. It was like some long-ago imaginary jazz café. And for a while at least, the music was good and the weather didn’t matter.

There it came, there it went. Another Newport Jazz Fest sailed through inclemency and delivered generous and beautiful music to the assembled masses. You can read more of Boston Phoenix’s Jon Garelick writing on the festival and thus find yourself nearly in his shoes. And if you happened to actually be there? Please, tell us about it! Leave a comment below, or email with your recollections and impressions from the afternoon John Came to Providence.

And now for some photos.

Photos credited to Mr. Hal S., who remarked that “With the pictures I took…you might guess one reason I was at Newport was to document everyone together”

…and while you are indulging telephotically, may we recommend you visit these lovely samplings from Claudia’s performance at Shapeshifter Lab. In addition to the always stimulating sight of CQ+1, you can see modern dance magicians Abigail Levine, Ellen

Fisher and their respective companies also in motion. Check out these photos, courtesy of Dave Kaufman, here.

John Hollenbeck, you just finished a multi-band, multi-season, multi-nation tour, culminating in America’s greatest Jazz gathering. What are you going to do now?

His answer?

10 day silence.  No phone, internet, paper, pen, books and no communication—definitely my idea of ideal!. It was a meditation retreat I just came from.

Vipassana meditation, check out……


There you have it. Deliberate, thoroughgoing remove from the world at large and an outstanding inwards turn. Not quite “I’m going to Disneyland!”…Unless you’re John. Something to ponder as we flit from screen to screen in search of freedom…


John would like to congratulate and wish mighty luck to Juilian Külpmann and Martin Krümmling, one current and one former student, both recently announced as semifinalists for the 2012 Monk Competition. The competition focuses each year on a different instrument and this year will give awards for excellence in Drums and Composers (something about which all involved know much). Out of 12 semifinalists, Juilian & Martin are the only two from Germany.

Viel Erfolg!

Did you know this year Claudia Quintet will be 15 years old? So far CQ seems to be managing puberty pretty well. The zits have been few, the growth spurts spastic and marvelous, and the change in voice moves ever-deeper with nary a squeak to be heard.

To celebrate turning 15, John has decided that starting in September he will be releasing for download one cut every month from his extensive library of live Claudia gigs. As anyone who’s seen them knows, this means the chance to own (and listen to, and re-listen to) a familiar yet strikingly parallel sonic experience that will augment and enrich any Claudia fan’s library of Hollensound.


Watch this space.

We conclude with a link for an interview John recently gave to The Voice Magazine, A Publication of the Athabasca University Students’ Union. More insight into the man and his process, not to mention proof positive that greatness does not discriminate in its generosity of attention, whether on Alberta’s Voice Magazine or Manhattan’s Village Voice…

Check it out; go in peace.