Rainbow Jimmies

The Music of John Hollenbeck

2009, GPE Records

Rainbow Jimmies

Todd Reynolds  violin
Matt Moran  vibraphone
John Hollenbeck  drums
[performing Gray Cottage Studies]

Trey Files, Eric Phinney,
Yousif Sheronick, David Shively
[performing Ziggurat (interior)]

with SPECIAL GUEST: Mark Stewart  guitar
[performing Rainbow Jimmies]

Chris Speed  clarinet/tenor sax; Ted Reichman  accordion/organ; Drew Gress  bass; Matt Moran  vibraphone; John Hollenbeck  drums/piano
[performing Sinanari (acoustic remix)]

Glenn Schaft  faculty advisor
Michael Anderson, Dean Anshutz,
Cory Doran, Tim Hampton,
Brian Sweigart (leader)  percussion
Chris Coles, Sara Kind, Evan Hertrick,
Tim Sharek  alto saxophones
[performing Ziggurat (exterior)]

On April 1, 2009 John Hollenbeck released “Rainbow Jimmies,” a CD of compositions for various ensembles including a trio of violinist Todd Reynolds (Bang On A Can, Steve Reich, Ethel), vibraphonist Matt Moran (Claudia Quintet, Slavic Soul Party), and Hollenbeck; The Youngstown Percussion Collective and Saxophone Quartet; Ethos Percussion Group; and Hollenbeck’s world-renowned band The Claudia Quintet with special guest guitarist Mark Stewart (Paul Simon, Bang On A Can).

John’s jazz-oriented work has garnered an extremely strong critical response, including numerous awards and a Grammy nomination for his first large ensemble recording, yet Hollenbeck is not a jazz composer in any traditional sense. He has a strong background in classical composition and has received commissions from leading ensembles and musicians in the US and Europe, yet Hollenbeck is not strictly a classical composer either. Hollenbeck represents a major break from the traditional boundaries between composition styles. He freely integrates a range of techniques from jazz and classical music, as well as popular and world styles, on a deep formal level. And yet, he is not an “eclectic” musician. Hollenbeck has created a unique musical language for the twenty-first century. “Rainbow Jimmies” is a strong statement of that language.

“Gray Cottage Studies,” written for violinist Todd Reynolds, was composed as part of a project funded by the Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship Hollenbeck received in 2007. It features regular Hollenbeck collaborator Matt Moran and Hollenbeck himself providing percussive backing for a virtuoso display of standard violin technique. It includes many of the aspects of Hollenbeck’s music that have endeared him to listeners: propulsive grooves, ravishing melodies, and sections of meditative grace.

“Ziggurat (exterior)” and “Ziggurat (interior)” are two distinct yet related pieces, both comprised of traditional and non-traditional notation techniques. Inspired by both ancient (ziggurats) and modern construction (the sounds of building sites in contemporary Manhattan), the Ziggurat pieces present percussion ensembles with the challenge of working as a unit to create a unique performance out of the materials Hollenbeck provides.

For twelve years the Claudia Quintet has been Hollenbeck’s main working band. It has charmed and bewildered audiences from Alabama to the Amazon. Encompassing aspects of a chamber ensemble, a jazz band and a rock and roll group, the Claudia Quintet’s unique combination of sounds and personalities has earned it a special place in the hearts of critics and listeners world-wide. It features Chris Speed (clarinet and tenor saxophone), Matt Moran (vibraphone), Ted Reichman (accordion), Drew Gress (bass), and Hollenbeck himself (drums and percussion).

“Sinanari” was written for the Claudia Quintet’s cross-cultural educational journey to Istanbul, commissioned by the Weill Music Institute at Carnegie Hall. It is Hollenbeck’s arrangement of a traditional Turkish song, taken apart and put back together (“remixed,” as John says) on top of a John Bonham-esque drum part.

The title track “Rainbow Jimmies” was originally commissioned and performed by the Bang On a Can All Stars as part of their People’s Commissioning Fund project. Performed here by the Claudia Quintet plus the All-Stars’ guitar virtuoso Mark Stewart, “Rainbow Jimmies” marks a summation of Hollenbeck’s work to date. The piece brings together many of Hollenbeck’s musical obsessions (patterns, complex time signatures, heartfelt melodies) and then shatters them into a prismatic display of compositional skill and instrumental fireworks. When Hollenbeck showed the guitar part to Ben Monder, not exactly a slacker in guitar technique, his response was: “the only person that I think could play this is Mark Stewart.” “Rainbow Jimmies” is a stunning example of compositional and instrumental virtuosity, but like all of Hollenbeck’s music, it is expressive at its core.

Rainbow Jimmies

“Amazingly diverse and ceaselessly fascinating, Rainbow Jimmies is an essential document by one of America’s most inventive and original composers, and a must-have recording for fans of Hollenbeck’s Claudia Quintet.” – Dave Wayne, Jazz Review

“The production quality sits the listener among the performers—most effectively with violinist Todd Reynolds’s immaculate execution of the composer’s Gray Cottage Studies, a technical minefield for the violin. Reynolds traverses the glissandi of the underwater, frigid world of Dustish with enviable nuance of pitch and bow control. Throughout, Hollenbeck’s fleet stick work and harmonic structures emerge from the jazz idiom, but the language is entirely his own.”
– Doyle Armbrust, TimeOut Chicago

Rainbow Jimmies is much more than a confection atop a dish of ice cream. John Hollenbeck’s creation is a fascinating, multi-colored, journey that ignores genres, lays out puzzles for both performers and listeners, and posits hard sounds (drums, vibraphone) against softer ones (clarinet, accordion.) Short melodic fragments give way to longer phrases, drones to quick articulated lines. There’s much to absorb so take your time with this excellent recording.” – Richard Kamins, Hartford Courant