The John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble’s European Expedition

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

John-Zagreb_Banner photo

John-Zagreb_Text photo

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


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:


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.


Großer Saal Großer Saal Wiener Konzerthaus/ Large Hall Vienna Concert Hall[/caption]

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…

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.


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!