Hey people!

I am mainly writing so you can see me in this remarkable hotel outfit from an onsen hotel in Kusatsu, Japan (onsen = hot springs!) 

The other reason is to tell you about my new awesome band, GEORGE, and even awesomer (rhymes with gossamer) record, Letters to George, which comes out today (January 27, 2023)!!! 

I have some friends/colleagues who are ardent fans of the status quo. I am not, which sets up stimulating conversations on a good day, and arguments on a bad day. But like many others, the murder of George Floyd was a point where people like me, who thought they were already on a righteous path, realized they were ignorant and de-sensitized to the rampant racism, sexism and injustice that is ingrained in our world. After trying to get over the utter stupidity and anguish that I felt in the aftermath of Floyd’s death, I promised to work harder and to not forget. In hindsight, I realized that this was the beginning of my new band, GEORGE, which is in a quiet way, a tribute to George Floyd.

Although I feel like a novice in many ways, technically I guess I’m “late mid-career,” so it was not without trepidation that I looked for new partners with whom to create a band. I’ve known Anna Webber for many years, and in many capacities, but mostly as a friend and the drummer in her Simple Trio with the amazing Matt Mitchell. I was once her teacher but more and more often I feel like her student! I see many of the same characteristics in her that I have recognized in my older mentors Meredith Monk and Bob Brookmeyer. So asking Anna to join GEORGE was a no-brainer! 

I first encountered Aurora Nealand in a New Orleans club, which was very memorable (for me, probably not for her!) but the moment I knew I wanted to have a band with her was at the opening faculty jam at the Langnau Jazz Nights Workshop that Chris Speed curated in 2019 in Switzerland. Aurora spontaneously sang and played soprano sax on a standard with my old friend, the incomparable pianist/writer Ethan Iverson. She made me cry on that occasion and many others, not unlike the many experiences I have had listening to the wondrous Kate McGarry. 

Chiquita Magic was perhaps the most adventurous choice for me since we had not really met or played together. But listening to her creative work that was showing up on Instagram on a daily basis during COVID lockdowns, I was completely taken with her funky synth palette and open enthusiasm. I will pat myself on the back for guessing that these three amazing people would enjoy (at least so far!) being in a van with each other for many hours. I am frankly still caught off guard by their utter coolness!

After trying a test piece remotely with the four of us, I wrote most of the music for this band in a concentrated period at the Helene Wurlitzer Residency in Taos, New Mexico in February 2021. We recorded it in Montreal with the ever-efficient and positive Jacob Lacroix-Cardinal! After his exceptional mix, I sent it to my favorite mastering engineer, Brent Lambert at Kitchen Mastering so he could do his magic. 

At some point, I started talking to Adam Hopkins, whom I know as bassist extraordinaire (we did some touring with the Claudia Quintet a while back); cool dog owner; father; and man with good hair who has a great label, Out of Your Head Records. From there he recruited the amazing artist, TJ Huff, to do the cool cover to our album which brings us to today. In a few months, we will also release a vinyl edition which will be my first release on vinyl!!! It has been a joy to work with Adam on this!

To celebrate the release, we are streaming “Clinton” on bandcamp, dedicated to the one and only funk master GEORGE CLINTON!

While I’m talking about great people, I would also like to recognize Ashley Capps, the Grand Poobah of the best festival ever, Big Ears. Ashley booked GEORGE for Big Ears 2022 without ever having heard us. So our first ever gig was at the amazing Big Ears Festival, and to top it off, our good friend Ambrose Akinmusire sat in! After that gig, I was thinking from there it is either downhill or we are going to elevations I have never encountered! Hopefully after listening to the first downbeat of “Earthworker,” you will agree with my optimism about our direction. (UP!!!!)

Fresh off the presses are some wonderful reviews from Peter Margasak, S. Victor Aaron, and Arnaud G. Veydarier.

Ok, that it is for now. Hope to see you out there! (See below if you are in CA in February, not Canada but the other CA.)

Please enjoy GEORGE on the various online platforms (but NOT on evil streaming platforms, I’m talking to you SPOTIFY), with a physical cd, and/or coming soon – vinyl! 

~ Johnnycakes

P.S. In case you missed it, here is a fun exercise video put together beautifully by Craig One, featuring the cut ICEMAN (dedicated to the great George Gervin.) And an extra special thanks to Evan Shay for the excellent photos and video of GEORGE!

GEORGE is coming to the West Coast in February!

February 24 —  San Jose Winter Jazz Fest, San Jose, CA

February 25 —  Double bill with Frederico Heliodoro at The Mellow Haight, San Francisco, CA

February 26 — Hall Recital Hall, Univ. of Nevada (masterclass/concert), Reno, NV 

February 27 —  Fresno City College “Informance,” Fresno, CA

February 28 —  The Paramount, Los Angeles, CA

432 hours in Helsinki!

Kate and I just came back from a great trip to Helsinki, Finland. I’m so grateful to have been one of the participants in the Jazz Finland residencies. The invitation came in 2020, was postponed until 2021 and subsequently curtailed, but they graciously invited me back this year! The residency is an invitation-only collaboration with the Sibelius Academy Jazz Music Department at Uniarts Helsinki, UMO Helsinki Jazz Orchestra, and the Finnish Musicians’ Union, and is coordinated by Jazz Finland. (I can’t thank Maria Silvennoinen enough for making us feel completely taken care of!) “Kiitos!” to all of the people who helped make this happen!

In the last two years, I have met, gotten to know, and played with many of the stellar musicians on my lists of “Finnish musicians to meet.” These lists were created with the help of friends, most notably Andrew Drury, and former JIB Finnish student Joonas Leppänen!

In August 2021 as part of this residency, I got to play live with the incredible UMO Jazz Orchestra (and in 2020 we first collaborated long-distance for this video recording.) It seems serendipitous that my old buddy from the New Art Orchestra, Ed Partyka, is now the chief conductor of that fine ensemble. And this year I got to play in the house band led by UMO’s alto sax veteran, Jouni Jarvela, who made some very thoughtful arrangements of Cole Porter classics for us to play. 

In 2021 I also got to meet many of the stellar faculty from the Sibelius Academy, led by Jussi Kanaste. I worked on and got to play some of my music with a great group that included Ape Anttila, Mikko Hassinen, Verneri Pohjola, and Kari Ikonen. And this year, Kari organized a couple of concerts, one at the EloJazz Festival in Oulu and one at Koko Jazz Club in Helsinki. This incarnation of the band consisted of Kari, Verneri, and my dear comrade from JASS, Sebastian Bousseau on bass.

Verneri, Kari, Sebastian & me

Additionally, improvised music enthusiast and concert organizer, Sakari Puhakka, graciously put together two fun collaborations for me at the Hakasalmi Villa:

The first was with the Finnish grand dame, Iro Haarla. For those who don’t know her, if you ever heard Edward Vesela’s music, then you heard her (on harp and piano) and also heard her uncredited compositions! We played a beautiful duo concert of both of our compositions at Hakasalmi Villa. It was an honor to play with such a warm, gentle, special musician!

Iro Haarla on piano

The second collaboration performed at the Villa was definitely the first time I have ever played with a brother/sister duo: Natalia Castillon on harp and Sergio Castillon on cello. It was an exciting evening of freely improvised textural/timbral conversations that I will not soon forgot!

Sergio Castillon, me, and Natalia Castillon

Aside from the formal playing, I got together and jammed with a lot of great musicians! And one afternoon, while Kate got to check out the Biennale at the small creative village of Fiskars, I recorded improvisations with Jusso Kontiola (keys and electronics) and Lassi Kari (violon de gamba), who together are the duo Kaje.

Lassi Kari, me, and Jusso Kontiola
Katrina Sánchez’ work at Fiskars Biennale

I also met up with some great young composers, such as Sampo Kasurinen (many moons ago he was my student at the JIB but now I think I should study with him!) and Mikko Sarvanne. And I had a chance to talk about my music with some welcoming Sibelius students and alumni. Every morning for my last week of teaching at the Academy, I played and demonstrated my “concentration exercise” – and new Nordic Jazz Masters student, Hans, won the award for perfect attendance!

We missed what seems like a fantastic festival, called the Flow Festival, but did get to see a dance concert which was a collaboration between choreographer Wayne McGregor, installation artist Olafur Eliasson, and electronic composer Jamie xx called Tree of Codes at the new dance venue, Dance House Helsinki; hear a moving concert of Kaija Saariaho’s moving choral music in the equally moving Temppeliaukio Church (AKA The Rock Church); and we spent our last night listening to the soulful, captivating sounds of Tinariwen. All of these special evenings were part of the Helsinki Festival, which “is the largest arts festival in the Nordic countries, held annually in late summer. The festival’s aim is to make art accessible for all. The programme features classical and world music, theatre, dance, circus and visual arts as well as a range of urban events.”

Kaija Saariaho’s choral concert in the Temppeliaukio Church

There is a warm and inviting music community in Finland and it is small enough that it seems everyone knows each other. At every concert/jam session I went to I ran into a spirited music fan, Anu, who eagerly gave me the lowdown on every musician and their history! She herself is part of “Jazz royalty” in Finland in that her late older brother, Ilkka ‘Emu’ Lehtinen, founded the record store Digelius. Many musicians in fact told me how instrumental he was to the Jazz music scene in Helsinki!

When I mention Helsinki the common response seems to be, “I have heard it is great, but have never been there” so I thought I would show some of the sights from our trip and later provide the future visitor with some of our “must go to” places.

Swimming in the Baltic sea is incredibly refreshing after a sauna, which we took advantage of at Löyly which includes a traditional smoke sauna.

Kate and I were blown away especially by the Art Nouveau architecture!

As far as newer buildings, the Helsinki Music Centre, where the Jazz department, among other departments, is housed, is a stunningly beautiful, green-tinged building. It is bookended on this flower-laden plaza by awe-inspiring Oodi Library. The most stunning library, and also the biggest library with the least amount of books I have ever seen! It is a place where outdoors, people come together to play basketball (very badly when I was watching), and skateboard. Indoors, you can hang at the cafe; browse books; 3-D print things; sew; record in their recording studio; play video games; and cook in their test kitchen, etc.!!

Inside the Helsinki Music Centre
Oodi Library

Biking is very easy in Helsinki. We took a great trip to Aalto University through small wooded islands, where Kate’s friend Slate Grove, Glass Blowing Studio Master, gave us a tour of the incredible facilities of the Design Building there. We stopped by the Didrichsen Museum and saw a great exhibit by Hannu Palosuo.

HANNU PALOSUO painting inspired by the smaller Mark Rothko painting

One of our last visits was to the We Jazz Record Store where I picked up some Timo Lassy discs and the great magazines that We Jazz started publishing last year. (The first issue sold out but they are printing more!) We Jazz is headed by Matti Nives and I can confirm that Matti is hip because I ran into him at Big Ears last year! His label, store, etc. is a very important component of the current creative European music community!

John likes lists.

I must admit, when I first started compiling the musician list below a few years ago, it was just a bunch of names, so it is fun to look at it now, because I have met, hung out and played with a lot of these musicians! This is by no means a comprehensive list, but here is my own personal list of notable Finnish musicians that I suggest to seek out/check out as of August 2022! 

If you know of others that are missing from this list, please tell me!

My initial list:
Everyone on We Jazz!
Mika Kallio
Pauli Lyytinen
Jone Takamäki
Lauri Hyvärinen
Natalia Castrillon
Sergio Castrillon
Gon Muruaga
Mikko Innanen
Aino Juutilainen
Raoul Björkenheim
Joonas Leppänen
Sampo Kasurinen
Ilkka Uksila
Jimi Tenor

Additions from my visits in 2021/2022:
Iro Haarla
Sami “Samigo” Kontola
Timo Lassy
Teppo Mäkynen
Pepa Päivinen
Kaje: Juuso Kontiola/Lassi Kari
Juhani Aaltonen
Tapani Rinne
Juha Mäki-Patola
Jukka Eskola
Jori Huhtala
Kirmo Lintinen
Juuso Rinta
Silva Kallionpää
Toomas Keski-Säntti

From Sibelius Academy Faculty Camp 2021: 
Verneri Pohjola
Mikko Karjalainen
Mirja Mäkelä
Jarno Kukkonen
Jari Perkiömäki
Jussi Kannaste
Kari Ikonen
Sami Linna
Riitta Paakki
Ape Anttila
Aki Rissanen
Mikko Helevä
Jussi Lehtonen
Mikko Hassinen
Tuure Koski
Jaska Lukkarinen

From my gig with the UMO Helsinki Jazz Orchestra in 2021
Ed Partyka, conductor

Teemu Mattsson
Timo Paasonen
Mikko Pettinen
Tero Saarti

Kasperi Sarikoski
Mikko Mustonen
Pekka Laukkanen
Juho Viljanen

Jouni Järvelä
Max Zenger
Ville Vannemaa
Petri Puolitaival
Mikko Mäkinen

Rhythm section
Juho Valjakka, piano
Joonas Tuuri, bass
Ilkka Uksila, percussion

Finnish Contemporary Folk Music:

This list comes from Maria Silvennoinen after a conversation we had last year, when I asked her: “What is Finnish contemporary folk music?” (a term I had seen but did not understand.)

Luckily there was a great series at the Esplanade this summer, so we were able to catch some of this music live so we could get a better sense of what “Finnish contemporary folk music” means!  But this is a great starter into that unique and varied world! One thing I noticed right away was how often Finnish “jazz musicians” are part of these bands!!

Kimmo Pohjonen: 
Kimmo with Kronos Quartet:

Antti Paalanen:

Johanna Juhola:



Okra Playground:

Wimme Saari (+ Tapani Rinne)


Maija Kauhanen:

Pekko Käppi:

Ilkka Heinonen:



So if you read this far, here is your culinary reward!


WINO – exceptional restaurant with great wine selection

YESYESYES – exceptional vegetarian restaurant with great cocktails

CAFETORIA – excellent coffee and treats

LEVAIN – tasty café

Buongiorno caffe – amazing breakfast

PRIMO BAKERY – worth the trip for incredible bread

HELSINKI GIN DISTILLERY BAR – gin & tonic, yum!!

Jädelino – ice cream!

FAT RAMEN – ramen!

BASBAS – exceptional restaurant with great wine selection

DONG BEI HU RESTAURANT – thanks to Jouni Jarvela for this one

Kaffecentralen – for great coffee and quality licorice

Blog 2021


Hello my fellow humans,

This is a blog…short for weblog. It is my first and probably only entry for 2021. I will try to keep things brief so you can go outside asap and look at trees and cute dogs.

First, the Claudia Quintet just released a new recording, entitled Evidence-Based. You can read about it/listen to it/buy a digital version at the kindest website for musicians, bandcamp. Besides the awesome regular members of Claudia (Chris Speed, Matt Moran, Red Wierenga and Drew Gress), we are honored to share the audio stage with the one and only Eileen Myles. The music and Eileen’s words are based on censorship of certain important words summarized in this little piece of prescient news from 2017. One reason to write pieces based on these words is to go against the CDC internal recommendations/suggestions and to put them forth as much as possible into the universe. With that in mind, here are some of the titles on this recording: Evidence-based, Science-based, fetus, transgender, diversity and entitlement. Enjoy this unique, remotely recorded document of our times!

In August, I got on a plane for the first time in 2021 to go to Helsinki for the first installment of a residency organized and sponsored by the wonderful people at Jazz Finland. The first few days were spent out in the country at this nice little place. Apparently my room was haunted, but the ghost must have been following strigent social distancing policies because I never saw/heard her. (It is a her I was told.) But I did get to meet and play music and in the evening hang at the incredible lakeside sauna with a lot of great Finnish musicians who teach at the Sibelius Academy!

Screen Shot 2021-09-27 at 9.38.11 AMAfter a little visit to the neighbor’s house, previously owned by one Jean Sibelius, we made our way to Helsinki to play at the musician friendly club, Koko Jazz Club.

Screen Shot 2021-09-27 at 9.41.34 AMIt was a wonderful 3-set night led by me, my dear old comrade Ethan Iverson and new friend, Mike Moreno (who I quickly learned is a wine expert!…note to self: befriend as many wine experts as possible; not only do they know where the good wine is but the good food too!)

Here is a post-concert pic of the fine ensemble that I was honored 236376193 346304070533823 3787234889627552761 nto lead featuring Verneri Pohjola on trumpet, Kari Ikonen on piano/keys, Ape Anttila on bass and maestro Mikko Hassinen on drums.Please note my friend and bandmate from JASS; Sebastian Bousseau came all the way from Nantes, France to photobomb us!

When not eating great food or meeting legendary Finnish musicians like Iro Haarla and Raoul Björkenheim (who makes a mean risotto FYI), I was playing with the UMO Helsinki Jazz Orchestra. Last summer they remotely put this little ditty together which was fun but it sure was great to meet them and play with them in person!
Even though the Helsinki Festival was largely cancelled due to COVID issues, I got to see this incredible Brian Eno classic installation one fine Helsinki morning.

It was touching to meet many new friends and see some former students of mine like Joonas Leppänen who is creating his own musical universe and Ilkka Uksila, who played some nasty vibes with UMO. The best part about this trip is that it was just Part One! I’m doing it again next August! Hopefully with more music interactions, collaborations, performances and of course more visits to fine establishments like Wino, (thanks again Mike!)


Back in Canada, we are getting back to performing live! I’m very excited to be able to perform Epigraphs #2-4 this fall at Café Resonance! Epigraphs #1 premiered virtually at the Earshot Jazz Festival in the fall of 2020. Epigraphs #2 will be performed this Thursday, Sept. 30th. The core group is guitarist Roman Munoz and epigraph-chanting vocalists Sarah Rossy and Jeanne Laforest. And we will be adding some guests for #3 and #4.

In school news, the Schulich School of Music just hired some new, brilliant faculty Camille Thurman, Ira Coleman and Darrell Green!
camille thurman photoira coleman photo
darrell green photo gretschdotcom

Besides being very excited to teach in person again, I was recently touched to receive a Mcgill Teaching Award and get a promotion to Full Professor!I’m very happy to be on a few friends’ new recordings!

My old pal, Tom Nazziola recently released his incredibly diverse recording, Distant Places. Tom is so multi-talented I can’t even list all that he does, so go to his website and you will see! Among other great pieces, he wrote this nice duet for voice and drums for us dedicated to one of our favorite drummers, Bob Moses!

I just came back from NYC, where I was very happy to play for Anna Webber’s record release gig for Idiom, her newest releases for Trio and Large Ensemble. Wow! Check this out!2022 is shaping to be epic with new projects and gigs in Finland/Portugal/Ukraine/Japan/Vancouver, BC and last but not least, Knoxville, Tennessee (BIG EARS!)As a sneak preview to 2022, here is the remotely recorded, PROOF OF CONCEPT with my new band, GEORGE, composed of Anna Webber, Aurora Nealand, Chiquita Magic and me.


First, if you read to the end of this blog and you are a musician or know one, you will be tangibly rewarded!

I recently gave a talk to the 1st year music students at the Schulich School of Music, McGill University where I teach. When I was contemplating what information I might be able to impart, I quickly realized how important the role of mentorship has been in my life.

My earliest mentor, my older brother Pat, brought home crates of records with strict instructions to make a cassette mixtape by taking one track from each record. He took me to hear great music very early on (including Steve Gadd); took me backstage to meet the musicians; encouraged me to take lessons with the greats; told me to remain open, play everything, compose. He was responsible for getting me to study piano for a year before letting me start drums – I get it now and often say to my students, “You’ll thank me later!” He brought me to my first teacher (who was also his teacher), who was then my next mentor, Russell Black. Mr. Black was so giving as a teacher. He charged $5! for lessons that would last longer and longer so that after a while my mother would just say, “call me when you’re done!” He had piles of music which were strategically placed for his “since you didn’t practice, you will sight-read for an hour” sessions! In my last year in high school, when in retrospect I think he thought he had taught me all that he could about drums, we would just go to the nearby McDonald’s and talk about my love life! Thinking back, he seems like a character in a movie: the waxed moustache, manicured nails, money clip, Hawaiian shirts, his Lincoln continental, the fast comedic timing…

My next meaningful mentor was Bob Brookmeyer, valve trombonist and composer. I met Bob briefly a number of times early in my life, and in my late 20’s became close with him after taking several composition lessons and joining his New Art Orchestra. I’m still working on the assignments he gave me from the four composition lessons I took with him! I have a vivid and cherished memory of the time he left me a voice mail, ending it by telling me he loved me. He was always honest but very encouraging. “Do not stop!” was a motto for his music and life. I watched him persist through illnesses, failures and setbacks and learned a great lesson by witnessing his courage as he kept going forward, no matter what!

I’ve been thinking of him a lot recently, in fact I started writing this blog because I wanted to celebrate him on his birthday, December 19th. Bob was born in Kansas City in 1929 and he passed away December 15, 2011. Shortly after his passing in 2011, I wrote this tribute detailing our time together.

For those that are not that familiar with him, here is a great introduction to his life and music.

Recently, I have gotten solace from listening to this record we made with Kenny Wheeler.

My fourth mentor is the great Meredith Monk, musician-composer-choreographer-filmmaker. I met Meredith when I was around 30 and joined her ensemble. She was immediately so warm and supportive, which gave me a confidence booster that I sorely needed after weathering the sometimes unforgiving harshness of New York City. I observed her listening to music and composing from an emotional standpoint, using her “heart knowledge” as some would say. I watched her work through the many obstacles one faces as a creative artist. If you don’t already know her, you can imagine how strong she is to persist as a woman creating innovative, ground-breaking indescribable work over the course of her incredible career spanning 50+ years!

Recently we remotely recorded some music for duo that we hope to keep working into a full concert program.

I’m not sure when it started, but I now find myself taking on the mentor role. For example, here is a mentorship conducted via email with a young writer.

One recent mentoree of mine in Montreal is Sarah Rossy. Sarah is one of the many talented students that I have met since coming to McGill in 2015. Her openness and spirit have shown me a path toward become a better teacher. It was through her that I realized how much a mentorship can also benefit the mentor! I would argue that she has given me as much as I have given her. Sarah’s Master’s recital was the first time that I really had a damn good cry at the end of a student recital! I’m simply amazed and inspired by her spirit.

This summer, I remotely gathered Sarah together with two other incredible recent McGill graduates, Jeanne LaForest and Roman Munoz, to record an experimental piece of mine called, Epigraphs #1. It was recently broadcast as part of the Earshot Jazz Festival, but for those that missed it, you can now watch it here! (You will need headphones, attention, and 35 minutes to make it worthwhile!)

My last thought on mentorship is about legacy – what a mentor can leave their students. My latest record, Songs You Like A Lot with Kate McGarry, Theo Bleckmann, Gary Versace and the Frankfurt Radio Big Band was recently nominated for a Grammy in the Best Large Jazz Ensemble album category. The great Maria Schneider is also a nominee (and I would wager, the soon to be winner!) She is also a Bob Brookmeyer disciple, so when I saw her name, I thought about Bob, his legacy and how we are still receiving gifts from him. I think about him every day, as any student who studies with me knows!

The Grammy announcement also made me think about the actual process of making this record and how amazing it is if you just step back a bit, look at it from a distance and then try to explain, perhaps to a non-musician…so here it goes (this ones for you mom!):

The concept for a new recording is discussed until it becomes clear that the music will not be selected by the the musicians, but by the listeners. The call goes out!

…a list of nominations is voted on, and finally a master list of selections is chosen.

The brainstorming process begins…vague ideas in your head float around until some land. Sometimes these ideas go out into your hands and perhaps a piano?

Many pages of scribbles and sketches on scraps of paper slowly transition to music notation.

Before you lose the paper (one of my personal challenges), the music copyist inputs it into a computer music notation program, where it starts to look like real “music”!

These dots, lines, texts and shapes are then interpreted by great musicians, who have been practicing their instruments for this moment and others like it. They transform these dots, etc. into sound.

Then the recording engineer records the music and tweaks it in digital recording software where it looks again like scribbles, but this time digitized and colorful!

Then the mixing engineer takes this recording, digitally manipulates and balances (“mixes”) it until the musicians are all “happyish”. This recording is then “mastered”, a mysterious process which I won’t pretend to understand, but in a nutshell the final recording is looked at as one big composition that gets balanced dynamically and timbrally globally so that once you start listening, you should not have to adjust any dials.

Next, the “master” is replicated and put into a beautifully designed package. The publicity crew is activated to start getting the word out to you, writers, radio, etc. Lastly, people, some I know and many I don’t, listen to this recording. Ideally, the effect of listening brings pleasure and adds to the listener’s life, gives them optimism and joy. Hopefully they then want to come back to this recording for the initial sensations plus new ones they did not get/hear the first time (and maybe some will give it their Grammy vote!

All of these seemingly every day actions are the result of years of work, creativity, ingenuity and good ol’ trial and error.

Here are the actual people, besides me who made this particular recording possible and whom I’m enormously grateful for! (I have a feeling I’m forgetting someone, so apologies ahead of time if this is the case, but it is a long list!)

Theo Bleckmann · voice
Kate McGarry · voice
Gary Versace · piano, organ

Frankfurt Radio Big Band
Heinz-Dieter Sauerborn · alto/soprano saxophone, clarinet, flute
Oliver Leicht · alto/soprano saxophone, clarinet, flute, piccolo
Ben Kraef · tenor/soprano saxophone, flute
Steffen Weber · tenor/soprano saxophone, clarinet, flute, alto flute
Rainer Heute · bari/bass saxophone, Bb/bass/contra-bass clarinet, flute
Frank Wellert · trumpet/flugelhorn
Thomas Vogel · trumpet/flugelhorn
Martin Auer · trumpet/flugelhorn
Axel Schlosser · trumpet/flugelhorn
Christian Jaksjø · trombone
Felix Fromm · trombone
Shannon Barnett · trombone
Manfred Honetschläger · bass trombone
Martin Scales · guitar
Hans Glawischnig · bass
Jean Paul Höchstädter · drums
Claus Kiesselbach · mallet percussion, timpani

Producer: Olaf Stötzler
Recording and Editing: Axel Gutzler
Recording Engineer: Robin Bös
Mixing Engineer: Brian Montgomery
Mastering: Kitchen Mastering-Brent Lambert
Production Support: Rebecca Laufer, Lucia Rosu, Annette Neuwohner
Music Copyist: Anna Webber
Artwork: karlssonwilker
Publicity: Fully Altered Media-Matt Merewitz, Colin Perry, Sydney Hill
CD Replication: discmakers
Distributor of choice: bandcamp

BTW, here is some of the recent “harvest” from the Fully Altered Media “planting”!

Michael J West for Jazztimes magazine
Will Layman for Popmatters
Ralph A. Miriello for Notes on Jazz

And while I’m thinking of musicians that I’m grateful to work with, as some of you may know, when Laurie Frink passed away, I wrote a tribute to her for my large ensemble, called All Can Work (the title track of our 2018 New Amsterdam release). I could not imagine any other band playing this after we recorded it but in this season of giving, I am offering the full big band score and parts to anyone who is interested as a gift. (Note: under “Name a fair price:” you have to write a number, so feel free to write “0”!)

And you can pass this giving spirit on by donating to the Laurie Frink Career Grant fund, which every year gives a cash award to a young brass player. (This year’s winner is Summer Camargo!)

Kate and I wish you all a Happy holiday season and Happy New Year!

Loading Dirt in my Dump Truck

Flexatonic logoA


I normally work hard to come up with excuses to not write a blog. In the last 5 months I have not had to put much effort into my normal “excuse creation” practice because of world events. On the other hand, what keeps coming back to me during this tumultuous time is the power of music, how it can give both the listeners and the creators hope and relief. So with a good dose of guilt lurking in the shadows, I’m offering this blog to let y’all know what I have been up to musically (I will try to keep it short!).


A few years ago, the founding members of the Brussels Vocal Project (BVP), Anu Junnonen, Elsa Gregoire and François Vaiana, came to me with a proposal to write new music for them plus special guest, percussionist extraordinaire Moritz Baumgartner. They were set to write lyrics based on traditional nursery rhymes, and I would write music using those words to create modern musical versions of these folktales. It was such a fun and challenging collaboration putting this music together over the last few years when we could still meet in Brussels. Although the album’s release has been postponed until late October, I’m so happy to share this video of one of the pieces, “The Prime Minister’s New Art” (a modern take on the Emperor’s New Clothes). To celebrate the new album, BVP will perform in Brussels at the Werplaats Walter on Nov. 21 and in Paris at Studio de l’Ermitage on Nov. 26 of this year.

Pre-COVID, I was going to be in Finland for the whole month of August as an Artist-in-Residence. Part of this project was a concert with the legendary UMO Jazz Orchestra. Our activities have been postponed until August 2021, but as an homage to Florian Schneider, we recorded this video of my arrangement of “The Model” by Kraftwerk. (Florian Schneider is a founding member of Kraftwerk who died in April of this year.)

In late March, I was hoping to be at the best music festival ever, Big Ears, with my Claudia Quintet. Although we had to postpone the tour, we put together this video of a newish tune in April. We hope you agree with the title, “nice tune”!

I’m a proud member of Curtis Hasselbring’s New Mellow Edwards! In May, Curtis put together a video recording of this new gem, which we remotely recorded in support of the great Brooklyn venue Barbès.

In May & June, I worked on this fun project that Chris Tordini produced with the fabulous saxophonist from Iceland, Óskar Guðjónsson, and me. The process was fun: one of us would improvise and record it, then pass the recording to another, who would then add to it and pass it to the last person for them to add to it. Did I say it was a lot of fun?!

I’m one of the many ignorant folk who did not know about Juneteenth until 2020. I’m very saddened and surprised that no one ever mentioned it to me, because June 19th is my birthdate! To commemorate this date in 2020, I made this video recording to accompany a recording of Jeremy Frisch that clearly demonstrates the frustration felt as a result of the abuse of power by law enforcement officers.


I have done a few interviews over the last few months that I would like to share. Kevin Laskey and I talked in preparation for the unfortunately postponed Claudia-Quintet-Jazz-Gallery-premiere which was supposed to happen in late March. Kevin is a very thoughtful musician and I enjoyed our conversation very much.

Last year, I had the pleasure of working with the Basel Jazz School Focus Year band for a week. Every year this school sponsors and puts together a band that works with guest artists throughout the year. It is an incredible experience for them and the talent level is ridiculous! One of the drummers in the band I worked with was Chase Kuesel. Recently Chase released this essay about our work together. I could not believe how deep he went into it!

Nicola Fazzini and Alessandro Fedrigo have been my musical cohorts and supporters for many years. Their organization, Nusica is a positive force in Italy and Europe. Somehow, they found the time to do this blog interview with me in April!

Recently, I had the pleasure of catching up with one of our most important contemporary music journalists, Steve Smith. You can read our conversation here.


The last album in my Songs trilogy, Songs You Like A Lot, was released on August 14th. You can find the recording and info about it here. Arranging well-known music is for sure scary, so it was a relief that one of the first people who heard the record said that listening to new arrangements of these old tunes “reminds me of meeting an old friend in a foreign country.” If you would like a digital copy, but don’t have the means right now during these tough times, please send an email to flexatonicarts@gmail.com with the subject “NEED SULAL NOW” and we will send you a download code!

This release is the first for Flexatonic Records, which is the label wing of the new 501c3, Flexatonic Arts Inc. that has recently been formed to serve as an organizational headquarters for all of my cultural and educational activities, and a vehicle for embracing the initiatives of like-minded colleagues. Flexatonic is also developing projects and collective-minded mutual support structures in partnership with more than a dozen similarly focused nonprofits and other artists and educators to create viable and sustainable methods within the new environment of artistic expression and education. The lovely karlssonwilker team designed the awesome Flexatonic Records logo above; for context, here is an image of a flexatone.

Flexatonic Records is digitally re-releasing the albums I did as a composer/leader – you can find them on Bandcamp. Until further notice, all profits from these bandcamp sales will go towards Black Lives Matter initiatives. Bandcamp, if you don’t know it already, is by far the friendliest digital platform for musicians. During the pandemic, Bandcamp has and will continue to waive “its revenue share on all sales on the first Friday of every month to give musicians more money from each purchase,” i.e. Bandcamp Fridays! Spotify, by the way is one of the biggest and one of the worst streaming platforms for musicians! Please sign this petition to get Spotify to raise their royalty level to $.01 per stream. Yes, you read that correctly! It is currently only $0.003 per stream.

Another Flexatonic initiative is to get my notated music to y’all.
For years I have been working on this project with Anna Webber(to be clear, Anna did most of the work!) to edit and revise all of the recorded Claudia Quintet music (82 compositions!) so that I can share it with the Claudians or is it Claudiots? It is with delight that I announce that these scores and parts are now available online! You can find full album “Playbooks” on Bandcamp and in the Works section of my website, which is also where you can find the individual compositions. (For some reason I really wanted to write “beloved website”…I think my website feels neglected insert theatrical ~pause~ and sigh.)

To get a taste of these lovely dots on paper, you can see some of Anna’s fine copy work as a “streamable score.” From an early age, I loved to geek out by listening to music as I read the musical score. I’m not a fan of YouTube for its horrendous treatment of musicians, but one of the few good uses of it are to show you “streamable scores.” Enjoy the scores and music of Rainbow Jimmies (commissioned by the Bang On a Can All-Stars), Sinanari, and the above-mentioned “nice tune”. Geek out!

My lovely partner Kate and I are quarantining in Montreal because we just came back from the US. Our quarantine time has coincided with an extreme construction project on our street to replace old water mains. This video is an example of our morning wake-up call with color commentary by yours truly.

Needless to say I have been spending a lot of time every day contemplating how a lot of this work is very similar to the work that I and other children did for fun, specifically, putting dirt in a dump truck, etc. I wonder, is there a downside to this gig? Does the operator have Aha moments when he realizes he is getting paid well to do the same thing he did for fun when he was 5 years old? Does he skip home every day singing “I’ve got the best job in the world!”? I know that I do! I draws dots on paper and hit things that make cool sounds. Thanks for listening, reading, watching. I hope something in this blog helps you in some positive way.

With appreciation, John

ALL CAN WORK & SONGS YOU LIKE A LOT + some other stuff!

“Opening Greeting!”

It has been a long time since I have had enough time to write one of these little blog ditties.

This blog will be mostly written with a retrograde form with a futuristic coda and seemless, smooth transitions (said someone who has been teaching composition A LOT!)

Starting today, you and the other humans on this planet are cordially invited to take part in the Songs You Like a Lot Survey! This recording will be the third part of a trilogy with Theo Bleckmann/Kate McGarry/Gary Versace (1&3)/Uri Caine (2) and the Frankfurt hr-BigBand.

On the first recording, Songs I Like a Lot, the focus was on some songs that I liked and wanted to arrange. On the second recording, Songs We Like a Lot, I let Theo and Kate come up with most of the titles (with a few from me, since I was part of the “we”). For the upcoming third album, YOU are going to decide what is on the recording through your votes on the survey. You can pick 10 titles from the nomination list that we have been compiling for a long time. Thanks for being the most important part of this recording project!

Speaking of “nomination list” (smoove transition John!), the latest John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble recording on New Amsterdam Records has been nominated for a GRAMMY for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album. It is an honor to be nominated by my peers and to be on any list with the great Jim McNeely!

You can listen to this album All Can Work and buy it here!

So many people are involved in a recording like this, so many heartfelt thanks to:

Label – New Amsterdam Records
Recording engineer – James Farber
Assistant – Nate Odden
Mixing engineer – Brian Montgomery
Mastering engineer – Brent Lambert at Kitchen Mastering
Financial support: Doris Duke Performing Artist Award,  Aaron Copland Fund for Music, & Arete Living Arts
Commissioners: University of Northern Colorado, Chicago Jazz Festival, FONT, Frankfurt Radio Big Band, University of the Arts Philadelphia
Artwork: karlssonwilker.com
Inspirational words: Laurie Frink
Support and inspiration: Kate Schroeder
John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble:
Ben Kono – soprano/alto/tenor sax, flute
Jeremy Viner – clarinet, tenor sax
Tony Malaby – tenor/soprano sax
Dan Willis – tenor sax, clarinet
Anna Webber – flute, tenor sax
Bohdan Hilash – clarinet, bass clarinet, bass sax, tubax
Mark Patterson
Mike Christianson
Jacob Garchik
Alan Ferber
Jeff Nelson
Tony Kadleck
Jon Owens
Dave Ballou
Matt Holman
Chris Tordini – acoustic/electric bass
Matt Mitchell – piano, organ, keyboard
Patricia Brennan – vibraphone, marimba, glockenspiel
John Hollenbeck – drums, composition
Theo Bleckmann – voice
JC Sanford – conductor

I’m sure Kate and I could come up with some snazzy outfits for the GRAMMY ceremony, but in a coincidental Murphy’s Law (as opposed to John Murph’s Law) situation, JHLE has a great gig on the east coast on the very same evening. For those of you lovers from Virginia, please come hear us at:
Moss Arts Center
on FEBRUARY 10th!

Speaking of snazzy outfits…Theo Bleckmann! That was not a transition but just a fact.

For the actual transition: Speaking of Jim McNeely, I am proud to be a part of this new book by Rick Lawn about Jim and some other great jazz composers!

(Sometimes it is nice to just have a small ending in the middle of a composition, breath and then go on to the next section with a renewed energy.)

I’ve been hanging pretty consistently in my new home city of Montreal this fall. One of the highlights here was an improvised performance with video/film icon, Pierre Hebert, for the L’Off Festival. The basic idea was that Erik Hove, Simon Millerd and I played improvised and composed music based on a simple cueing system. Pierre Hebert was free to use our sounds as an inspiration. Terri Hron took our sonic output and electronically processed it. You can watch the 2nd half of the performance here.

I had met and played once with Pierre Hebert about 15 years ago at the Guelph Festival. Pierre was there to do a gig with his frequent collaborator Bob Ostertag and Theo Bleckmann. When Bob had to cancelled at the last minute, I filled in on prepared piano with the amazing Barre Phillips, so it was great to finally perform with Pierre again! (Here you can watch another piece by Pierre Hebert based on a Malcolm Goldstein performance.)

Much of my time this fall in Montreal has been taken up with my new duties as the Jazz Area Chair at McGill. It was an exhausting but also exhilarating semester with great guests like Jen Shyu, Meredith Monk, Mino Cinelu, Mark McCormick, Ben Monder, Anna Webber, and Steve Kaldestad. Next semester we have Fabian Almazan, Linda Oh, Ambrose Akinmusire just to name a few! The semester was capped off with a really nice tour with the McClaudia combo in Toronto and Ottawa. In Toronto, we played at the COC and were honored to play for the wonderful Dean of our school, Brenda Ravenscroft.

Speaking of the Claudia Quintet (another slick transition), we are proud to celebrate a new addition to the Claudia family, Ossian Cypress Edward Wierenga!!

The Claudia playbook is almost done (I have been saying that for 2 years, but it is still true!), I am working on the next CQ recording…and a Fall Europe tour is being booked by our friends at Esteam!

I will leave you with a touching poem which I’ve been tweaking an arrangement of, Kindness by Naomi Shihab Nye.


this week, today, and next tuesday

The main reason for this post is to let you know that I baked a loaf of bread last Sunday.

It was my first time, so I was nervous, but with only three ingredients I felt like there was a pretty good chance that I would not stray too far away from the intended taste and texture. Here is a picture:

That was the main reason for this post…there was something else…but anyway, I recently acquired plantar fasciitis which is not funny except I like to say I have plantar facetious, which is funny, at least to me.

The other thing I wanted to mention is that I recently relearned the great Dave Garibaldi drum part to Soul Vaccination and learned for the first time Kindness by Tony Allen. Today I just played the B section to Cissy Strut for a long time. Zigaboo! I have been re-visiting my favorite Hermeto, Airto and Egberto Gismonti (he gets a last name because just “Egberto” doesn’t sound right.)

Also, I took my first spin class this week and concurrently realized that the new deodorant that I thought was awesome is really not so great. The other notable thing that happened this week was I found my college girlfriend’s scissors, see Exhibit A.

Exhibit A

I’m not sure why I still have them 25 years later or what to do with them…Hollenbecks like to keep things, I’ve noticed.

I think that is enough about this week. Oh! I almost forgot! Today I’m releasing my new large ensemble recording called All Can Work on New Amsterdam Records. You may find all the info HERE!

In case you are interested, I will probably do that spin class again on Saturday (with a different deodorant strategy) and will forego the Sunday bread making because Kate and I will be making our way to New York City for the JHLE CD release concert on Tuesday (January 30th) with an opening set by Theo Bleckmann/Ben Monder Duo!

All the info you need you can find HERE!

I think you have enough info about me for this week and even next, so I will leave you with the liner notes to the new album if you are the type that likes to read about the music which you will (I hope) listen to!

After pondering many titles for this record, I realized All Can Work epitomizes the flexible, optimistic resolve that is needed by everyone involved to do a record like this. This phrase “All Can Work” and the lyrics in this title track are taken directly from the emails in my inbox from Laurie Frink, our beloved trumpeter, whom we lost in 2013. When I first moved to NYC and started playing with and hearing big bands, Laurie was a special thread that wove through them all — it seemed like she played in every band I saw! A master of the short, perfect email reply, Laurie was also the consummate team player, the type of personality that is profoundly needed in a large ensemble. Her sudden death stunned the NYC music community — but the legacy she left behind as the trumpet guru/therapist/doctor to countless brass and woodwind players lives on, continuing to support and enhance the community she served. No matter where I am in the world, I can talk to a trumpet player who had studied with or knows her exercises. “All Can Work” is based on one of these exercises. (Thank you to Dave Ballou for opening up the Laurie exercise archives to a drummer!) After Laurie died, I read all of her emails and then compiled them in chronological order. In her words, I began to see a poem of sorts, and the words helped me keep the focus on Laurie as I started to compose. I really sweated this piece because I wanted it to showcase Laurie’s ever-present humor, her dedication to “the music,” and most importantly our love for her. Thank you to Theo for bringing forth these characteristics of Laurie so beautifully with his voice.

The rest of this album is inspired by and dedicated to other great artists that have given me guidance and/or inspiration throughout the years: Bob Brookmeyer, Kenny Wheeler, Billy Strayhorn, John Taylor, William Shakespeare, and Piet Mondrian. This collection is especially personal in that Bob, Kenny, John and Laurie were dear friends of mine who died in recent years. These four artists in particular represent to me a certain type of musician who is authentically humble and unquestionably under-appreciated. My hope is that this recording serves to honor and highlight their undeniable impact on the world of music. Shakespeare, Strayhorn and Mondrian are obviously not personal friends, but have touched me so deeply with their craft that I was inspired to write and/or arrange these works, which helped me dive deeper into their work.

“Elf” was commissioned by The Chicago Jazz Festival for the Strayhorn centennial in 2015. This piece was titled and known as “Elf” when it was written in 1963 before it was retitled and repurposed by Duke Ellington as “Isfahan” for the Far East Suite. Because I loved the original feel and arrangement of Strayhorn’s “Elf”, I chose to create something that was a polar opposite. John Wojciechowski (of the Chicago Jazz Orchestra) is to blame for the extremely high register. When I was writing it, I kept asking him if the register was ok and he kept saying it was cool, so I kept going higher! On this recording our own Tony Malaby puts his soprano voodoo on those high notes.

“Heyoke” is dedicated to Kenny Wheeler and John Taylor, both of whom I had the pleasure of playing with many times. In the “fun facts” department: I once played in a big band rehearsal when Kenny played lead trumpet — he was giddy at the chance to play lead; and John is responsible for the one time I was not allowed into Canada (a good long story that I can tell you over a tasty cider that you will buy me)! Kenny was featured at the 2011 FONT Festival in NYC and JHLE was thrilled and honored to perform with him for two special nights at the Jazz Standard. I had remembered playing “Heyoke” with Kenny in the past, so I was surprised after receiving the music from him for big band that he had only arranged one of the three movements — the ballad — of that small group version which he recorded on Gnu High. For the FONT Festival, I decided to arrange the other two movements and then segue into his ballad movement. In this recorded version, we stop after the introduction to his ballad, a gesture that I think fittingly symbolizes the incomplete feeling we all had when Kenny and then John departed this earth. Matt Holman, Jacob Garchik and Matt Mitchell share the improvisatory duties with unabashed enthusiasm and sometimes wild abandon.

“this kiss” came about from University of Northern Colorado Professor Dana Landry’s ambitious Romeo and Juliet project. I studied Shakespeare in my early years like many other students, but was not mature enough to truly understand his genius at that time. I now have a renewed appreciation for his work after revisiting Romeo and Juliet while composing “this kiss.” I am impressed by the clarity and efficiency with which Shakespeare’s work can convey complex emotional human experience within exacting frames — and specifically how successfully he did so within a sonnet form. He did not waste a single word, nor did he allow the strict form to limit his creativity of expression. Inspired mainly by the concise precision with which Shakespeare penned one of his most famous sonnets, I created a simple Romeo motive, a simple Juliet motive, and a concise musical theme based on this sonnet form. I developed the material as if I was scoring this scene for film, quickly cutting from intimate conversations to full dance scenes. I treated the individual musicians as if they were the individual characters from this passage. Sometimes they interact in small groups, sometimes large (as in the dance scenes), and sometimes there are small and larger conversations going on simultaneously. The material is put together to meld a mood of sweet romance in the present with a foreboding dissonance that foreshadows the future. My title “this kiss” uses these two significant words that both Romeo and Juliet recite in the opening stanzas of their sonnet. Matt Mitchell does his own freestyle dance around the band in a later section that represents the sweet tenderness and excitement of these two lovers.

“from trees” was commissioned by the Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts and was premiered by the University of the Arts Big Band under the direction of Matt Gallagher with original choreography by Netta Yerushalmy in 2011 in Philadelphia. Having always liked Mondrian’s later works, I chose for the first time to delve into his earlier works and immediately noticed his studies of trees. For this composition, I chose three works that encompass his oeuvre: “The Gray Trees;” the cubist-inspired “Composition with Oval;” and his last unfinished painting (in the De Stijl style) “Broadway Boogie-Woogie.” I incorporated a boogie-woogie feel into the whole piece while trying to evoke the development and evolution of the lines of a tree in his earlier paintings to the bold straight black lines in his last painting. In this recorded version Dave Ballou and Tony Malaby are creating their own paintings on my compositional canvas.

“Long Swing Dream” started as an actual dream. For the first and so far only time, I dreamed an actual piece. In my dream, the bass line was the focal point and the horns mostly passed around this one long note. Realizing later that the initials for this title are LSD, I found some curious Cary Grant musings about his own transformative experiences with LSD and added them to deepen the dream-like effect.

The first piece on the record, “lud,” is one of those intangible pieces that just popped out recently. I don’t have an explanation for it but I wish I could write more music like this. And by “like this” I mean strangely alluring, or alluringly strange. The title I came upon by chance, perhaps when looking for words that rhyme with dud? I like this title because it is either means “Lord,” as when addressing a judge, or it is an acronym for Local Usage Details (a record of local calls from a particular phone number), or perhaps it is first name of a famous Russian jazz bandleader. Either way, this piece and I are now good friends, so I intend to further develop this into a concert length work in the future.

“The Model,” a Kraftwerk classic was suggested by Theo Bleckmann for my Songs I like A Lot album and since that time it has been a fun piece to play live with various bands. And I think it is a nice way to leave you — hopefully it will make you move and sing…and come back for another listen!

I have not yet been able to pen a fitting tribute to Bob Brookmeyer — and I’m not sure that I can, or if one composition would even be enough. So I dedicate this entire album to him, because it simply would not exist without him and I miss him terribly.

The John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble was founded in 1998 to exclusively perform my compositions and arrangements. After two successful Grammy-nominated recordings and tours in the United States and Europe, this third recording project represents the accumulation of years rehearsing, recording and performing together. It represents the definitive evolution of an exceptional ensemble that has developed a relationship akin to family. I have been playing with some of the musicians in the band since high school and college — they are loyal, long-standing members, who are leading musicians in creative music in New York City and successful musicians in their own careers. They make all of the hardships of leading a large ensemble worth it!

The legendary James Farber expertly recorded the music at Avatar Studios in NYC. Avatar was sold shortly after the session and its future is unclear, so we were very happy to record there one last time! With James’ steady ears and meticulous preparation the session went smoothly and even at times was, I dare say, enjoyable.

James was ably assisted by Nate Odden, who besides doing the right thing at the right time, also gave me some great secret email tips that I will use from now on! Handing the session mixes over from James to Brian Montgomery is such a smooth transition — they have worked together for years and know each other’s work so well a synergy has evolved. Mixing with Brian and the ever-present, ever-cute Cody the dog was a blast!

Brent Lambert at Kitchen Mastering came in at the end and sprinkled all of the right kinds of audio pixie dust onto Brian’s mixes.

As I’m writing these notes, I have not yet seen the cover design by Karlssonwilker, but I’m positive that it is super cool and super fun, because it always is.

This project was supported in part by the Doris Duke Performing Artists Awardand fiscally sponsored by Arete Living Arts Foundation with funding provided by The Aaron Copland Fund for Music.

Is it Fall Yet?

Greetings Friends. My last blog was a year ago, I don’t have a good excuse. Honestly being on the Internet has lost its allure for me. While I feel old saying this, I would much rather go for a walk, read a book, listen to a CD or LP, eat pizza, drink cider, go to a yoga class…the list is quite long before it says “go on the internet.” But I’m getting questions especially from people in the music business, like “Are you dead?” “Did you give up music?” “When is your next gig?” “Do you still live in Berlin?” which reminds me that a presence on the good ‘ole world wide web is helpful so that people know that you have a gig or need a gig.

As it has been a long time since we “talked,” this blog could sound like one of those Xmas letters one gets once a year from family/old friends. But I will do my best to stay in the present and future and not talk about all of my great gigs that you missed over the summer…like at the Vancouver, Edmonton, Toronto and Montreal Jazz Festivals…which reminds me, in case you did not know, I live in Canada now! (I accept your congratulations and revel in how it makes me look for once like someone in the forefront who did what many were thinking about doing and are probably still thinking about doing!)

For those of you still thinking about moving or going to school in a nice country with healthcare for all, non-exorbitant college tuition, and a place where gravy and cheese on fries is a local delicacy, I heartily recommend McGill University where I teach drums and composition! Also I should mention Captain Kirk is an alumnus.

This semester at McGill I’m teaching a composition course – I think it is called Advanced Jazz Composition, but since I don’t know what “Advanced” means and certainly don’t know what “Jazz” means, I prefer to concentrate on Composition; a course called Foundational Drum Set Skills (pure fun!); and my Concentration Seminar, where an ensemble of 20 plays short quarter notes for long periods of time at insanely slow tempos – again, (for some of us anyway), this is the definition of fun!

Not to rub it in, but next weekend Canada is celebrating the Culture Days. At McGill, we are celebrating it with a new music concert led by the awesome Guillaume Bourgogne; a Thelonious Monk centennial tribute concert – inspired by Jason Moran’s Monk at Townhall project, Jim Doxas and I will improvise on drumset to Monk as we, but not the audience, listen on headphones to Monk playing “Four in One”; and in the afternoon, I will be hosting a showing of the Thomas Chapin documentary, Night Bird Song.

Before I get to current events, I do want to mention last weekend’s activities, where I so joyfully performed Fred Hersch’s Leaves of Grass at Lincoln Center Jazz.  Here is a great review from Peter Hum at the Ottawa Citizen (Canada nailing it again!)

Fred’s settings of Whitman’s poems are so uplifting and resonant! It was a huge week for Fred, with a Terry Gross interview and the release of a solo piano recording and his memoir. He deserves any accolades that come his way! I was just thinking he should give a life course on perseverance and event planning. I also applaud Fred for putting a really unique group together – I love hearing Kurt Elling and Tony Malaby together, just to name two in this great ensemble!

Today I received in the mail the last of edition of Arcana, the wonderful anthology series by John Zorn. I’m honored to have my in-depth of analysis “Drewslate” included.

In early October, I will be making my first trek to CHINA (or “Ghina” as some say) with J.A.S.S

05 OCT: Hong Kong International Jazz Festival, Hong Kong
07 OCT: East Shore Club, Bejing, China
08 OCT: La Plantation 璃墟, Beijing, China
10 OCT: JASS @7th Oct-Loft Jazz Festival, Shenzhen, China
12 OCT: C:union, Guangzhou, China
14 OCT: Red Live Blues Valley, Changsha, China
15 OCT: Xihu Blooms Music Festival, Hangzhou, China

Later in October, THE CLAUDIA QUINTET is touring ITALY, SWITZERLAND and AUSTRIA, starting off in Graz as part of my artist-in-residence at the KUG Jazz Institute.

Wednesday, Oct 25, 2017

8:00 PM
Orpheumgasse 8

Thursday, Oct 26, 2017
Auditorium, San Servolo

9:00 PM
30100 Venezia VE
Venice/San Servolo, ITALY

Friday, Oct 27, 2017
Sala Vanni

9:15 PM
Piazza Del Carmine, 14
Florence, ITALY

Saturday, Oct 28, 2017
8:30 PM

Monday, Oct 30, 2017
8:30 PM
Utengasse 15

Tuesday, Oct 31, 2017
Jazz Club Ferrara
9:30 PM/11pm
Rampari di Belfiore, 167
Ferrara, ITALY

Wednesday, Nov 1, 2017

9:30 PM
Via Luparello, 61
Siena, ITALY

Friday, Nov 3, 2017
Sud des Alpes / Salle de concert
9:30 PM
10, rue des alpes

I am very close to completing the most perfect, beautiful version of every Claudia Quintet composition for the Claudia Quintet “Playbook,” a project I have been working on and promising for years. I’m hoping I can get it finished in time so that someone will get it for Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa this year (more info to come as it develops).

Lastly, I am putting the finishing touches on the next John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble release that will come out on New Amsterdam Records on January 27, 2018. It is sounding sooo good…I’m sure you (at least the cool “yous”) will enjoy it!

That’s it! See, that was not so bad, was it? Thanks for reading!

(BTW-FYI-LOL-FWIW-LMGTFY: Canadian immigration info can be found here.)

Yours Truly,

P.S. if you happen to be near Virgil, NY this fall, stop by the Hollenbeck Cider Mill – my nephew Matt has taken it over from cousin Bruce. Unforgettable Cider, Donuts, Pie and MORE!

For Your Consideration – 59th GRAMMY Awards

Copy of The-Claudia-Quintet_Super-Petite_Cover_RGB

Dear Voting NARAS Members,

The Claudia Quintet’s album Super Petite on Cuneiform Records is on the ballot for GRAMMY consideration in the category: “the bestest post-jazz album with accordion and vibes” or something like that!…along with the instrumental composition Peterborough from the same album, composed by yours truly, John Hollenbeck. Below is a video of CQ’s live performance of this piece in Montreal last week!

If you and/or your friends and colleagues are voting members of NARAS and you’d like to give The Claudia Quintet the best 20th birthday present ever, please consider us in both categories!

[As a reminder, your vote must be received by Friday, November 4.]

“Super Petite is like savoring a long and lingering feast. There is much to enjoy, concentrate on, uncover and sample. The ten tracks each offer a morsel, and the full repast is oh so delicious.”
—Doug Simpson, Audiophile Audition


Listen to a track from Super Petite dedicated to the Super Cute beagles at JFK customs: JFK Beagle

“Forging headlong into uncharted territory on the cusp of its twentieth anniversary, The Claudia Quintet continues to adapt aspects from multiple genres and styles for its melodically harmonious grooves, making Super Petite one of the Quintet’s most engaging and enjoyable releases to date.”
–Troy Collins, Point of Departure


Claudia Quintet | super PETITE | October 2016 TOUR!

Copy of Claudia Quintet_©John Guillemin_1613

Dear Voters,

We know you will do the right thing when you vote…for CQ in the upcoming GRAMMY nomination vote! In case you are undecided, we are coming to you to offer some encouragement in the form of SUPER, BIG, AWESOME, YUGE yet CONCISE (like some people’s hands) GEMS FROM OUR NEW RELEASE ON CUNEIFORM RECORDS APTLY NAMED SUPER PETITE.

As you can see from this photo above, which has been leaked by some Russian hackers to Wikileaks, Chris Tordini is joining us on this jaunt!

See you soon!


THU OCT 20 ‣ New York, NY ‣ Cornelia Street Cafe ‣ 8:00 & 9:30 PM

FRI OCT 21 ‣ New Haven, CT ‣ Firehouse 12 ‣ 8:00 PM

SUN OCT 23 ‣ Baltimore, MD ‣ UMBC Concert Hall ‣ 3:00 PM

MON OCT 24 ‣ Harrisonburg, VA ‣ Duke Hall Gallery of Fine Art
James Madison University
 ‣ 8:00 PM  FREE CONCERT!!

WED OCT 26 ‣ Chicago, IL ‣ Constellation ‣ 8:30 PM

THU OCT 27 ‣ Ann Arbor, MI ‣ EDGEFEST Kerrytown Concert House ‣ 8:00 PM

SAT OCT 29 ‣ Ann Arbor, MI ‣ John Hollenbeck w/Univ of Michigan Jazz Ensemble
 St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church ‣ 8:30 PM


“Forging headlong into uncharted territory on the cusp of its twentieth anniversary, The Claudia Quintet continues to adapt aspects from multiple genres and styles for its melodically harmonious grooves, making Super Petite one of the Quintet’s most engaging and enjoyable releases to date.”
– Troy Collins, Point of Departure

“Super Petite is like savoring a long and lingering feast. There is much to enjoy, concentrate on, uncover and sample. The ten tracks each offer a morsel, and the full repast is oh so delicious.”
– Doug Simpson, Audiophile Audition

“Rigorously executed but earthily grooving, dauntingly precise but flecked with hearty and intriguing improvised solos, the quintet’s set buzzed with freshness and vitality from start to finish. … For all the obvious effort and intelligence to Hollenbeck’s work, his songs could ultimately be straightforwardly emotional and moving.” – Peter Hum, Ottawa Citizen


CLAUDIA_2230_©Piero Ribelli copySMWe, the Claudia Quintet do hereby invite thee to get your butts down to our upcoming gigs on the west coast of the country that is led by Barack Obama, plus a great festival in the capital of Canada (John’s new home country), and another festival in the birthplace of Steve Gadd (and Red Wierenga).

John is learning French very slowly, first he is concentrating on words that are already part of the English language. Hence, the title words of the new recording are French! (and English). It is also the title of this
INCREDIBLY short blog!

SUPER petite
The-Claudia-Quintet Super-Petite Cover RGB

Claudia Quintet

Saturday, JUNE 18 & Sunday, JUNE 19
201 Franklin Street
San Francisco, CA
8:00 & 9:30 PM

Tuesday, JUNE 21
EARSHOT Jazz@PONCHO Concert Hall
Kerry Hall, Cornish College
710 E Roy St.
Seattle, WA
8:00 PM

Wednesday, JUNE 22 w/The Blue Cranes
The Secret Society
116 NE Russell
Portland, OR
8:00 PM

Thursday, JUNE 23
Blue Whale
Weller Court Plaza 3rd floor
123 Astronaut E S Onizuka St.
Suite 301
Los Angeles, CA
9:00 PM

Friday, JUNE 24
MIM Music Theater
4725 E. Mayo Boulevard
Phoenix, AZ
7:30 PM

Saturday, JUNE 25
Athenaeum Music & Arts Library
1008 Wall Street
La Jolla, CA
7:30 PM

Wednesday, JUNE 29
Ottawa Jazz Festival
National Arts Centre Back Stage

53 Elgin St.
Ottawa, CANADA
6:00 PM

Thursday, JUNE 30
Rochester Jazz Festival
Xerox Auditorium at Xerox Plaza
100 S. Clinton Ave.
Rochester, NY
6:30 & 9:00 PM

For a slew of details about Super Petite & The Claudia Quintet,
GO HERE…and for a “Preview Listen” of JFK Beagle, click image below.EWR BEagle


CQ_sticker_red JPEG

Hi World,

I am now officially treasurer of the Bad Blogging Club. If you also have a blog type forum, but do not use it regularly, “welcome!” and please send your membership fees to my paypal account.

Je m’appelle John. Je joue la batterie. So, I took a couple of French lessons, that’s all I’ve got for now, but there should be more in the future!

But the real reason for writing is that I’m pretty sure The Claudia Quintet is coming to a town not far from you this year, unless you live in Asia. By the way, promoters from Asia – please book the Claudia Quintet next year – this year, we are booked up, so don’t even ask!

First up is a jaunt to the European continent, where we will enjoy 2 Trump-free weeks (or Drumpf-free, as John Oliver told me to now call him.)

Wednesday, MAR 2
Pannonica – Nantes, FRANCE

Thursday, MAR 3
Sunset Sunside – Paris, FRANCE

Friday, MAR 4
West Germany – Berlin, GERMANY

Saturday, MAR 5

Sunday, MAR 6
Stadtgarten – Köln, GERMANY

Monday, MAR 7
Cafe de Ruimte – Amsterdam, NETHERLANDS

Wednesday, MAR 9
Le Rocher de Palmer – Bordeaux, FRANCE

Thursday, MAR 10
Le Rocher de Palmer – Bordeaux, FRANCE

Friday, MAR 11
Paradox – Tilburg, NETHERLANDS

Saturday, MAR 12
JamFestival at Teatro Villa dei Leoni – Venice, ITALY

Sunday, MAR 13
WORKSHOP Auditorium Villa Widmann – Venice, ITALY

Monday, MAR 14
Narodni dom Maribor – Maribor, Slovenia

Tuesday, MAR 15
Citadelic @ S.M.A.K– Gent, Belgium


In April we will back to the homeland playing for the beautiful people of VA, MD, PA and NYC.

In May our new recording, Super Petite will be released on Cuneiform. Check out the great cover by karlssonwilker below!

The-Claudia-Quintet Super-Petite Cover RGB

This cd will be accompanied by a live DVD of CQ at our home in NYC, the Cornelia Street Cafe!

And! in June we will be on the west coast in the US of A and my new homeland of Canada.

And! in Ann Arbor and other fun mid-western towns in October
(Drumpf supporters will most likely not be in attendance at any of these gigs BTW).

Also! in non-Claudia news, I’m just finishing a new piece for the McGill Contemporary Music Ensemble under the directorship of Guilllaume Bourgogne that will be premiered in Montreal on April 6th.

And! on May 4th, I will be premiering a new work at the Trondheim Jazz Festival that is a collaboration with Sissel Vera Petersen and the Trondheim Jazz Orchestra. I’m very excited!… So I will now go to the bathroom, and then immediately start working on that music!!

Salut! John


Hello World!

This is John Hollenbeck AKA “lame blogger”. The key to lame blogging is mainly to not do it!
But then, as I get into this defensive stance…
Copy of funny_mirror
…I’ve got lots of great excuses.

Anyway, enough about me. Let’s talk about my summer!

The Adirondack Mountains

BMC 20150814_071248

From July 17th-August 16th, I was in one of the most beautiful places in the world, The Blue Mountain Center! I wrote music for 6-8 hours daily, met great people, saw old friends, ate delicious food, played lots of tennis! I would tell you more about this place, but then I will have to compete with you in the next round of applications…so I will stop here. (I am still wearing my shirts with the top button buttoned in celebration of the good times and BMC peeps!)

Newport, RI

On August 31st, JHLE with special guests Kate McGarry, Ben Monder and Scott Robinson (with our amazing vocalist, Theo Bleckmann) performed selections from the recent release Songs We Like A Lot at the Newport Jazz Festival. The band bonded under adversity that came at the hands of our bus driver who showed up late to pick up the band, took strange paths, and drove so-slo-slowly. Definitely not a good combo! But we did eventually make it on stage and I have photos to prove it…
(plus jumbotron photos here!)


Rheinsberg, Germany

Later in August, I spent the week in Rheinsberg, Germany with the BuJazzO band and choir, an amazingly talented group of musicians. I was lucky in that I was able to invite musician friends to work with the band, plus we had the opportunity one evening to perform together (see below with Sissel Vera Pettersen, Dave Ballou, Marko Lackner, Geoffroy DeMasure, Hilmar Jensson, Robert Landfermann, Me!…plus an anonymous leg-which sounded great BTW)

bujazzo concert night

BuJazzO (Germany’s “National Youth Jazz Orchestra”) is a dream band for any composer/conductor. We rehearsed 9 hours a day, and during the breaks, most of the musicians would immediately go to some fun activity like singing standards together, having electro dub jams, jazz jams, playing football (soccer), ultimate frisbee, yoga or playing many rounds of flunkyball (I had to try one round and discovered it is a very fun drinking game, but decided to stop after downing two beers…which is like six beers for me!) It is refreshing to hang with people with seemingly unlimited amounts of energy and enthusiasm!


On our last day, the town was visited by a small group of Neo-Nazis who were planning a rally. In response, the BuJazzO-ers paraded around town playing New Orleans style music, delighting and engaging the locals with great, happy music that drew all of the attention away from and ultimately deterred the Neo-Nazi rally from happening. It was a fun and joyful moment where good (music!) triumphed over bad in a most peaceful manner. The mayor personally thanked everyone afterward and I have to say it was a truly moving experience that I will never forget! (If you know German, you can read about it here.)

New York City/Chicago

Then it was off to NYC to record the next Claudia Quintet album. I know I told some of you it was going to be a live record, but it will be even better than that – it will be a studio record AND a live DVD!

After two days of recording we went directly to Chicago for the Chicago Jazz Festival. I had a great time hanging for a bit with Steve Bernstein and hearing him with Henry Butler. I saw an old friend, John Wojciechowski, whom I featured in my Billy Strayhorn arranging commission for the Chicago Jazz Orchestra. And then Claudia Quintet +1 + Theo Bleckmann + Kurt Elling played in one of the most beautiful venues in the world, the Jay Pritzker Pavilion at Millennium Park. Thank you Frank Gehry, Thank you Chicago.

Jay Pritzker Pavilion

CQ Chicago 2015_COLWhfwUcAE9wfv
We ate (well some of us anyway) a lot of deep dish pizza (Lou Malnatis won in my personal competition), played a good amount of ping pong (thank you Hard Rock hotel), saw the incredible AACM exhibit at MCA, and I topped it off by watching a great Cubs game from the bleachers with Red Wierenga and his wonderful wife Kate (with a grand slam included!) Thank you Miguel Montero, Thank you Chicago.

Cubs Game_10408522_10100962928779804_7008528469817302154_n

Montreal, Québec

Back to the excuse section, one of the main things that has been occupying my time is all the logistical work related to the fact that my wife and I are “transitioning” to Montreal from Berlin. I have been appointed a professorship at McGill University (go Redbirds!), which is super exciting! And at the same time, sad that at the end of the academic year, we will leave Berlin. I love teaching at Jazz Institute Berlin, so it will be immensely hard to leave.

Speaking of McGill, I will be having a “coming out” party there at Pollack Hall on October 21st with the John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble. This is part of a little tour, or tourlette (not to be confused with toilet) that also includes:

Ithaca College – October 19th
Eastman School of Music (my alma mater)  October 20th
National Sawdust, the great new NYC venue – October 22nd

We will be premiering new music and playing some old favs! I know you are coming with friends, so “see you there!” (he said optimistically.)

CD Release Celebration of Songs We Like A Lot – JUNE 10 WEDNESDAY (or as some call it, hump day!)

SWLAL cover

CD RELEASE Celebration of Songs We Like A Lot
on Sunnyside Records

Wednesday, June 10, 2015 @ 8:00 pm

509 Atlantic Avenue (Entrance at the corner of 3rd Avenue)
Brooklyn, NY 11217

General Admission: $20
Members/Students/Seniors: $15
Series Members — $10 // FREE for All-Access Members // Doors at 7pm

LIVE with the John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble

featuring Theo Bleckmann, Kate McGarry
and Special Guest, Ben Monder

Ben Kono – sop/alto sax, flute
Jeremy Viner – clarinet/tenor sax
Tony Malaby – ten/sop sax
Dan Willis – ten/sop sax, english horn, flute
Bohdan Hilash – contra-alto clar, bass sax, clar
Mark Patterson – trombone
Mike Christianson – trombone
Jacob Garchik – trombone
Alan Ferber – trombone
Tony Kadleck – trumpet, flugelhorn
Jon Owens – trumpet, flugelhorn
Dave Ballou – trumpet, flugelhorn
Matt Holman – trumpet, flugelhorn
Chris Tordini – acoustic/electric bass
Matt Mitchell – piano, organ, keyboard
Patricia Franceschy – mallet percussion
John Hollenbeck – drums, composition
Theo Bleckmann – voice
Kate McGarry – voice
JC Sanford – conductor

Special Guest: Ben Monder – guitar

The New York Times recommends us!

“★ John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble (Wednesday) The drummer and composer John Hollenbeck uses an orchestra as a panoramic canvas, blending color and texture with an eye toward the sweeping view. His new album, “Songs We Like a Lot,” features an imaginative reframing of nominally unlikely fare — the Carpenters’ smash “(They Long to Be) Close to You,” the Fifth Dimension hit “Up, Up and Away” — performed by the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, with Theo Bleckmann and Kate McGarry on vocals. The singers reprise their roles at this concert, with Mr. Hollenbeck’s namesake band. At 8 p.m., Roulette, 509 Atlantic Avenue, near Third Avenue, Boerum Hill, Brooklyn, 917-267-0363, roulette.org. (Chinen)”

As does The New Yorker!

“The percussionist, composer, and arranger Hollenbeck may admire the work of Pete Seeger, Burt Bacharach, Cyndi Lauper, and others, but that doesn’t mean he treats it as if it were scripture. On his new album, “Songs We Like a Lot,” a collaboration with the Frankfurt Radio Big Band and the vocalists Theo Bleckmann and Kate McGarry, Hollenbeck radically reshapes tunes like “Close to You” and “True Colors” with impunity. Bleckmann, McGarry, and a sizable New York-based contingent join the leader at Roulette. (509 Atlantic Ave., Brooklyn. 917-267-0363. June 10.) Night Life

You can pre-order SWLAL!

You can LISTEN to & pre-order the CD (which will be officially released on June 23rd) at
Sunnyside Records.  Otherwise, if you ask nice, you can buy a fresh copy at the release show!

The Official Press Release for Songs We Like a Lot, courtesy of Fully Altered Media:

How to follow-up a Grammy-nominated album disarmingly called Songs I Like a Lot? By broadening the canvas and releasing Songs We Like a Lot, of course. John Hollenbeck returns after the triumph of Songs I Like a Lot, accompanied again by vocalists Kate McGarry and Theo Bleckmann and pianist Uri Caine, with an expanded palette and even more robust sonic transformations, encompassing everything from Burt Bacharach to the poetry of Kenneth Patchen, from Cyndi Lauper to a deconstructed “Get Lucky.”

A combination of indelible pop tunes and his own compositions, Songs We Like a Lot is propelled throughout by Hollenbeck’s creative arrangements for the Frankfurt Radio Bigband. These arrangements are heard to spellbinding effect in the album’s opener, a moving reimagining of “How Can I Keep From Singing.” The song is most strongly associated with Pete Seeger, and co-written by him; this rendition is intended as a tribute to the recently departed folksinger, who passed away only last year. A slowly swelling opening fanfare gives way to a steady pulse, which in turn builds, via a lovely tenor solo by Steffen Weber, to a rich crescendo, the horns framing delicious harmonies from McGarry and Bleckmann.

Like Miles Davis before him, Hollenbeck plucks a Cyndi Lauper hit — in this case, “True Colors,” penned by Tom Kelly and Billy Steinberg — from the pop pantheon, chopping and screwing it into a reconstituted suite that retains the lilting flow of the original while using new harmonies and repetitive motifs to recontextualize the beauty inherent in the song. (And not least rescuing it from Kodak-ad purgatory.)

Among the Hollenbeck originals is “The Snow Is Deep on the Ground,” a delicate composition that originally appeared on the Claudia Quintet’s What is the Beautiful?  Bleckmann sings words by poet Kenneth Patchen in both versions; here, rather than the skeletal framework of the quintet, his voice is embraced by a full brass and woodwind blanket of sound. Pianist Uri Caine and vocalist Kate McGarry are two new additions to this lovely, enlarged version.

Another poet’s words figure in the Hollenbeck original “Constant Conversation” — those of 13th-century poet and mystic Rūmī. “Constant Conversation” uses Middle Eastern musical motifs to undergird McGarry’s spoken-word vocal. A riff and a drone and an unerring sense of melody allows Hollenbeck to create an atmosphere that feels at once deeply personal and innately global. This is sole tune on which keyboardist Gary Versace appears on this record, though his piano was heard throughout Songs I Like a Lot.

What John Kelman in his AllAboutJazz.com review of Songs I Like a Lot called “Hollenbeck’s skill at taking small but defining motifs from an original song and use them as starting points for broader orchestrations” is on full display in his reworkings of the pop chestnuts “Close to You” and “Up, Up and Away.” The latter reaches heights never dreamed of by original performers The Fifth Dimension and composer Jimmy Webb. A pulsating fever-dream of horns in flight, “Up, Up and Away” provides the album’s closing burst of color and beauty.

Meanwhile, the Bacharach and David tune “Close to You,” popularized by The Carpenters, maintains the lovely falling harmonies of the original, while Hollenbeck and McGarry extend the refrain repeatedly in a stirring, not-entirely-unsettling bit of musical mesmerism. Other highlights include a brief “de-rangement” of the Daft Punk smash hit “Get Lucky,” based, according to Hollenbeck, “on what I think the Russian Police Choir should have sounded like when they sang it at the Sochi Olympic Games opening ceremony.”

In reviewing Songs I Like a Lot, David Hadju wrote in The New Republic that “you can hear, in [Hollenbeck’s] work, the collapse of cultural borders, the shuffling of traditions and influences, the old and the new and the earthy and the urban and the proper and the wiseass, swirling in unstable but unstoppable motion. Hollenbeck is a musician for our time.” This is only more true now.

Looking ahead, the John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble with Bleckmann and McGarry will be appearing at the next Newport Jazz Festival on July 31, 2015 , playing selections from this latest recording. Those who lament the turning away from the popular song canon for lyrical inspiration should find much reassurance — not to mention a lot to like — in this latest outing from Hollenbeck & Co. (Grammarians who lament the steady appearance of “alot” in our written correspondence also have reason to cheer.)

 I hope to see you on hump day so we can celebrate together!



HAPPY MAYDAY! (or Happy Day after MayDay)

Sorry for the lateness of this, but I’ve busy preparing along with my Monkian cohorts for the
Meredith Monk Ensemble Concert at Zankel Hall on Saturday, May 2nd (tomorrow as I write this & today as you read this). If you go, you will hear the hits Dolmen Music and Gotham Lullaby as well as selections from On Behalf of Nature, Mercy and Impermanence – it has been a blast re-visiting these pieces! (If you need an extra incentive, I got a haircut and new shoes!)

Next week from May 6-8, I will be at  Cornelia Street Cafe for some special gigs with
The Claudia Quintet.

CQ @ West Germany cropped

We will be performing many new pieces (some of which have not been written yet, because the composer is busy writing blogs, etc.) And the special part is: we are recording these gigs for our next release on Cuneiform Records – so if you come and yell at the appropriate times, you too could be on our next CD!

I will leave the appropriate times up to you, but you could yell things like “Claudia Rocks”, “I’m Claudia”, “I like John’s outfit”, “This band is very good”, “Dude!”, “Woohoo!”, “I want to give you a million dollars to play for my daughter’s birthday party, her name is Claudia.” (That last one you could also just say to me privately after the gig.)

Cornelia also has great food in case you did not already know that. There are not too many venues that have the good food/good music combo!

On a serious note, Claudia was lucky enough to play in Kathmandu, Nepal in the fall of 2013. You can watch a little video about that here. We have been checking in on our new friends from Jazzmandu and thankfully they are all ok. Many others are not, so if you can, please help them out. I found this NPR piece helpful if you’re looking to see how you can help.

Claudia Loves You!

Claudia Quintet | NOLA | Meredith Monk

It has been a while,  so I’m packing a LOT of stuff into one blog. Read-look-listen away!


Check out this photo album from out our recent jaunt to Barcelona/Cremona/Trieste/Bolzano/Baden/Saalfelden PLUS the debut of the CQ bowling team, Jeremy’s Viner cable car video from Soprabolzano to Bolzano with CQ’s Soterius Lakshmi and  this cautionary video demonstrating what happens when I leave the soundcheck for more than 5 minutes.


Thanks to a CMA-funded grant written by some nice gents from Florida (David Manson, Gustavo Matamoros, Matt Gorney), we had a nice little trip to Florida in late February (insert jealousy here). We performed music from Royal Toast with special guest, Fabian Almazan. Here is a little teaser video from our concert at the Timucua White House in Orlando.


The latest installment in the CQ Video Project is from  Michael Formanski.   He chose “Sinanari” which can be found on my recording Rainbow Jimmies. “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 my arrangement of a traditional Turkish song, taken apart and put back together (“remixed,” as I like to say) on top of a John Bonham-esque drum part.


Julie Mallozzi Productions put this amazing video together documenting our trip to Kathmandu, Nepal for the Jazzmandu 2013 Festival.


I had a few days free in between the Claudia Quintet tourlette in Florida and some NYC activities. So I decided to rectify an embarrassing fact – that I had never been to New Orleans. Since most of my travel to places far and wide is related to gigs, it is actually not that surprising: New Orleans is the heartbeat of jazz and a real music town, but it is not known for its “experimental music” scene…although I did see positive inroads in that respect too!

Here is a rundown of my 72 hours in New Orleans. Most of my trip was directed by Matt Moran’s great recommendations; he has obviously spent some quality time there! Also got a lot of info from Larry Blumenfeld – I knew he was a good person to contact from reading his enthusiastic blogs, so thanks to both of these guys for their input. Plus I tweeted out that I was flying into NOLA and got some great last-minute recommendations! One of the local radio stations, WWOZ seems to have a big presence, I heard it often in cafes, and their gig calendar was also very helpful!

I did not have much time to think about this trip, so as I was flying into New Orleans I emailed a few old contacts I remembered I had in New Orleans. One of whom I connected with sometime around 2006 when I heard an NPR segment on a US solider in Iraq who composed electronic music using samples from his time in Iraq. After hearing the show, I emailed him, Will Thompson, and to my surprise, he immediately emailed back and told me that he had in fact listened to some Claudia Quintet music during his time in Iraq! I have not been in contact with him in the recent past, and was not even sure if he had made it back to NOLA after Katrina. I was pleased to find his reply in my inbox by the time I got to my hotel and he told me he was playing at this improv series called the Instant Opus Music Series at Gasa Gasa that very night!

After dropping off my things at the hotel, I immediately went to Frenchman Street, which has about 8 music clubs in 2 short blocks. I caught Aurora Nealand’s Royal Rose at Maison. The band sounded so great, relaxed, and they made the traditional repertoire very personal and spontaneous! (not easy to do!) Aurora recommended the Instant Opus series to me as well, so I hopped on St. Charles Streetcar, which is a great slow ride through the Garden District. It was great to hear NOLA musicians in a free improvisation setting and also wonderful to finally meet Will in person!

Tuesday morning started with a café au lait and benignets (fried doughnuts) at Café Du Monde in Jackson Square of the French Quarter. After a good walk around the neighborhoods of Maurigny, Tremé and the French Quarter, I made my way to the Backstreet Museum. This is a grassroots exhibition documenting the Mardi Gras tradition. It was so helpful in clearing up my misconceptions on the history and tradition of this event.

That evening, I caught the first show at the Preservation Hall that was being led that evening by Shannon Powell. Although a little on the touristic side, I felt like it was important to go to this historic venue and just be there, to experience it, the vibe, the room, and of course the music! Hearing Shannon I remembered that NOLA drummers really play from the bottom up, the bass drum is very active and totally related to the bass drum in the brass band tradition. Since then I have been digging Shannon on his recording, Powell’s Place.

After that I once again took the St. Charles Streetcar to the Maple Leaf to hear the Rebirth Brass Band, which was preceded by a scrumptious dinner at Jacque Imo’s, which is right next door!

After a great breakfast at the Cake Café (I heartily recommend the grits), I headed to Gerken’s Bike Shop to check out NOLA on bike.

I had a great bike ride to the Garden District to see more of those incredibly beautiful houses, and an enjoyable ride around Audubon Park where there were hundreds of ducks quacking away with abandon.

I then had a fruitful reunion with John Snyder, actually Professor John Snyder, who is the head of the music industries studies program at Loyola. Man, I wish something like this had existed when I was in school! I know John best from the session he produced many years ago with Bob Brookmeyer and Kenny Wheeler. Looking back, that was such a once-in-a-lifetime meeting of two of my favorite musicians, so I owe John big time for that!

From there I went for an early dinner at Domenica, where I had a killing fried kale salad! (I never thought I would ever write those words in that combination!)

I then headed back to Frenchman and heard the Shotgun Jazz Band at the Spotted Cat. It was a great band, atmosphere and good combination of dancers and listeners. As I was wandering outside during a break, a young brass band, the Young Fellaz Brass Band, started playing at the corner of Frenchman and Chartres. A scene quickly commenced – really good, uninhibited dancers came out of nowhere and within what seemed like seconds, about sixty people had gathered around this intersection to take in the band. The cars that had to slow down considerably in order to get through the intersection did not honk their horns – they just slowed down and dug the music for a few seconds, even seeming happy to do so before moving on. This moment was actually my personal favorite NOLA moment – where else could this happen!? (If you know of another place, let me know!)

Although I was starting to feel some jet lag, I was inspired to go to the Candlestick Lounge to hear the Tremé Brass Band in Tremé! The atmosphere was a friendly neighborhood vibe, somehow the bartender knew I did not want Bud Light, or Heineken….I said “beer!” and she brought a great one, Abita Purple Haze!

On my way back to the hotel, I figured I should raise a glass to celebrate my first trip to NOLA, so I did so at the Roosevelt Hotel bar Sazarac (where they were playing Coltrane in the lobby) – I drank a Sazarac of course. It is the official cocktail of New Orleans!

I found a great morning yoga class at 8am at the Cabildo Museum before it opens. Then for my last two stops in NOLA, I had to go back to Café Du Monde and Cake Café because I enjoyed them so much the first time! And then it was to the airport and back to NYC, where the cold, snowy weather was a bit of a challenge to take in.

I hope to go back soon because I know that I just experienced a sliver of what the city has to offer! Being there also made me re-appreciate the HBO series, Tremé, in that local musicians and venues are featured in the filming and I can now see how successfully it captures and conveys the real vibe and look of NOLA. I’m definitely looking forward to re-watching Tremé.

Meredith Monk AT ZANKEL

This Sunday (3/22) I’m performing at Zankel Hall in a concert celebrating Meredith Monk and her wonderful music! This one may be sold out, but there is another one on May 2nd, go here for more info.

Thanks for your time!








 Just a short note, because I know you are busy buying things….

I’m very happy to say: “Welcome to my new website!”

I worked really hard on this…~cough, cough~…ahem, etc…actually…Kate Schroeder – my illustrious female compadre; Damjan Krajacic – Grand Poobah of activecolor.com (he is also a wonderful flutist & you should check out the hot drummer on his new album!); Alex Vida – programmer and expert in patience; and “smart” designer Dean Roksandic (“Bembelembe”) all worked really hard on this.  You know when you see one to two guys digging a hole, and one to three guys “supervising” – I was not even the “supervising” guy. I’m the guy on his phone 10 feet away, every once in a while yelling “can you do that faster?” and “even though I told you to dig the hole there, I don’t like it there, so can you fill that in and dig that hole 1 foot to the left?”

Nevertheless, it was a lot of work for someone! So I hope you “dig” it! “We” are especially proud of the WORKS area where “you” can “buy” “scores” and “scores/parts”…sorry I had a quote jones there for a minute, but I’m “over it”. Each page of the website has an image featuring the amazing cover artwork that karlssonwilker has done for my recordings since the very beginning. They have a great new website too, check it out! Lukas Beck & Signe Maehler are the wonderful photographers who provided the site images of yours truly.

And last but the opposite of least, I would like to thank the peeps of the Doris Duke Performing Artist Awards, who made it financially possible to take the time and money to build a great website.

While you take a moment to put down your shopping bags and rest your weary legs for a well deserved break, let me entertain you with a little recap of my last two weeks:

First, I was lucky enough this first week of December to be part of On Behalf of Nature with the Meredith Monk Ensemble. Here are some pics and reviews. MM is so special! Stay tuned for concerts in the spring at Zankel Hall to celebrate her 50 years as a creator of indescribable work!

Then last week, I was in Leipzig, Dresden and Berlin with Spielvereinigung Sued, a super big band from Leipzig who played my charts with enthusiasm, soul! Plus, they are all snappy dressers! (I did my best to keep up, can you find me in my new vest?)


We played one of those special concerts where the stars aligned and everyone at the concert felt something magical. Sounds trite in print, but it was not.

I’m just starting to mix another recording with the Frankfurt Radio Big Band featuring Theo Bleckmann, Kate McGarry and Uri Caine. This one is called Songs We Like A Lot. The John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble will celebrate this record at Roulette in Brooklyn on June 10th and once again at the Newport Jazz Festival on July 31st, 2015!

Also coming up in 2015, The Claudia Quintet will record our first live CD at Cornelia Street Cafe, May 6-8. Be there or don’t listen to good music and eat good food at the same time. The last sentence may only make sense to me. (It makes sense to me honey! love, kate)

Happy Shopping!

Always yours,


Kenny Wheeler, Rick Piltz and CQ news

Kenny Wheeler Memorial

I was very honoured to be a part of the Kenny Wheeler Memorial Concert at St. James Church in London on October 31st. I first met Kenny in 1989 and recorded with him several times throughout the years. His music has been a guiding force in my life and playing with him, one of the highlights. Two years ago, Kenny was honored at the FONT Trumpet Festival in New York City and my large ensemble had the wonderful opportunity to play his newest music with him. It was an experience that everyone in the band will cherish forever.

As I walked into the church for the soundcheck/rehearsal for the memorial I heard Kenny’s own big band play the opening to Sweet Time Suite,  an iconic opening that I know has deeply influenced many musicians from that first moment they heard it. John Taylor as well as Norma Winstone performed Kenny’s smaller group music and in between the music Stan Sulzmann, Evan Parker, Dave Horler and John Taylor talked briefly and poignantly about the impact Kenny had on their lives. They all included some funny Kenny impressions of course! The service ended on a very powerful note, with the playing of Kenny’s solo trumpet piece from Around Six. After hearing all of these great musicians play his music and talk about him, it was that much more moving to hear Kenny at his best – I, like many others, have heard that piece before, but at this particular moment the utter emotional power and outright originality brought everyone to tears. The memorial was organised by Kenny’s right hand man, Nick Smart, who is already starting to work on a biography of one of the most original voices music has ever had.

Here is a short clip I made with my phone of the rehearsal of the opening of Sweet Time Suite:

Rick Piltz

Our planet lost an influential and courageous advocate when Rick Piltz passed away on October 18th.
He is known as the “climate whistleblower” for quitting his job with the White House and making it public how officials were trying to adjust/change and delete words of climate scientists. Since that time, he created the Climate Science Watch website, which is one of those rare online havens for the truth and facts, in this case about the climate debate.

I was lucky enough to met Rick a few years back at the Blue Mountain Center and was very surprised to learn that he was a big music fan and very knowledgeable about all kinds of music. He could just talk on and on about different concerts that he had gone to throughout his years, especially during the time he lived in Austin, TX.  I’m sure that his work was intense and probably very frustrating, so it was nice to see him so absorbed, talking about music with such passion. It was a great honor to have him in the audience at the JH Large Ensemble performance at Atlas in DC a few years ago. Thank you Rick for your important work and the courage and perseverance that it took to do it.
To read more about Rick in the NYTimes, click here.

and now on to CQ news…


WIST – GRAZ, Austria

KMKC Kompleks – RAVNE, Slovenia

Gromka – LJUBLJANA, Slovenia

Jazz Club Ferrara – FERRARA, Italy

Jazzkeller im Mautnerschloss – BURGHAUSEN, Germany

Jazz GUT Unterwegs Schwanenburg – HANNOVER, Germany

NOV 10
Liveclub Telegraph – LEIZIG, Germany

NOV 11
A-Trane – BERLIN, Germany


Video by Christopher Davenport featuring “Meinetwegen” from CQ’s first album.

“The film footage is from Hurricane Creek, a tributary of the Black Warrior River in Alabama. The creek is the geologic/geographic place where the Gulf Coastal Plain and Applachian mountains meet and is a fragile but fertile ecosystem. The fish in the film only exist in the creek. The Black Warrior River is one of the 10 most threatened rivers in the nation.”

Greetings from heaven…


Greetings from heaven…heaven on earth I should say just to be clear…or as some people call it, The MacDowell Colony! I have been living in the “Watson” cabin pictured above for the past 5 weeks with one more to go – eating great food, meeting amazing people, working 8+ hours per day, running, biking – I would go on but don’t want to make you jealous.  So instead, to distract you, here is a short video of my daily bike tour of the MacDowell Colony:
[The musical accompaniment is “Tongs of Joy” from the album Shut Up And Dance performed by Orchestre National de Jazz]

While not on the bike, I have been writing three new arrangements for a recording session in a few weeks with the Frankfurt Radio Big Band with the delicious Kate McGarry, the sumptuous Theo Bleckmann, and the delectable Uri Caine. Yes, I skipped lunch (bad idea).

What tunes am I arranging you ask?

Well since you asked: “How Can I Keep From Singing”, “The Snow is Deep” (my own composition from CQ’s What is the Beautiful?), and a de-rangement based on what I think the Russian Police Choir should have sounded like when they sang “Get Lucky” at the Sochi Olympic Games opening ceremony. We are also recording “True Colors”, “Close to You”, and “Up, Up and Away.” The album will be called Songs We Like A Lot and should be out in the spring. The John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble with Theo and Kate will definitely be playing these new ones live at the next Newport Jazz Festival on July 31, 2015!


I’ve also been working on some new music for the Claudia Quintet. We’ll be performing in Boston, New York and close to Philadelphia:

>>> Wednesday, SEPTEMBER 24 – CAMBRIDGE, MA


>>> Thursday, SEPTEMBER 25 – BROOKLYN, NY

THE CLAUDIA QUINTET + Anna Webber’s SIMPLE CD Release! (I hear the drummer in Anna’s trio is hot) @ Shapeshifter Lab7:00 PM


THE CLAUDIA QUINTET @ Camden County College7:30 PM & FREE!!!!

  From MacDowell, I go directly to the New England Conservatory where I’m teaching this semester for Ken Schaphorst, who is on sabbatical. In addition, the Claudia Quintet will be offering a masterclass at NEC during the day on September 24th. And here why this is such a special thing for me! (from the NEC press release which you can read in its entirety HERE):

“NEC has impacted my life as a musician/composer quite significantly over the course of my life,” says Hollenbeck. “I had an unforgettable rehearsal with George Russell and his Living Time Orchestra in the basement underneath Jordan Hall when I was 18. Two years later I heard/saw Ken Schaphorst conduct The True Colors Big Band with incredible players that I would later meet and play with professionally. Moving to NYC, I quickly realized that most of the musicians I felt to be kindred spirits had studied at NEC. The faculty at NEC past and present is extraordinary and among them are several of my heroes: my brother Pat Hollenbeck, George Russell, Jimmy Guiffre, Vic Firth, Bob Moses and my musical father, Bob Brookmeyer. It is an absolute honor to have this opportunity to teach for a semester and be surrounded by the NEC legacy.”    

  I’m also very happy to be teaching at the next Creative Music Foundation Workshop at Full Moon Resort, located one half hour west of Woodstock, New York from SEPT 29 – OCT 3.

 “Intensive Workshops, Jam Sessions and Intimate Concerts in a Spectacular Mountainside SettingComposer/multi-reedist Marty Ehrlich, composer/drummer John Hollenbeck, Indian music masters Steve Gorn (flute) and Badal Roy (tabla) will join Creative Music Studio Artistic Directors/Co-founders Karl Berger and Ingrid Sertso as Guiding Artists for the CMS Fall Workshop intensive, September 29 – October 3, at the well-appointed Full Moon Resort in Big Indian, NY. “

Last but not least:

Team Hollenbeck along with ActiveColor is very close to unveiling a NEW WEBSITE! We’re very excited, working diligently away at it, and anticipate it’s arrival sometime soon during the month of September.

John’s Summer Blog


From John Edward:

In Blogging for Dummies, I read that it is important to be active and consistently blog…never stop! Up until the last few months, I have been pretty good at keeping up, but recently I just needed some “alone” time.

(Disclaimer: while I imagine it does exist, I have never read Blogging for Dummies, which will become more apparent as you read on…)

Also, on April 1st, Jacques blew my cover so I had to hide out for a while. Jacques is fine by the way, but I did have to break his arms so that he, at least temporarily, couldn’t do what he did on that last blog. I should mention here that one should look closely at the date of the last blog in conjunction with what that day signifies around the world in order to truly understand if it is true or in fact a good joke. Enough said!

On the serious side, I have been just sick of the Internet, social media, and the blogosphere, so I needed to take a break, and also not add to the traffic that’s already out there for a while.

So now I’m back in my truest form to let you know what I’ve been up to in all the time I’ve saved by not hanging out on the Internet. Plus you’ll get a lot of ideas on topics you can bring up with me in conversation the next time we meet.

Berlin is a lively place with a lot of live music and events:

In past month I have seen/heard: Wye Oak, an indie-rock duo with “touches of noise and dream pop”; TuneYards, just look it up!; The Notwist, a popular German indie-rock band; Ben Frost’s Wasp Factory, a visually amazing production; Boris Chamatz’s “20 dancers for the XX Century” at Treptower Park’s Soviet Memorial; Urban Sound Solar Art Installation in Tempelhofer Feld, a surround-sound experience in a vastly open space; Achim Kaufmann with Wilbert de Joode and Frank Gratkowski at a lovely house concert; Billy Hart Quartet, where I had the honor of packing up his drums with Joey Baron; Max Andrewski’s Hütte; the new incarnation of the ONJ; and Josef Dumoulin with Dan Weiss and Ellery Eskelin. My fingers were getting tired so feel free to ask me for more details about any of these that might interest you.

I also saw the David Bowie exhibit at the Martin-Gropius Haus and I surprised myself by how much I enjoyed this.

In the film category, we saw (I say we, because I’m usually accompanied by the lovely Kate Schroeder on these excursions): two recent documentaries on Ai Weiwei; a documentary about the Tiny house movement appropriately called Tiny; the exquisite and alarming Watermark; Jim Jarmursh’s Down by Law; and finally Boyhood (which we saw at a quintessential East German movie house on Karl Marx Allee). And a couple of these movies we were lucky enough to view at one of the many open-air movie festivals in Berlin in the summer – a perfect way to be outside but enjoy a good movie!

Speaking of good movies: I’m often asked about my time in Berlin and what I like about being here. Coming from a city like New York, what I always notice first about Berlin is the immense amount of open space when I look up in the sky and around me on ground level. The city has a relaxed vibrancy that feels healthy without being boring. One of my favorite things about Berlin is the incredible infrastructure of bike paths that make biking a fun and easy way to get to pretty much anywhere in the city.

To demonstrate this, I made a video to show my typical Berlin commute. For me, I appreciate being able to ride a bike considerably more than what my “normal” commute looks like, pictured below:



So without further fanfare here is “My Berlin Morning Commute”

(Dear Mother, I do not ride the bike this fast, I used fast motion to speed up the “boring” parts. Love, John)



UPCOMING SHOWS & whatnot  >>>

While Germany is still on my mind, this Sunday, July 20 at 3:05pm EST (which is 9:05pm Central European Time), DeutschlandFunk (German Radio) will be broadcasting the JOHN HOLLENBECK LARGE ENSEMBLE from our gig at Munich’s Unterfahrt Jazz Club in February.  To LIVE STREAM the concert, go to Deutschlandfunk live.

Back to America:

If you need your CLAUDIA QUINTET fix, we are performing a FREE CONCERT AT BRYANT PARK in Manhattan on August 8th at 6pm.

We will be performing our CMA commission, Royal Toast which features the quintet plus Matt Mitchell on piano.

Since I’m me, I have to go, but if I were you, I would definitely go!


In August, I’m lucky enough to be a MacDowell Fellow this summer, so I will be writing a whole bunch of new music while there for the Claudia Quintet, JHLE, JASS and more arrangements for the 2nd volume of Songs I Like A Lot (tentatively titled Songs We Like A Lot, which I know leaves me vulnerable to a volume 3, Songs You Like A Lot…which I guess could work out OK if “You” have similar tastes to “We” and “I”). This next volume, which we’ll be recording in Germany in September, is also with Theo Bleckmann, Kate McGarry and the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, plus we’ve got the great Uri Caine on this one!

After that, I will be back on US soil again for some Claudia gigs where we will be playing in New York, Boston, and Philadelphia in late September – more info to follow soon!

BTW, we will be in Florida in late February, 2015 (first time for the quintet…Florida in February!!)

And lastly, last week Jon Schaefer of WNYC fame did an enjoyable New Sounds show on Drummers/Bandleaders. It is an honor to have my name mentioned in the company of the other drummer/bandleaders he featured. The JHLE playing eternal interlude concludes the show.


That’s all for now. Jacques’ arms will be healed soon and he will be back on the keyboard, which I’m sure will make some of you happy…or happier.


Over and outish,


An Important Revelation From John Hollenbeck

Screen Shot 2014-03-30 at 10.58.08PM

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,



…It was news to me too.


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

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:
1797406_10152313940926204_2106331504_n 1799088_10152313920761204_595249888_o 1601852_10152313927606204_85204756_o

[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):


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

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

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!

Nomination, Domination, and the Return of Misty Hymen

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

Claudia Quintet LIVE_8390_©Signe Maehler

CQ live at A-Trane, Berlin. Photo courtesy Signe Maehler


We here at Camp Hollenbeck are very proud to announce that John has received a Grammy nomination for his arrangement of Jimmy Webb’s “The Moon’s A Harsh Mistress.” The tune appears on Songs I Like A Lot, and features Gary Versace on the piano and organ, and Kate McGarry and Theo Bleckmann on vocals with the Frankfurt Radio BigBand. In the afore linked-to article, All About Jazz’s John Kelman calls it “positively IMAX;” he recently selected it as one of 2013’s “top recorded events in Jazz and beyond,” while his colleague C. Michael Bailey did likewise.  It is, to use the old critic’s saw, a nom quite richly deserved. Listen to it here:

Not that we’re counting, but this will be John’s fourth Grammy nomination, following Large Ensemble’s A Blessing and eternal interlude, and “Falling Men,” off Shut Up and Dance, John’s 2010 collaboration with Daniel Yvinec and Orchestre National de Jazz.

You can check out the category in full here (and begin petitioning your local affiliate today to broadcast the granting of the instrumental awards, so often relegated offscreen!)


Even into December, CQ’s latest, September, still finds its lovers multiplying. DownBeat’s John Corbett gave it four stars, citing its “miraculous little sonic universes.” In fact, three out of four DB critics gave it four stars in this month’s HotBox. Ralph Miriello chose it for his 2013 Jazz Journalists Association ‘best of’ list.  Jazz Times dubbed it “one of [John’s] most forceful and immediate efforts.” Irish Times proclaims it, “what music will sound like 100 years from now.” John Kelman And it is eMusic’s Pick of the Week, there described as “A curiously warped beauty, one that captivates as smartly as it challenges.”

The group’s live performances have not escaped notice either, including happy dispatched from Ian Patterson at All About Jazz and Gary Kelly at Culture Northern Ireland. Simon Adams at the Jazz Journal finds John “always an adventurous musician, pushing at the compositional limits,” while John Fordham said of CQ’s performance alongside the Royal Academy of Music’s Big Band that it “confirmed [Claudia] as one of jazz’s world leaders in the subtle balance of improv and composition.”

The strong response has even gone beyond English alone, with Ettore Garzia speaking of “Fra le esperienze più gustose e valide del jazz,” and Sergio Piccirilli of El Intruso praising the group’s performance at the Angel City Jazz Fest with: “Final para un concierto que -debido a su elocuente creatividad y viva representación de la “metamorfosis” experimentada por el jazz en el nuevo milenio– será muy difícil de olvidar.” Meanwhile friends in Paris sent us this CHOC, reproduced below from the December issue of Jazz Magazine.

Grazie, Graçias, and Merci bien.



Video artists, filmmakers, motionographers of every shade: if listening to Claudia finds you catching the creative spirit, bring your ideas to video life, and send a link where we can view them to hollenbeckmusic@gmail.com. We will feature our favorites on YouTube and all across the Hollenbeck Internet as testaments to artistic procreation—and, to make it a true contest, we’ll award a prize of $250 to our #1 pick. The deadline for submission is January 31st.

And now, allow us to present the latest in the Claudia Quintet Video Project: Mr. Ryan Dight, interpreting “Misty Hymen” from I, Claudia.


Good news: New Yorkers in need of a Hollenbeck fix need wait only until the new year. In their surpassing wisdom, the curatorial minds at Cornelia Street Café have programmed an entire weekend John Hollenbeck Fest.

CLAUDIA QUINTET will perform:

Thursday, January 9th at 8:30&10:00pm

Friday, January 10th, at 9&10:30pm.

Then, on Saturday, January 11th, at 9&10:30pm, John rejoins Theo Bleckmann and Gary Versace as REFUGE TRIO.

That’s no fewer than FIVE live Hollenbeck opportunities. Those seeking tickets would do well to call 212.989.9319 to make reservations…and arrive early!

Himalayas, Redwood Highways, and The Claudia Quintet Video Project

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




Towards the end of October, Claudia Quintet found themselves in beautiful new territory when they came to join Jazzmandu, “The Best Jazz Party in the Himalayas,” and plainly one of the best-named music festivals anywhere. With live sets in full fivesome mode at the club Jazz Upstairs, Gokarna Forest Resort, the U.S. Ambassador’s residence, and the Jazzmandu Finale, John also manned the batons with CQ as part of an 11-piece international pan-jazz revue, a vertible “musical Tihar,” in the words of one reviewer. You can read more firsthand accounts in that piece in the Himalayan Times here, and take in the sights that Claudia saw in Kathmandu, Nepal at this marvelously colorful photo gallery here.


Claudia Quintet’s latest record, September, continues to garner positive notice far and wide. Ralph Miriello glowingly reviewed the record and its accompanying live show in a piece now living on the Huffington Post. Jeff Dayton-Johnson wrote about the record and then even went so far as to speak with John himself, over at All About Jazz. The conversation went so deep that inside sources tell us even John’s own wife learned something new from the article. Robert Ham interviewed as well, in the Willamette Week, revealing how John’s approach to drumming has changed over the years. If these reviews so move you, you can own yourself an album by visiting the Cuneiform bandcamp here.


Picture: you are listening to Royal Toast. Sound waves tumble down ear canals on both sides and make fast friends with your weirdest of neuron clusters, proliferating wondrous and strange images inside your head. Claudia has brought to light a vision, and you would show the world if only you had a good excuse to do so.

Announcing The Claudia Quintet Video Project.

Video artists, animators, filmmakers of all stripes: when next you are listening to a Claudia tune and find you’ve caught the feeling, bring your ideas to video life and send a link where we can view them to hollenbeckmusic@gmail.com. We will feature our favorites on YouTube and all across the Hollenbeck Internet as testaments to artistic procreation—and, to make it a true contest, we’ll award a prize of $250 to our #1 pick. The deadline for submission is January 15th. 

We’ve commissioned five video artists already. The first video in our project, by Jak Ritger, may be seen below. Here’s to your work joining his soon!


You needn’t be Nepali to see John and the gang. Touring continues in Europe this month with The Claudia Quintet; all you who live there, take note and ticket up.

Nov 19  A Trane – Berlin, GERMANY

Nov 20-22  Residency at the Royal Academy of Music – London, UK

Nov 23  London Jazz Festival (with the RAM Big Band) – London, UK  

Nov 24  The Mac – Belfast, N. IRELAND

Nov 25  The Workmans Club – Dublin, IRELAND

Looking further into the future:
New Yorkers will get the chance to see John at the Cornelia Street Cafe with The Claudia Quintet on JAN 9 & 10th, and with Refuge Trio on JAN 11th…2014!!


We conclude, as is sometimes our wont, with tour photo dispatches, this time from CQ’s recent travels in the US West. See the gang motor through redwoods, trundle up beaches, and more, at this photo gallery here.

September (And Everything After)

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

As of September 24th, Claudia Quintet’s latest record is available for purchase, listen, and beloving. The new album, September, features compositions that John wrote last September and features Claudia “Classic” dudes: Chris Speed, Matt Moran and Drew Gress, plus Eastman chum Red Wierenga as well as frequent bass-sub Chris Tordini.

Early reviews have not been displeased. Nate Chinen of the New York Times calls it “inspired,” noting that “the bouquet of timbres that Claudia Quintet presents hasn’t lost its freshness.”  S. Victor Aaron of Something Else! Reviews believes “Hollenbeck’s genius is very much present,” sharing equal love for the group as well, as “composing and musicianship are always at the highest level.”

All tracks were begun or completed in Septembers past, each named for and married to a date. Snatch a copy of the new album here. You can also learn more about the record, or sample the tune Chinen singled out as “most gorgeously melancholy,” “12th Coping Song:

ALSO: John and Co. join Balkan Bravuranauts, Slavic Soul Party! at (le) Poisson Rouge on October 3rd. By no means a massive venue, so New Yorkers and those nearby ought buy tickets on the double!


For every record, there is a tour (tour tour tour). Starting in October, CQ stretches bi-coastally, then bi-hemispherically, stopping along the way at the superbly-named Jazzmandu festival in Nepal where they spread peace with music amidst natural splendor. November then finds them again astride northern Europe…

Oct 2 Bucknell University – Lewisburg, PA

Oct 3 Le Poisson Rouge – NYC, NY

Oct 4 Firehouse 12 – New Haven, CT

Oct 5 Lewis & Clark College – Portland, OR

Oct 6 Cornish College – Seattle, WA

Oct 7 Willamette University – Salem, OR

Oct 8 Arcata Playhouse – Arcata, CA

Oct 9 Bows & Arrows – Sacramento, CA

Oct 10 Kuumbwaa Jazz Center – Santa Cruz, CA

Oct 11 Red Cat (Angel City Jazz Fest) –  Los Angeles, CA

Nov 19 Atrane, Berlin

Nov 20-22 Residency at the Royal Academy of Music 

Nov 23 London Jazz Festival (with the RAM Big Band) 

Nov 24 –  The Mac, Belfast

Nov 25 – The Workmans Club, Dublin

“Since I was young, I always thought jazz was the next thing, the thing that does not have a label yet. Once it is called something and has been codified, then for me it WAS jazz but is not any more”

Ready yourself for the Hollenbeck live experience by reading more from this interview John sat for recently with marlbank.

Wyoming, September, Laurie and Kris

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



Latest insider reports show that John has taken up temporary home on the range, where buffalo roam and projectiles fly, albeit in safely different directions. Per John himself:

“I’m at this residency on a resort lodge in Wyoming called Brush Creek for 3 more weeks. Trying to write some music, in between fun activities like gun club, hiking, archery, yoga…”

Brush Creek, we hasten to add, is no roaming-range-come-lately. As they tell it:

“Over the years, Brush Creek Ranch has built a solid reputation, serving as a home to numerous families, cattle and horse herds, offering a one-of-a-kind gathering place for guests from around the world…

The story of Brush Creek Ranch dates back to 1884 when the Sterrett brothers settled the land and built the original homestead with logs cut, skid and hauled from the adjoining National Forest. A spirit of hard work, recreation, adventure and good times shared together are prevalent in the archives of days past, from famous barn and campfire cookouts to fishing on the renowned Brush Creek…

The fall of 2011 brought the newest philanthropic program from Bruce and Beth White, Brush Creek Foundation for the Arts—the newest artist-in-residence program in the great state of Wyoming. With this unique program, we share the gift of time and space with selected artists, writers and musicians from around the world in this unforgettable landscape.”

Sounds like soul-restoring stuff, doesn’t it? Roast a few marshmallows for us, John.


Prior to his retreat, John was at the Edinburgh International Festival with Meredith Monk, performingOn Behalf of Nature, where he formed part of the dance/performance/vocal corps known as the Vocal Ensemble. This deeply Monkian evening-length piece lays bare its thematic concerns while still summoning a complex reflection from its audience—or at least so say its many well-stirred reviewers. Learn more about the piece and see an excerpt here.


John has received a grant (again!), this time in support of the 2013-2014 season of the French-American Jazz Exchange. The grant, from the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation and the French-American Cultural Exchange, sustains a new project that joins John with a bangup crew of french brassmen.

From the announcement:

“JASS is a new quartet led by American drummer John Hollenbeck and French saxophonist Alban Darche that also features French double bassist Sébastien Boisseau and Swiss trombonist Samuel Blaser, who now resides in New York City. The ensemble will create a new body of work composed collaboratively by Darche and Hollenbeck, who both use polyrhythmic textures and processes borrowed from groove and minimalist music. The group will rehearse and perform seven concerts in France, record the new compositions in the United States, and follow with touring stops in Cambridge, MA; New York, NY; Philadelphia, PA; and Washington, DC.”


Learn more and read the complete press release here.


Claudia Quintet’s new record comes out on September 24th. Stunningly soon! Uncontainably exciting, we know!

The new record, September, will feature compositions that John wrote last September and features Claudia “Classic” dudes:Chris Speed, Matt Moran and Drew Gress, plus Eastman chum Red Wierenga as well as frequent bass-sub Chris Tordini.

Of course, as autumn follows summer, this record’s release means new tour dates for the 5tet, including an ultrafresh release party on October 3rd at Le Poisson Rouge with special guests Slavic Soul Party. Smashing.

Check out the gig details (and jump on tickets early) here. Learn more about the upcoming release, including a fuller list of tour dates, here.

For a nice sneak preview, here’s a lovely clip of Coping Song, written on September 12th, 2001 at the Blue Mountain Center.


On a sad note, we mark the passing of two dear friends this summer.

In July, Laurie Frink, a charter member of JHLE, passed. You can read John’s remembrance of her through the chains of email they exchanged, here, as well as Nate Chinen’s in the Times.

And this, from John:

“recently, Kris Goessens, who has been the pianist with the New Art Orchestra since the beginning, died suddenly.

I also played a lot of trio through the years with him and Ingmar Heller (the bassist with the NAO). He was a dear, sweet guy who will be missed. His playing was unbelievable-I can’t even explain it, but it was like he was channeling a sacred priest who played the piano.

photo of kris

The following are Bob’s liner notes from Get Well Soon – Recorded In August 2002

‘Kris Goessens is one of the world’s best kept secrets, something he and I hope to alter soon, playing duo on concert tours.  He has a depth of feeling and touch that I find unequaled by anyone I have heard.  He also has a quiet daring, use of space and register that break accepted barriers AND, patience, to allow an idea to unfold and fully speak.  His language is his and he feels almost painfully the act of creation.’”


Laurie Frink

I can not actually remember the first time I met Laurie Frink, but when I first started a large ensemble and asked trumpet players who to hire for the Trumpet 4 book, she was on everybody’s list.  And rightly so. Only slowly did I get to know her, her sharp wit and steadfast musicianship.  At times it seemed like she was in every major big band in NYC. Later, I would hear about how she was the chops doctor/therapist for brass players of all kinds, from newbies to experienced veterans. Like most, I was and am still in disbelief that she is suddenly gone.

As a way to heal and remember, I started looking through our email exchanges over the last several years. Although they are mostly about gigs, I can still hear and see Laurie when I read through them which somehow gives me a little solace.  I’ve gathered her responses here in chronological order and wanted to share them so others could share in this memory of her dry wit and “no BS” directness!  I’m still shaken when this compilations ends so suddenly without any resolution.

With gratitude, John


all can work



Hi John

It looks like I will be out of town Nov 2-4 so rehearsing earlier would be better for me



whoo hooooo!!  congrats!!



Hey John

fun gig!!  sorry bout the $–I didn’t realize we were getting paid last nite.  Mail is cool—–thanks



Hi John

2-5 nov 13–see you then—-yes, I’d like music



not me



I had a great time playing your music!!!!!  could you shoot me the address of the studio please.  also–do you have a cutoff time or is it open ended—–anythings cool with me —just curious





I am out of town so i can’t look at my passport.  I’ll be in town for a minute on tuesday and will let you know what it says for sure

(probably Laurie Ann Frink but I’m not positive about the middle name being there)

As far as flight requests, I don’t care about the meal (it all sucks) but I’ll need an aisle seat as I am a pacer with a bad back.




june 13–good

june 12–anytime






either is fine for me












same address

240 west 98th #7G NYC 10025



sorry–i thought I had responded–i;m good



Hi John,

I’m upstate and internet has been wacky—can’t determine whether my reply got sent to you or not—sorry if this is a repeat

everything is doable (if I could please have about 10 days notice if possible) except for the 20 and 21 from 5:30 on.



I’m good









I’m good



just to clarify–is the rehearsal oct 12?



thanks–i got confused



Hi John–thanks for the offer below–how about my rent for the remainder of the year…haha

pay-$100 (if you have extra expenses that you would like me to cover, please let me know)



I’m good for everything and have no preferences for dates or leavetimes.



Hi John

thats great!!  the main thing I have to offer is that the traffic getting across the bridge into Newport is a f*&^king NITEMARE!!!

I can’t emphasize this enough…….last year I played with 2 different bands and the ‘sound checks’ really didn’t happen……



confirmed–it doesnt matter to me when we fly—one thing that does matter:

if its possible I’d like an aisle seat on the plane–i’m a restless traveler with bad knees and lower back issues—I like to get up a lot







doesnt’ matter



april 25 works–I can rehearse any day except  april 23



I’d need to finish by 5:30–anytime before can work



good for me



im good



Hi John

MSM has scheduled its trumpet entrance auditions on tuesday afternoon and as one of 3 trumpet faculty

I really need to be there for some of it at least so I’m sorry to say that I’ll be late to the soundcheck.

looking forward to the next several days.



the auditions go til 6, but I figured I’d jump in a cab @ 4:30—so depending on traffic I should be there by 5.

I went to school at the University of Nebraska



I’m up–standing , and awake—thanks –sorry to have to bother you with all of this……..









I’m cool with this



cool–sorry to be tardy



cool—BTW is Newport on for aug 6 or 7??–sorry I’m such an airhead



Hi John

I will be in Newport from aug 4 on…..sorry



august 1  4:30 on

august 2 3 PM on




Maybe everyone already knows this, but just in case—-getting across the Newport bridge can be a nitemare!!!!

Allow at least an extra hour….maybe even more



Confirmed–I’ll need a parking permit



I will be traveling with Lois–will she need a pass to get into the festival?



I can also just flirt real heavy with the guard……



Late afternoon on the 11th would work



Hi John

I’m in Newport without nicks email address– could you please send it to me —

I need someone to translate the tickets– I can’t figure out leaving and arriving times— sorry to be so lame



I will get myself to the airport tomorrow



Confirmed— I will get myself to Newark tomorrow



thanks john–already printed it…….



Hi John

The folks you asked are exactly the ones I would have suggested.  Perhaps ask Kenny Wheeler??   I am disappointed to say that I’m going to be unable to do the KW gig…sorry.   I’ve had many inspiring times with him and was really looking forward to this gig.



Re: pic from lisbon….how come I’m the only one looking at JC? (:

maybe you’re lost????






Hi John,

No problem. Thanks for the advance notice.

Happy new year!



got it will be there with bells on



ok for me




i also have in my book nov 28-dec 3–is this happening or did I forget to delete?

my mother didn’t like me



Never have we doubled up







I am in the woods with no scanner or fax–here is a photo–

laurie frink photo


i’m ok–sorry–thought I’d answered



How are we traveling to DC?



yay!!! thanks



I’m good–happy new year!!



cool don’t care




I am very sorry to do this, but I’m not going to be able to do the tour this spring.

I will miss you all and especially playing the music, but I’m really getting jammed up.



please let me know that you got my last email


Refuge Trio, Brooklyn Conservatory BYOB, and L’Ensemble Cairn

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


Refuge Trio reunites for three Northwesterner gigs! First, a residency and concert at University of Oregon on May 9th, then, on May 15th, as part of Earshot’s Spring Series in Seattle, and, finally, at PDX Jazz at the Mission Theatre, on May 16th. Tickets available at the afore-linked links.

For those uninitiated or curious, check out this preview article from the Eugene Weekly(featuring a super-dashing photo of Theo to add to your collection). You’re also encouraged to scroll down for a Rashomon-style interview with each member of the group…


The Claudia Quintet with Matt Mitchell will appear at Brooklyn Conservatory on Thursday, June 13, at 7 and 9:30 pm. They will play the Conservatory’s “Jazz Club,” performing—per special request—music from Claudia’s 2010 LP, Royal Toast. Reports, if they can be believed, say BYOB. OK!

What could be better than classic Claudia and hand-brought beer? Why, a live pre-concert Q&A with noted music journalist David Adler! Not bad!

Personnel on hand:

John Hollenbeck, drums
Chris Speed, clarinet and tenor saxophone
Red Wierenga, accordion
Drew Gress, acoustic bass
Matt Moran, vibraphone
And SPECIAL GUEST: Matt Mitchell, piano

To purchase tickets please click here

To hear “Sphinx,” from Royal Toast, click here.

Below, a love song for John’s beloved Kate, entitled “Love Song for Kate,” from Claudia’s first record, matched with the poetry of Dylan Thomas. A splendid look for all involved.


“Flock,” John’s piece for French contemporastronauts L’Ensemble Cairn, is now listenable as a podcast by clicking here. Please note this podcast is only available for listening until JUNE 5th. No dawdling!

What you’ll hear if you’ll listen is the premiere performance at the Theatre d’Orleans, from March 8th. The Ensemble plays “Limpidity of Silences” (previously recorded by Claudia Quintet, this is its first actual performance), followed by a new commission for them, “The Commons,” then an orchestration for the Ensemble of John’s Bang On A Can commission, “Rainbow Jimmies.” “Flock” is the encore.

The concert starts with a great piece called “Aschenblume,” by Mauro Lanza, plus a premiere by the crafty New York wildcat, Alex Mincek, titled, “Donegal.” (But if you’re in a hurry, the Hollenbeck portion starts at 34:40.)

For those fortunate enough to be shouting distance from Douai, you can see L’Ensemble perform this piece live, at the Hippodrome Douai on June 1st. Allez!


Courtesy UOregon’s Liner Notes Blog

Gary Versace:

1. What are you planning to bring to the performance at the University?

Lots and lots of weed. (Not really. But if you know anyone… 🙂

2. Can you tell us the musical journey of Refuge Trio? How did you start as a band?

With instruments and microphones, then we plugged the shit in, and BAM. Wok tee, baby.

3. What are your biggest influences in music that shape your style today?


4. Do you have any upcoming projects that you’d like to share with the readers?

A large toothpick replica of st. patrick’s cathedral that i’ve been working on for months…it’s pretty sweet.

Theo Bleckmann:

1. What are you planning to bring to the performance at the University?

Old and new music performed in new ways.

2. Can you tell us the musical journey of Refuge Trio? How did you start as a band?

This trio was formed to play at the 2002 Wall-to-Wall Joni Mitchell Marathon Concert at Symphony Space in NYC. Since then, they have continued to explore music from all genres following a unique collaborative path.

Their repertoire includes their own originals as well as compositions by Joni Mitchell, Theolonius Monk, Dmitri Schostakovitsch, Sidsel Endresen and Allan Holdsworth among others.

3. What are your biggest influences in music that shape your style today?

Pretty much everything influences me, either in a good way that makes me want to learn about it and have more of it in my life, or in a way that defines what I want to avoid.

4. Do you have any upcoming projects that you’d like to share with the readers?

I am working on a new band with harpist Zeena Parkins (Björk) performing some of my new songs and some baroque music.

John Hollenbeck:

1. What are you planning to bring to the performance at the University?


2. Can you tell us the musical journey of Refuge Trio? How did you start as a band?

gary has the funny answer, theo the real one….so I think you got all you need on this one!

3. What are your biggest influences in music that shape your style today?

yesterday I heard a great album from a band from Berlin called Schneeweiss and Rotenrot-the album is called Pool-check it out!

but usually I’m behind the current trends….as I’m writing this I’m listening to deerhoof and just to show how unhip I am-this is my first time listening to them…..I get into everything about 5-10 years after everyone else it seems……next up for me is probably The Dirty Projectors since I’ve been hearing about them for about 5 years…..

eternal favs:

Peter Garland, Brian Eno, György Ligeti

4. Do you have any upcoming projects that you’d like to share with the readers?

That reminds me that what I should be doing right now is finishing music for the upcoming Claudia Quintet record, called September that is coming out in, you guessed it-September!  Also revising some new music for this great new music ensemble from Paris, France, Ensemble Cairn, that I will play with in a few weeks….yikes I got to get back to work.

Today, Cornelia Street; Tomorrow, Dukedom

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


claudia in St. Louis w_Tordini

Claudia Quintet take Cornelia Street (with special guest, Chris Tordini)

This week CQ swings through old stomping grounds in the West Village. All shows are All Ages, so you can bring your baby (or your baby’s baby).

Friday, April 19 at 9 & 10:30PM 
and Saturday, April 20, at 9 & 10:30PM

Go once! Go twice in a night ! Go four times in a weekend!

Call 212-989-9319 for tickets or visit their website for details

Shortwave signals

The Claudia Qunitet will “appear” in an accordion special hosted by Ssrirus Pakzad (correct spelling!). Part of the show, “radioJazznacht,” it will be broadcast on may 4th, 6pm-8pm New York Time, on Bayern 2 (Bayerischer Rundfunk). Listen in via live stream here.

And for our readers who are fluent in Portguese, we have a nice feeling what ‘forca positiva’ might mean, but we’d appreciate your help to verify.Check the full interview here.

Next step: Knighthood

We are very proud to announce that John has been appointed to England’s Royal Academy of Music as their Visiting Professor of Jazz for the academic year 2013/2014. In John’s words as quoted by RAM:

John Hollenbeck said, ’It is a distinct honour to be invited to teach at the prestigious Royal Academy of Music as a Visiting Professor of Jazz. I anticipate it will be an insightful and enriching experience for me to work with the Academy’s students, and I hope to inspire and motivate the students in return, serving to bring them closer to their chosen path.’

See, he even used the added ‘u’ when he said ‘honor’! Righto!

Tour Pix: Dispatches from the Midwest

What began at the Jazz Standard, went to Ohio and ended in Johnson City, NY. For those not fortunate enough to see shows or play along for the ride, you can view a comprehensive gander of the proceedings right here from “Mr. Enthusiasm” Steven Lugerner!

From Radio Waves and Magazine Pages to The Jazz Standard and The Wex


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


Old Media <3’s John

Ladies and gentleman, John Hollenbeck has hit the mainstream. At long last, the unclassifiable is cool. No longer will “no labels” be an impediment to earnest attention from the masses. For on newsstands now—that’s right, I said newsstands—you can find not one but TWO highly respected journalistic organs devoting raw pagespace for John and his travails.

In this latest issue of The New Republic you can read “Music Without Category,” by David Hajdu. To wit:

Screen Shot 2013-03-30 at 7.34.41 PMScreen Shot 2013-03-30 at 7.36.54 PM

Likewise, in this current issue of Stereophile  magazine you can read an extensive article on John, written by Mr. Robert Baird.

Screen Shot 2013-03-30 at 7.35.05 PMScreen Shot 2013-03-30 at 7.41.55 PM

Let this pristine ink not be spilled in vain! Get thee to your corner store or bookshop and have at least a pagethrough of these pieces. Neither will be found on the Internet—that rascal’s den of the errant and inane—so you must go into the light of the real press and read it for yourself! Go! The sunshine will do you some good!

And did we mention…the Radio?

Not only does John appear in glossy print this month, but he and stellar vocal partner Mr. Theo Bleckmann will join Michael Bourne on his show Singers Unlimited on Sunday, March 31st at 12pm on WBGO 88.3FM. NYC/NJ Hollenfans, bust out your radio and tune in. Internet Citizens of Hollenbeck Nation, set your dials to www.wbgo.org and join the party via web.

Upcoming shows

To read and hear the words and music of John is good. But to do so in the same room as the man himself? Another story completely. Hear the music unadulterated by airwaves, and be in proximate communion with with your fellow fans. Be advised of the below shows—the critics have taken notice too—and get satisfied physically:

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble SONGS I LIKE A LOT with Kate McGarry & Theo Bleckmann @ Jazz Standard

116 E 27th St., 11th Fl., New York, NY

Sets: 7:30 PM/9:30PM

All Ages, Ticket Here

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

John Hollenbeck SONGS I LIKE A LOT with Kate McGarry & Theo Bleckmann @ Oberlin College

135 W. Lorain Street, Oberlin, OH

Set: 8:00 PM

All Ages, Tickets Here

Thursday, April 4, 2013

John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble SONGS I LIKE A LOT with Kate McGarry & Theo Bleckmann @ Wexner Center for the Arts

1871 North High Street, Columbus, OH 43210-1393

(614) 292-3535 Set: 8:00 PM

All Age, Tickets Here

Tickets: $16 members/ $18 general public/ $13 students

Friday, April 5, 2013

John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble SONGS I LIKE A LOT with Kate McGarry & Theo Bleckmann @ The Goodwill Theatre

67 Broad Street, Johnson City, NY 13790

607.772.2404 Set: 7:00 PM

All Ages, Tickets Here

Tickets: $15 / $12 / 10  

More likes for Songs I Like A Lot

The latest review begins, “„Welcome to the first classic album of 2013!“, jubelt down beat.”

Beyond that, I can’t read it, but mayhaps you can! Check it out on this most-excellent german language jazz site.

For a closer-to-home take on SILAL, may we suggest the Los Angeles Times? This quick blurb (replete with lovely action shot) says a mouthful.

JH for young ears

We close with this, from a friend of the Hollenfamily. You’ve known John Hollenbeck is outstanding listening for grownups of all stripes. But did you know it could also be delivered to younger, more formative minds, as part of a well-balanced musical awakening? Read on…

From Jack Hollenbeck’s (7th grader-nephew of John) excellent music teacher:     “Yes, today we were covering 20th century music & specifically 12-tone music.  Arnold Schoenberg was the composer that initially made that famous, so we covered him.  But I wanted to tie in something more contemporary, so Rick got me listening to John’s Meinetwegen (from his 1st Claudia Quintet CD) last night, so I played it for them today.  The kids thought it was SO cool that it was Jack’s uncle, & they were quite taken by the voices included in the tune!”

John’s response: “I wish I had a 7th Grade teacher who played me Schoenberg when I was starting out!” These kids get the benefit of them both.

If you have stories about your own intersections with John Hollenbeck’s music, be they spiritual, educational or other, do not hesitate to share! We are always listening…


French Engagements, New York Nights, And The Return Of JHLE 

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


John ventures Franceward to join Ensemble Cairn “pour un projet qui confronte et associe musique écrite et musique improvisée, musique jazz et musique contemporaine.” Or, as we might say in English, a mindbending and ballerific evening. Ensemble Cairn specializes in what other folks might call difficult music. Spectral, post-spectral, improvisational collaborations, the works.

For this program JH has been invited to perform a brand new work commissioned by L’Ensemble, “The Commons,” based on (wait for it) The Commons framework. John et al. will also play a réorchestration of Rainbow Jimmies, initially commissioned for Bang on a Can, PLUS two works from What Is The Beautiful, including “Flock” and “Limpidity of Silences,” making its live premiere. To top it off, will also be joined for this performance by most excellent French saxophonist, Fred Gastard. Detailles ci-dessous. 


Ensemble Cairn “Un Cairn à John Hollenbeck” @ Théâtre d’Orléans

Boulevard Pierre Ségelle, Orléans, 45002 (France) – Map

02 38 62 75 30  Set: 8:30 PM

All Ages

Tickets: 24 / 18


Ensemble Cairn “Un Cairn à John Hollenbeck” @ Le Petit faucheux

12 rue Léonard de Vinci , Tours, 37000 (France) – Map

02 47 38 67 62  Set: 8:30 PM

All Ages

Tickets: 15 € / 12 € / 7 €

What heights of elegance could ever top these? Two words: Johnson City. In the beginning of April, it will be there in the Southern Tier, as well as in the zamboni-flat heartland of Columbus, OH, that John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble makes its triumphant return, joining Kate & Theo to perform Songs he Likes A Lot. Then, later in April, JH breaks away with Claudia Quintet for a luxurious 3-night engagement at The Cornelia Street Café in New York.

OH—and how could we forget? Claudia Quintet’s original formation reunites on March 23rd at Symphony Space, featuring alumni and faculty from Chris Speed & Matt Moran’s alma mater, New England Conservatory. They will there play a brief set with former CQ accordionist and NEC faculty member, Ted Reichman.

Details on all this and more may be found at JohnHollenbeck.com/Live


We all are visited by reclusiveness. If unwilling or unable to see the Hollenmenschen live, we offer this as a decent substitute: Ringing out in high definition, it’s Claudia Quintet, live via Vimeo from Sunset in Paris. Courtesy of CitizenJazz point com, you can view these most excellent videos and catch the glory secondhand right here.

In a similar vein, you can download for portable listening this combination live performance/interview, courtesy Mr. Mark Hayes and his Passing Notes site, right here. Truly extensive, not to be missed.


The love keeps a’flowing for Songs I Like A Lot, John’s latest album, now available for immediate purchase. Joining the choir of biggups is DownBeat’s Frank Alkyer, who selected the record as an Editors’ Pick, as well as emusic’s Dave Sumner, and—straight outta Irie—Mr. Cormac Larkin of the Irish Times.

Meanwhile our sizable German-fluent readership may enjoy this review of another Hollencollab, Shut Up and Dance, in the words of Mr. Sebastian Scotney (the English translation follows, in case you’re feeling rusty).


But what have you done for US lately? Sketched Mr. Hollenbeck mid-strike in charcoal and guache? No? Well at least one fellow has, and he threatens to put your fandom to shame with his efforts. His note to us, along with the masterwork he created, follow:

I am an artist from Bamberg, Germany. You played with your band in our town in the Jazzclub in the year 2009 and I made a portrait of you later with help from a photo I made this evening.

2010 I made a exhibition with different jazz musicians in our club, also with the one of you. I thought now, maybe you like it and so I send it to you as mail to look at it.

friendly greetings from Bamberg,

(Awesome Fan)



Last but not least, we bring you this dispatch from The Department of Getting The Joke. We appreciate your appreciation, Ken®.




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

**Songs I Like a Lot_CD Cover


Dear friends and lovers: The time is now. John Hollenbeck’s latest record, _Songs I Like A Lot_, has at last been released into the wild. John’s latest mad creation contains covers of songs by everyone from Ornette Coleman to Imogen Heap, and costars Theo Bleckmann, Kate McGarry, Gary Versace, and The Frankfurt Radio Big Band, all stewing and steeping together as they chase down new angles on old favorites. You can buy it as a compact disc via BANDCAMP or as a very compact indeed digital-only download via iTUNES. The choice, power, and delight, are all yours!

Still reading, yet somehow still undecided? Luckily a few kind fellows have taken it upon themselves to vet the record on your behalf.

Cliff Belamy at the Herald Sun has already pre-Liked It Alot, as did Dan Deluca of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review, who remarked that it was “another display of his great work with a large ensemble.” Meanwhile Jeff Simon at the Buffalo News unabashedly Loves It Alot; his review calls it, “quite simply, the most beautiful jazz disc I have heard in months.” He also deigns to call John a “percussionist and brilliant, wildly eclectic jazz composer and orchestra leader,” the last part of which conjured delightful images of John in white tie, tails and kid gloves, mugging like Bernstein and flailing drumstick-batons in arrhythmic time. For a true Extended Analysis you can read this article from John Kelman at AllAboutJazz, praising John’s “unerring ability to find good music in any corner, nook or cranny, turning it into something personal without ever losing what made it so good in the first place.”

The day is here, the time has come; the record can, nay, SHOULD be yours. Get down with Jimmy Webb like you’ve never got down with him before. Revisit the land of Pop with some drastically revisited Queen. Join the chorus of love and generally just have a ball. SONGS I LIKE A LOT awaits your ears eagerly.


With album in hand and appetite once again re-whet, you will inevitably wonder when next you can see the man himself. Well, wonder no more, and peep the following dates on the horizon:

Friday, February 1st at 8:00 PM
at Petit Faucheux in Tours, France
with JASS — Alban Darche, Samuel Blaser, Sebastien Boisseau and John Hollenbeck
Saturday, February 2nd at 7:30pm
Orchestre National de Jazz performing the program “Shut Up and Dance”
at the WDR 3 JazzFest in Cologne, Germany
WDR Funkhaus, Klaus-von-Bismarck-Saal
Details ici 
Sunday, February 3rd at 8pm
at “Kulturzentrum Dieselstrasse,” Esslingen, Germany
It’s time for Junk Box, feat.
Natsuki Tamura on trumpet,
Satoko Fujii at the piano, and 
John Hollenbeck on the hide-n’-metal beat bins
Details here 
Thursday, February 14th at 7:30pm
at the GRAND THÉÂTRE in Lorient, France
ONJ is back performing SUAD

On a more extracurricular note, John joins old friends uptown in New York; to wit—

Mar 2, 2013, 8:00 PM-10:00 PM
Columbia University, Miller Theatre in New York City
Fred Hersch‘s My Coma Dreams
…looking a bit further down the road, we see John, KateTheo, and JHLE Take Ohio to perform SONGS I LIKE A LOT live! 

Wednesday, April 3rd
Oberlin College


Thursday, April 4th 

at the Wexner Center for the Arts at Ohio State University!


Last week Meredith Monk’s ecstatic new musical-theatre work, “On Behalf of Nature,” had its premiere at the Freud Playhouse at UCLA, and it looks deeply, entrancingly rad. Get thee to this glowing and enrapt review by Mark Swed of the LA Times, which, as a bonus, features a rare FULL BODY PHOTO of John mid-sway with his fellow Monk-ites. The verdict: “Mature and magnificent Monk.” We in the East and elsewhere await her new cuckoo eagerly.

Pre-Ordering The Future

(“the many reeds of the JHLE” — photo courtesy Mr. Jason Linnell)
End-of-year listmaking is a (perhaps even THE) venerable tradition in American cultural criticism, occasioning as it does such a sweeping and easily-digested review of the preceding year’s highlights. “Remember that one!” we can all exclaim together. Or, perhaps, “Wow, was I living under a rock this year, avant-garde musical comedy-wise, or what?” End-of-year lists are the greatest.
Despite that his music tends to resist morsel-sized blurbing, John is of course no stranger to end-of-year lists. A couple of our favorites this time around:
In ARTFORUM, composer-pianist-standardbearer Jason Moran’s Top 10 Live Music Experiences (title mine), which deserves mention if only for taking its basis not in recorded music, but live performances he experienced. This is one of the coolest things we can learn about a musician we love: they like watching other cool musicians too. Case in point, JM was a big fan of JHLE’s performance at Newport this year, listing in #10, just a few spots down from none other than Azaelia Banks. Man of diverse tastes. You can peep that list in its entirety here.
Of course National Public Radio has no shortage of love for the Hollencrew, as evidenced in this year’s pick for vocal maestro Theo Bleckmann’s excellent reframing of Kate Bush tunes, “Hello Earth: The Music of Kate Bush”. You see that list, read a blurb on Theo’s latest (which features John on drums (who else?)), and even listen to a sampling of song, at NPR Music’s ever-more elegant site here.

In case you’ve been dozing on our previous installments, you’d best be aware that John’s latest record, Songs I Like A Lot, is fast on its way. The album contains a smattering of favorite music from Jimmy Webb, Ornette Coleman, Imogen Heap, Freddie Mercury, and others, all rearranged and scrambled by John. It features Frankfurt Radio BigBand, Theo Bleckmann, Kate McGarry, and Gary Versace—and you can PRE-OWN it now.

That’s right, why wait for conventional in-the-moment ownership, not available until January, when you can fast forward into future tense and PRE-OWN the record today?
Pre-order the CD before release on January 29, 2013, and you’ll ALSO receive a digital download of the album on or around January 29. Not only that, but in the immediate term, you get a free download of “Canvas,” the Imogen Heap offering of the album. The link to do so is this familiar website here:  http://johnhollenbeck.bandcamp.com/album/songs-i-like-a-lot-2

What’s that you say? No more Compact Discs in your life? No worries, you can pre-order the digital-only version from iTunes here: http://bitly.com/12CmQy9
Cliff Bellamy has already (p)reviewed it for The Herald Sun, and, yes, you should be jealous he got to hear it. Not only did he dig the tunes, but his writeup bespeaks deepset access to the man himself, as it contains many nuggets of golden Hollinsight. Have yourself a click here, and glean some extra liner notes to tide you over as you enjoy the many benefits of pre-ownership.
John’s got a brand new piece for Gotham Wind Symphony being recorded on January 6th and 7th at an undisclosed (and many believe literally underground) location. It will be entitled “…Can’t Hide Love Mantra,” based on an Earth, Wind and Fire tune. Doesn’t that sound rad?
When he emerges, John will have a brief respite before lending his sticks to MEREDITH MONK: A Benefit for Roulette on January 10th. As the name suggests, John, MM, and others will band together to raise money for the excellent and weird-friendly Brooklyn venue Roulette. You can buy tickets at levels ranging from the patronly to the plebeian right here.  
Then, time for a brief jaunt over with the Tony Malaby Tuba Trio (yes) and many others at on January 12, to participate in Winter
Jazz Fest; you can buy tickets (and see who all else is playing) here.
Finally, across the country back nestled in Monkland, John joins the Meredith Monk Vocal Ensemble for the world premiere of On Behalf of Nature, Monk’s “latest evening-length work.” Performances are January 18-20 at UCLAbuy tickets today and then go fly West for Winter!
Last but not least: Don’t you want to look at JHLE’s tour pictures? I know I couldn’t make it to the tour, and maybe you coudln’t either. Have a look at some tour pictures, on us.



Touring, Treats, and Internal Workings

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



here once again is the cover of the new album by the Frankfurt Radio BigBand with Theo Bleckmann, Kate McGarry & Gary Versace playing tunes and arrangements by John. cue: excitement.

as the name suggests, the record features personal arrangements of treasured gems by everyone from Ornette Coleman to Imogen Heap. how cool is that?

Cooler still: next week JHLE will shlep mightily thro’ the Eastern Seaboard, appearing with Theo and Kate & playing songs off the new record at shows in Washington, DC, Philadelphia, North Carolina, Virginia and New York.


 and finally on December 10th

Hollenfriends of NYC and most notably, Brooklyn,  can join in at Roulette, see the band, support your local transdisciplinary new music performance center, and impress your children by going out on a monday night.

Tickets, info, and an array of elegant b&w photography can be found at their website here.


before we can see John here in America again, he first had to serve a grueling tour in such places as Paris and Caen. the latest from the front?

“there were awesome gigs with nice crowds!”

good to hear it, soldier. story goes they were even so bold as to try out a brand-spanking piece, “September 9th”
It’s the first in a series of un-notated tunes, learnt by rote, deftly digested and infinitely reconstituted.

John, again:

Because my music is usually not short or simple, learning it by rote is difficult.
What it means visually is NO MUSIC STANDS. Also the music will be IN us, so hopefully it will be more liquid after we get to know it.
How we actually learn the music is something that we are figuring out. But for the first attempt, we learned the piece a phrase at a time.
It is actually written down for posterity and in case we forget it, but during the learning process the guys did not want to see the music, they made their own notes to help them remember.



Pre-empting the annual james bond marathon in greater brazil this week was the Buenos Aires Jazz Festival Internacional, starring john hollenbeck in two roles: conductor of the conservatory’s MANUEL DE FALLA BIG BAND and percussionist/bandleader, local killer quintet in tow, in a double bill with the KIRK LIGHTSEY TRÍO. As you can see from these photos it was no less a racy and suave affair than The Living Daylights.


a blog supreme got that new compass and JH is on it.

also check out john’s recent interview with The Thread, released in two parts:

I. Stories about making music with Meredith Monk, plus a Theo Bleckmann origin story:

II. Good phrases for weird problems, like how to talk about genre, and why a large ensemble is not the same as a big band.

[Reader poll: what cardinal direction would John be? NNE? respond in the comments section below or mail your submissions to HQ]


nice-looking young men in black t-shirts play “ziggurat (interior)”


Gramophone Season (and Other Diversions)

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

As autumn’s taut chill nips amidst the tumbling leaves, quite naturally our thoughts turn once again to the Recording Academy Grammy Awards. And even though Grammy.com’s Gucci-sponsored countdown widget reminds us it’s still over 111 days away, now is the time when ye anointed few must elect Grammy’s nominees. So for all of you not privileged with Recording Industry Suffrage (and may be right now wondering aloud, “you mean they actually vote on these?”) bear with us while we stump for John’s latest greatnesses.

Up this year for your consideration: What is the Beautiful?, a lovely and imminently buyable record by Claudia Quintet + 1, as well as “What is the Beautiful?” which is (you guessed it) title track from that very album.

For further elaboration and gently kind super-nudging, we invite you visit this link from proud label-parent Cuneiform Records here.

Need we mention voting ends October 31st? Oh look, we just did!



What, as if we’re surprised about this? And that there’s an album, too? For this you emailed your poor mother in the middle of the night? And why is it you only call when you need something?

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. First, Claudia Quintet goes charging through France, in Paris on November 11th, then in Caen on November 13th. Hit those links for tickets, information, and verifiable proof.

Now. This is the cover of the new album by Frankfurt Radio BigBand with Theo Bleckmann, Kate McGarry & Gary Versace playing tunes and arrangements by John! Yes, it should indeed excite you.

In December, JHLE will sweep the Eastern Seaboard, appearing with Theo and Kate & playing songs off the new record at shows in New York, North Carolina, Philadelphia and Washington, DC. We’d like to call particular attention to this smashing night at Roulette in (of all places) Brooklyn. Tickets, info, and repeatable maxims all may be found at their website. FUN.



After exile to what was surely a gruesome 4 weeks of residence at Liguria Study Center, John has left behind two artifacts, etched into digital ink for us to steep in and contemplate.

The first, entitled “I’m a Lucky Girl,” details in photographs John and Lady Kate’s sartorial narrative throughout literally dozens of dinners for which they had to dress in fancy attire. Kate looks lovely, but it is the array of blazers and ties in play that truly impress on the eyeballs. See for yourself.

The second—well, better left to John to describe:

my studio was overlooking this awesome tennis court…..so after a few weeks I could not help myself….I came up with a serial system based on the tennis court itself…..then I applied it as a test to these three Jimmy Connors rallies.

So far so good!

The view from John’s studio

And the resulting video

For max enjoyment, do heed those instructions: As. Loud. As. Possible.



We close this time, as we sometimes do, with audience participation: Three instruments and one man, at play in “The Snow is Deep on the Ground”, covered from CQ+1’s What is the Beautiful. Enjoy:



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 johnhollenwebpr@gmail.com


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 JohnHollenWebPR@gmail.com 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……dhamma.org


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.

Newport Nears + DownBeat Poll 77

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


Newport is Even More Nigh Now

Preferably you have already made arrangements to rid yourself of material possessions and join Claudia Quintet+1 on the waters of NewportAugust 5th is the day, Rhode Island is the place. For those still fence perching, do the next right thing & click here. Therein are tickets to a place you’ll want to be—trust us. And, in a grand gesture of halfway meeting, the Jazz Fest Fabricators have arranged a free sampling of CQ+1 be made available to whet all appetites. Enter brief info & you may sample it here.

Of course if for some unspeakable reason your attendance is impossible? Well. We will survive, but then there’s the matter of you. In these dire cases, the best backup comes from that other crucial machine: your computer. Once again the indefatigable Jazz team at NPR Music has arranged wall-to-wall coverage of Newport, including audio-visual-twitter coverage all throughout the field of play. Learn all about your next best alternative here.

Non-Stop John

Incorrigibly, John has somehow managed to entangle himself in yet another cool band-project-album-experience. This one is titled JASS, after its members: John, Alban (Darche), Samuel (Blaser) and Sébastien (Boisseau). Visit this page to learn more—even if you’re nonfluent in French, there’s still some outstanding samples to savor. And for the super-visually inclined, you can watch the band in action at cette YouTube clip ici.

In similar news: There is a brand new record is out by Blind Date Quartet on JH’s GPE Records label. (Yes. Man has a record label as well. Be jealous.) It features Angelika Sheridan (flutes), Ulrike Stortz (violin), Scott Roller (cello) and, just for good measure, John Hollenbeck on percussion. You can taste and indeed even purchase that record here.

Lastly, John has been commissioned by Ensemble Cairn to write new music and, naturally, perform with them in Spring 2013. Details forthcoming, excitement immediate.

The DownBeat 77th Annual Readers Poll 

And now, a message.

Every year since the dawn of Jazz press as we know it (roughly 1936, we’re told) the magistrates of DownBeat set out to take the national temperature on Who is the Best at Jazz. Now in 2012 the year’s categories simply runneth over with John Hollenbeck-related projects. Indeed John is nominated in no fewer than SIX different times, including for

Jazz Group – Claudia Quintet

Big Band -John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble

Composer- John Hollenbeck

Arranger – John Hollenbeck

Jazz Artist of the Year – John Hollenbeck

Jazz Album of the Year – What Is The Beautiful – Claudia Quintet + 1 feat. Kurt Elling & Theo Bleckmann (Cuneiform)

Fellow beloved Hollenfans, the time has come to do your part & tell the DownBeaters what is What. Say I: VOTE HOLLENBECK. Has not John Hollenbeck lead the way for all of us to demolish genre boundaries and reanimate our deepest and strangest insides? Does not John Hollenbeck bring together so many wonderfully varied flavors with each new project, album or band? Will not John Hollenbeck play transportedly, ferociously, religiously near-end vision-stricken eye-of-the-tiger drums for you every single time he sets foot to stage and hands on sticks? He has, he does, he will.

Vote Hollenbeck. Do it for the future of Jazz. Do it for the demolition of Jazz. Do it for the spiritual descendants of Kenneth Patchen and the musical descendants of Bob Brookmeyer. Do it for every child yet to write music who will someday record an album titled after plumbing or breakfast. Hollenbeck is our man; we owe it to him to show our support.

Visit this site, cough up a name & email (disposable options abound should you prefer) and then please, do vote. Tell DownBeat just What, in 2012, is What. Thank you.

Shapeshifters, Newport, and the Return of Pat

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


John is on

Fear not New Yorkers! After what feels like eons away, John returns!

On July 27th, John will reappear in (or is it from?!) the depths of Gowanus at The Shapeshifter. There he will be joined by The Claudia Quintet PLUS Mr. Matt Mitchell (Claudia’s perpetual plus one). NOT ONLY THAT, but in a special rare bonus configuration, John teams up with Gary Versace and John Hebert to form Triple Dutch Unit. Holla!

Then, on July 28th, he rises again! And with all the same players PLUS Ralph Alessi’s Modular Theatre, featuring Drew Gress, Loren Stillman, Tyshawn Sorey and Will Jennings!

And as if that completely gills-packed lineup WASN’T ENOUGH, CQ will both nights be joined by modern danseuses extraordinaires Ellen Fisher, Irene Hultman, Storme Sundberg , and Abby Levine! Mortel!

Details and ticket sales may be found at this very clickable link here.

Newport is nigh

The time has come, thou Hollenfans, to descend like English exiles onto Newport, RI. The occassion by now ought be plain: The 69th annual Newport Jazz Festival! As we’ve graciously made clear in the past John Hollenbeck stops at nothing to bring his gospel to Newport. Therefore, as humble followers, neither should we stop at anything to witness it, for this year’s word shall be triumphant indeed!

Astride yon Harbor Stage, on August 5th, at the stroke of 4:40pmClaudia Quintet + 1 will loose sweet revelation upon the assembled crowds. Joining them to set tarnation ablaze will be Kurt Elling and Theo Bleckmann, whose voices shall carry the word of the great Kenneth Patchen. Immediately following, John & al. will unmoor the harbor stage from the watery gates of Newport and sail away to redemption!

Join us! The time is now, fellow flock. Leave behind possessions of this Earth. Your job, your pets, and, if they won’t cooperate, even your children, all may be cast aside as you embark on a renewed life at Newport. Come be free and bask in the light of awakening and glittering shellfish.

Tickets, info, and the first steps to salvation may all be found here. (And for all you seeking to rid yourselves of possession before departure, we can assist in that process as well.)

Pat is back

We are pleased to report that Pat Hollenbeck, John’s brother and fellow percussionist-in-arms, has made a triumphant comeback following a debilitating stroke and resumed his place as percussionist for the Boston Pops! His first official gig since recovery was on July 4th, playing the Pops’ annual Independence Day gig on the Esplanade. To see Pat in action (and witness the unmistakable family genes embodied by another) check out this video (Pat’s segment is at 2:32)

Gress undressed 

As a treat for all our adoring music comp nerds (geeks? wizards? mages?) we leave you with link to two transcriptions of Drew Gress music and a sweet vintage Claudia Song, courtesy of The Aimless Rambler. Decoct, replay, recompose and enjoy!

Undead Rises Again!

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

Newly classic alt-alternative bonanza UNDEAD MUSIC FESTIVAL rises in New York again next week. Appearing on three outta four festival nights will be JH himself, each time in a different and rare configuration. To wit:


(Curated by Melissa Caruso Scott & John Scott)

Disbanded bands reconvene for a night to commemorate a venue still remembered fondly for its fearlessness and dedication to the freeform ethos. John will be appearing alongside his erstwhile bandmates from the golden 90’s, Ted Reichman & Reuben Radding. Together, they are: The Refuseniks!

For a list of others slated to appear and to buy your tickets, cliquez ICI


(Hosted by Search and Restore, it’s a night celebrating artist run – DIY spaces around the country)

Appearing at 11 pm: The Drum Major Instinct


John Hollenbeck – Drums / Composition

Brian Drye – Trombone

Curtis Hasselbring – Trombone

Jacob Garchik – Trombone

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. — Vocals

$10 suggested donation. To read more about the evening’s festivities at IBEAM and elsewhere, click HERE



17 artists enter, arranged in a random order. Artist #1 improvises for 5 minutes solo on stage, and is then joined by #2. After 5 more minutes, #3 enters, and #1 leaves—AND SO ON!

What can happen? What will happen, that’s what.

Slated to appear:

Mark Helias (bass), Brandon Seabrook (banjo / guitar), Hilmar Jensson (guitar), Allison Miller (drums), Amir Ziv (drums), Mike Pride (drums), Bob Stewart (tuba), Cooper Moore (piano), Miles Okazaki (guitar), Marika Hughes (cello), John Hollenbeck (drums), Matthew Mottel (keys), Fabian Almazan (piano)…and more to be announced!

A festival pass gains you free entry to this event. Tickets and clues available HERE

Want to get even excited-er about UNDEAD and its musical legionnaires? Check out the premiere episode of Search & Restore’s Spontaneous Construction podcast.

In it, Search & Restore founder Adam Schatz talks with drummers John Hollenbeck (Claudia Quintet) and Greg Fox (Guardian Alien, GDFX) about improvisation, creation and world domination. They converse convivially and even play together! Not 2b missed.

The Refuseniks and me (A Hollenbeck Origin Story)


Did we just pull a fast one with this crazed torrent of dates and players? No so fast, say you, our astute reader. WHO, you no doubt would like us to stop and tell you, are the Refusenik’s?

In the words of John:

1995-1996 was an important period for me, in retrospect, I feel like I arrived at a place that felt like “home” musically-speaking. I finally found the beginnings of a personal voice on the drums and in composition. One of the main reasons I arrived at this place was my association with the Refuseniks, a collective trio with Ted Reichman and Reuben Radding. We played every Monday night at alt.coffee, a grungy internet cafe on Avenue A. Playing with those guys helped me realize who I was, who I wanted to be, as a player. Both Ted and Reuben were totally open and willing to play music that did not fit any one genre. We quickly developed a very eclectic repertoire….Charlie Haden, folk music from Norway, Turkey, Sun Ra, plus originals…. I was trying hard to compose, so it was great that these guys were open to playing my originals, including pieces with “catchy” titles like Abstinence and Diane Hull.

I also met a lot of great musicians through the gig and through Ted and Reuben, who were both more in the “Knitting Factory” scene. Important musicians such as Anthony Coleman, Greg Cohen, David Krakauer, Frank London.

When Reuben abruptly quit music in the summer of 1996 and moved to Montana, I formed The Claudia Quintet with Ted as the anchor member.

Ted by the way, is a talented  writer, you can read his version of this story here.

Doris Duke Calling

Frequent listeners of public radio and others well-versed in American higher culture will be instantly familiar with the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. The DDCF is the ongoing legacy of Doris Duke, relentless philanthropist and lifelong nonconformist, who was an early adopter of surfing, modern dance, and free jazz, and who started her first charitable foundation at age 21. This year DDCF has named its first class of Doris Duke Artists, 21 American performers given unrestricted cash grants so that they may continue to create art freely—and guess who made the inaugural cut?

That’s right, it’s been officially announced and now it can be told: John Hollenbeck, along with colleagues & friends Vijay Iyer & Meredith Monk, will now be among those calling DD their posthumous sugar mama.

And not a second too soon! For as it happens John & his fellow DDA recipient Bill Frisell were just in the midst of heated soul-for-cash negotiations with Guzzler Corp., a multinational powerhouse specializing in the export of crude oil effluent to low-income playgrounds around the world. Thanks to the DDCF and the late Doris Duke, John and artists like him needn’t mortgage their eternal spirit to make ends meet.

Bravo John! Bravo Bill! Bravo all!

You can read a lot more about the DDA program, including a list of its other outstanding recipients here


Starting with 2001’s No Images, John basically hasn’t stopped getting super-acclaimed graphic design dudes Karlssonwilker to make his albums look cool. Since then he’s employed mssrs Hjalti Karlsson and Jan Wilker no fewer than nine times, most recently on CQ’s unapologetically awesome cover for What is the Beautiful?, which features the art of Kenneth Patchen reconfigured in a manner you should really just go look at, trust me.

How JH & KW have not grown coldly distant over the course of what in album design years basically constitutes lifelong marriage, none of us know. Whatever the secret of their longevity as a couple, the union is strong, and now with Karlssonwilker’s brand new website, their work’s whole flow can be viewed left-to-right, now-to-then, all on one screen—including the ill Kenneth Patchen 3D painting thing, which I defy you to describe in words better than it looks, it’s so cool.

Check out all the awesome work Karlssonwilker has done for John on this page.






Tinker Tailor Soldier Hollenbeck (or: A Small Ensemble in Germany)





Provided below is a comprehensive outline of times, locations, and costs of entry for the European tour of target groups CLAUDIA QUINTET and JOHN HOLLENBECK LARGE ENSEMBLE. This highly sensitive data provides specific detail as to the planned whereabouts of target JOHN HOLLENBECK and his cohort, including THEO BLECKMANN and other suspected members of target sub-group CLAUDIA QUINTET PLUS ONE.

Following repeated near-apprehensions of JOHN HOLLENBECK throughout the coastal USA, we have finally obtained the below advance reconnaissance and expect to be achieving full apprehension by late March, if not sooner.

In order to ensure our objective is met, apprehension teams should be dispatched to each of the below time-locations maximally armed. As you already know, JOHN HOLLENBECK along with CLAUDIA QUINTET PLUS ONE are as dangerous as they are elusive, and should by no means be underestimated.

Further preparatory intel may be obtained at RIVERFRONT TIMES BLOG as well as at LAWEEKLY TIMES SOUND BLOG. From the latter, re target THEO BLECKMANN:

Bleckmann is an amazing vocalist, something like a German Bobby McFerrin minus the body drumming. He is capable of filling a hall with sounds both soothing and guttural. In the context of his set with the Claudia Quintet, he worked exclusively as a team player, working wonders to create a cohesive band sound, blending in with their unusual instrumentation perfectly

Good luck & godspeed.

Monday, March 12, 2012 Claudia Quintet with special guest Theo Bleckmann @ Stadtgarten Venloerstr. 40, Köln, (Germany) – Set: 8:30 PM All Ages Tickets: VVK: 12,00€; AK: 15,00€

Wednesday, March 14, 2012 Claudia Quintet with special guest Theo Bleckmann @ Dexter Vindegade 65, Odense, (Denmark) 4563112728 Set: 8:00 PM All Ages Tickets: Forsalg: DKK 100 Medlemspris: DKK 60 Dørsalgspris: DKK 120

Thursday, March 15, 2012 Claudia Quintet with special guest Theo Bleckmann @ DE WERF Werfstraat 108, Brugge, 8000 (Belgium) – 050 33 05 29 Set: 8:30 PM All Ages Tickets: 15 / 12 / 7

Friday, March 16, 2012 Claudia Quintet with special guest Theo Bleckmann @ Birdland Neuburg Am Karlsplatz A 52, Neuburg, 86633 (Germany) -049 (0) 84 31 4 12 33 Set: 8:30 PM All Ages

Saturday, March 17, 2012 John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble @ Jazzwoche Burghausen 2012 Am Stadtplatz, Burghausen, 84489 (Germany) – Set: 8:00 PM All Ages

Sunday, March 18, 2012 The Claudia Quintet @ Sägewerk Angerweg 32, Bad Hofgastein, 5630 (Austria) – 06432 6164 Set: 8:30 PM All Ages

Monday, March 19, 2012 The Claudia Quintet @ WIST – Kunst Uni Graz Moserhofgasse, Graz, (Austria) – 043 (316) 389-3080 Set: 8:00 PM All Ages Tickets : 15,–/7,–

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


On February 26th Berkeley’s Jazz School for Music Study & Performance will be hosting a special three hour composition workshop with none other than John Hollenbeck himself. This is a rare opportunity to peer inside the technical and creative gearbox of a man whose work routinely big bangs microgenres and improvisatorial playgrounds. To paraphrase the School’s invitation, all musicians with a rudimentary knowledge of music theory are invited to have their minds scholastically blown. Participants can bring pieces that they have started and come away with forty new beginnings. John will also discuss and his use some of his compositions as examples—truly exciting since most of his works are written in multicolored glass sand! Information of all sorts is available here.


Forget not those shows still un-attended! The hour of Claudia Quintet gig-going is already nigh, y’all!

February 27, Yoshi’s, San Francisco, CA

February 28, Blue Whale, Los Angeles, CA

February 29, Cal State Fullerton New Music Festival, CA

March 1 (with Theo Bleckmann Duo & the CSUF Jazz Ensembles), Cal State Fullerton New Music Festival, CA

March 2, 560 Music Center, St. Louis, MO

Why, what better place than these to grab your very own 100% free



If they can make it out of St. Louis alive, Claudia then continues on to Europe! Details to follow so keep eyes peeled here. For max appetite-whetting, check out this review of a recent JHLE performance at Amherst College…(scroll down to February 19th post)


Another treat: There is an extensive article on and interview with John in the latest issue of Downbeat. Check out what else is inside and learn where you might obtain your own copy here.


Right? How cool is that? What’s that? “Extremely”? Correct! Two discs. Many great reinventions. I mean DJ Spooky. Todd Reynolds. Vijay Iyer. Lee Ranaldo. Nico Mulhy. Effing Bjork! (And why not? Is not MM her spiritual mother, after all?) Double-effing Caetano Veloso! Yes, that Caetano Veloso! Quão maravilhoso. Longtime apostles John & Theo appear as well, with “Wheel”. Seals the deal, don’t it? Indulge in a sampling of songs


Alternative Music webmag El Instruso (“Dedicado a ‘la otra música'”) has released its 2011 critics poll and neither one nor two but fully three Hollenprojects graced the top rankings. Claudia Quinet was rated #2 Group of the Year, JHLE, #3 Best Live Band, and John himself, #3 Best Composer. To review the other findings, brush up on your arthouse Spanish, and initiate a letter-writing campaign to the many who weighed in, visit this page here.

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

Nightlife / Left Coast / Management

Last night at NYC’s inauspiciously-named Town Hall, John Hollenbeck was named the 2011 Nightlife Award recipient for Outstanding Group. The event was hosted by super-progeny Lucie Arnaz and presented awards to such fine standard-bearers as Jon Hendricks and Randy Weston. John, who was in the midst of leading a caravan of rescued dromedaries from Paris to Berlin, was unable to attend. He is, however, grateful for the support & recognition of the Nightlifers, although this chronicler finds himself asking—which Outstanding Group?

The mighty John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble assembles at Amherst College on February 18th. This gathering will not only feature a concert performance but also pre-performance Talk, whereupon John & al. will tell ALL. Tickets available through the link above or private collegiate channels of your own devising.

CQ+1 takes California for a spin next month, with a fine hat-tip stop in St. Louis. West Coast Hollenfans best mark calendars as such:

February 27, Yoshi’s, San Francisco, CA

February 28, Blue Whale, Los Angeles, CA

February 29, Cal State Fullerton New Music Festival, CA

March 1 (with Theo Bleckmann Duo & the CSUF Jazz Ensembles), Cal State Fullerton New Music Festival, CA

March 2, 560 Music Center, St. Louis, MO

Thereafter in March both CQ & JHLE will embark for additional gigging in Europe. Additional details and secret messages will be relayed as soon as they’re available.

Our Team is proud to announce the arrival of a brand new Manager for John: Mr. Steve Cohen. No longer must John manage his own self; now Steve, President of Music + Art Management, Inc. and likewise manager to such artists as Vijay Iyer and DJ Spooky, will be there to manage John’s self for him. Steve, a storied musician-teacher-businessmaker, is joined in managing by Lauren Snelling, who  has worked as Artistic Associate at the Park Avenue Armory and the Melbourne International Arts Festival, as well as Associate Producer at Westbeth.

The arrangement began when Steve and Lauren were rescued by John from an invisible quicksand farm in the deep South. Forever indebted to John—and to Theo, whose deep blue threnodies played a key role by distracting the renegade quicksand farmers—they made the pledge of the modern samurai: managership.

All involved are pleased and proud.

We leave you with this sweet blog post gleefully geeking out to CQ’s “This Too Shall Pass,” a “hard-grooving lament”..

Leaks, Live Scenes, and Love


John Hollenbeck was really hoping he could just record What Is The Beautiful? quietly and with a minimum of notice. In addition to diligent precautions taken to avoid being followed to and from the studio, John made all bandmates and recording personnel take a salty blood oath they’d never again speak of the album or dare let slip the finished product to anyone outside of Silver Spring, MD. Unfortunately, as we all know, the album was nefariously leaked and subsequently written about, extensively.

Among the many secret-breaking journos who weighed in were The New York Times, Los Angeles Times,Washington City Paper, New York City Jazz Record, AllAboutJazz.com, BBC.co.uk, Audiophile Audition,Rochester City NewspaperAvant Music NewsThe Gig and Jazz After Hours. Further shattering the wall of secrecy were those who audaciously named WITB? to their year-end lists, including JazzTImes, New York TImes, All About Jazz.comRock Erie.comThe Big City Blog, Step Tempest, Capital New Yorkand even more too nefarious to list. How word really got out, we’ll never know, but rest assured John will be recording What Is the Beautiful 2: What’s Really Beautiful underground, or possibly under the sea.

Today will be the last day of University of Rochester’s outstanding Kenneth Patchen exhibition, U of R’s on-the-ground analog to the Patchen-inspired album they commissioned. Upstate locals, consider gathering friends & family for a field trip. Also tonight: John joins chief vocalizer Theo Bleckmann to perform at Lincoln Center Atrium; New Yorkers ought likewise gather compats in arms and overtake the Center (it’s free!). Then on Friday at 8:15pm John joins Pete Robbins, Simon Jermyn, Oscar Noriega and Ches Smith for the Winter Jazz Festival. Visit their website for tickets and further details. Topping off the week, Claudia Quintet returns to the Cornelia Street Café in the West Village for one and one set only this Saturday at 8pm. They’ll appear in original 5-man formation to mark their 15th year together as genre-deflectors extraordinaires, and hope sincerely you’ll join them. Hit that link or telephone 212/989-9815 to make the recommended reservations.

And now, a special note to our friends who received gift cards for the holidays:
All of us know well the feeling of receiving the gift that is as flexible as it is thoughtful: the gift card. Like nothing else, the gift card says “I’ve figured out what general type of consumer good you’d enjoy, but have not burdened you unduly with the specifics. Instead of choosing a gift I can’t be totally certain you’ll love, I’ll just provide this narrowly allocated strip of electromoney and let you decide yourself.”  It is with these gift-givers in mind that we here at Team Hollenbeck have come forth to complete the thought process: If you’ve already been gifted a gift card, why not spend your plastic dollars on John & Co. this winter? Complete the gift your favorite givers were just going to give you anyways: Claudia Quintet, JHLE, ONJ—From which John’s “Falling Men” was just nominated for a Grammy—all our projects and friends can be found on iTunes and Amazon.

Lastly, we invite you to share in a Hollenbeck composition of a different kind. Last month John’s longtime mentor & friend Bob Brookmeyer passed away at the age of 81. Please read here John’s elegy for the veteran master, a loving and deeply personal portrait of a legendary man bound to be long missed.

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

Madly missing you

December 17th 6:22am


As I sit down to write something about how much Bob Brookmeyer has touched my life and to share my memories of him, I have to put on some of his music. So much to choose from…perhaps Dreams (oh those chords!), but I choose Holiday: the 2007 Bob Brookmeyer piano trio record. I start with Jan Likes – you will notice many references to Jan in his titles. (Jan is the angel that Bob was lucky enough to find and be married to for the last 24 years – his beautiful cornerstone.) Bob on piano was always a special treat. If I had the knack that Bob had to say exactly what I think, I could describe this as what Keith Jarrett would sound like if he had partied harder. (I’m a slow writer so now I’m already on to the next track, Stupid Song-awesome title!)


I first met Bob at the SUNY Binghamton Summer Jazz Workshop when I was 14. I had an emergency appendectomy just a few days before, but with clearance from doctors and my parents, I was at least able to watch the workshops and some of the nightly concerts that Bob’s sextet gave. What a great group this was: Adam Nussbaum, Michael Moore, Jim McNeely, Dick Oatts, and Joe Lovano – I still have my bootleg cassettes. This is the first time I was honored to (I’m on to Child Song now) hear the “Brookmeyer sound”. That warm, huge, enveloping sound – it is identifiable after just a few seconds. And those lines of his, sometimes officially “outside”, but Bob worked hard at believing in them, so they actually sounded “inside”. Most of these tunes are on Through a Looking Glass – you may only be able to find this on vinyl at this point, but it is worth the hunt. I love these tunes. Mel especially sounds inspired!


I remember hearing Hello and Goodbye for the first time, played by the SUNY workshop participants during the day – one of those great Bob pieces that goes through many different moods but maintains an organic thread. At that time, it was being decided for me by some unknown force that I was going to be a professional musician. And there was Bob: showing me what music was about, what sound was about, what swing, creativity, and forward motion were about. Forward motion! Bob never stopped trying to move forward musically-speaking. Sometimes when he would meet up with fellow musicians his own age, they would show their confusion with this aspect of Bob. As in Al Porcino’s famous comment after hearing some of Bob’s modern big band music: “Bobby! What happened?” It was this constant striving to move outside the standard jazz box that was truly inspiring.


The next time I saw Bob was at the Eastman School of Music, I was 18. We played the music from the record, Dreams. I actually played percussion on that concert and brought out a washtub to add its special sound to his music – instead of thinking a washtub was too strange an instrument like you might expect from an older composer, Bob was totally into it. I also remember him explaining what the groove on one of his tunes should be. We were expecting to hear him say the usual “straight eighth” or “triplet feel” – instead he sang the subdivisions “ZOO-BA DO-BA, ZOO-BA DO-BA” and said “Like that”! Needless to say, that groove explanation was a topic of conversation and laughter for years after that!


(I’m on to It Might as Well be Spring. Bob playing or arranging standards is always special. He obviously knew them really well and in many cases had arranged them earlier in his years, so when he took a standard and put his genius on it later on in his career, it is simply awe-inspiring.)


Bob gave some very thoughtful workshops at Eastman and his bubbling creativity was contagious. At some point, he sat at the piano and played simple intervals and encouraged us to listen closely, intently, in order to truly figure out what the intervals feel like and what images come to mind when hearing them. This experience can greatly help a composer looking for a specific feeling or emotional quality. He asked us what we dreamed about doing and he told us what he dreamed about doing. I remember he wanted to do a theater piece with jazz musicians where he would engage the audience from the moment they walked into the theater lobby…and it would seem magical and spontaneous. At that time, he was still thinking about how fun it could be to make the listener uncomfortable, to engage them in a way that would jolt them out of the daily grind.


My next encounter was four years later, as an applicant to his World School of Jazz in Rotterdam. The plan for this school was to run it as a long-term workshop with short-term guest teachers. I was accepted, but the school never got off the ground – this was a big disappointment for Bob and hugely missed opportunity for the world jazz community. Two good things for me that came out of this disappointment was that Bob and Jan moved back to the US, and Bob heard me play the drums for the first time on my audition tape. (I’m switching now to New Love from Spirit Music. I love the way Nils van Haften sounds on this…such a warm, rich sound.)


A year or two later, I applied for and got what ended up being the last round of NEA study grants to study composition with Bob. I only took about four or five lessons, but those were the most important lessons of my life. The exercises we worked on and the basic idea of “cellular” composition (basing a piece on one idea) are the cornerstones of my technique. I’m still working on some of the pieces I started in this creative period that were sparked by Bob’s assignments. I did most of the assignments incorrectly, but usually something good came from my mistakes, so we both found the value in what we were doing. I drove up to New Hampshire for the lessons – Bob and Jan graciously invited me into their home and Jan cooked up some great food, although Bob was really only interested in dessert!


(Now I’m listening to Ding Dong Ding – Mel Lewis and Bob Brookmeyer! I have to stop writing and just listen to that one. That is the first time that song made me cry, that’s for sure.)


The song on my audition tape that got Bob interested in my drumming was a hip hoppy groove that I played on Freedom Jazz Dance. There was something in this groove that Bob liked, it was swinging but in a “new” way. He later told me that this led him to ask me to be the drummer in what became his New Art Orchestra (NAO) in 1996. NAO evolved out of The Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival Big Band, which was initially run through the auspices of this northern Germany Festival. We performed as the S-H MF Big Band at the Festival and in subsequent years, we’d get on a bus afterwards and head out to perform in other cities as the New Art Orchestra. Bob used to joke that once we drove far enough out of town, it was time to change the sign on the bus to the “New Art Orchestra”. (I’m now on to Silver Lining from Spirit Music. Bob takes some great breaks in this one!)


From the beginning, Bob taught NAO how to be a band. He had this educational talent that is unique, mainly due to his exhaustive experience and dedication. His musical life was a personal trip through jazz history. We worked persistently on sound, phrasing, and ensemble-playing. He told me, as the drummer, what he loved about Mel and Elvin too, but mostly Mel, the drummer/magician who had the unique gift to make a band sound great with grace and coolness. But he also said: Do not even bother trying to copy, because no matter how close you get, you will never be Mel. But knowing what Mel did that Bob loved was extremely helpful. He told me to play with perceived abandon while never forgetting about the groove or setting up the band, but making it all sound like a happy coincidence. He always wanted a lot of activity on the snare drum so that the band could always feel the beat. Cracking the code on how to play drums in a big band is what I imagine learning to drive an 18-wheeler is like. Bob coached me for years until I got to the point where I could easily conjure his advice in my head and integrate it as I was playing.


The New Art Orchestra meant a lot not only to the players, but also to Bob – to have a band of young, enthusiastic people who loved him and listened intently to every word he said was a gift that Bob sincerely appreciated and he told us this often. We learned so much about music and how to make exceptional music with a large group of people. At present, about half of the band are permanent members of radio big bands. These are some of the best bands in the world, but when we come back together as the NAO, we realize this band has a unique sound, an integrated, warm sound that is truly special. This is Bob’s gift to us.


Continued 12:52am December 19th…Happy Birthday Bob!

(No music for the moment, but I’ve got Nasty Dance running inside my head.)


The actual chronology is fuzzy for me but the NAO has had many interesting moments:

Playing the Celebration Suite with Gerry Mulligan and then Scott Robinson (he sounds so great on the recording!) and later on, Michael Brecker! One of my most humbling moments was listening to Michael sit down at the drums at the soundcheck. And just a few years ago, we performed it with Joe Lovano at the North Sea Jazz Festival! Playing with Clark Terry and seeing Clark and Bob clown it up.


One of the most bizarre gigs of my life: The NAO was hired to play for Helmut Kohl’s birthday party around 2000. At the last minute, Bob had to cancel, but the band was already committed to the gig and we, as a band, needed the money. So, we changed our program to Glenn Miller and some other “lite” pieces. It took place in a hockey rink, I think near Karlsruhe. We alternated sets with an “organist” (one of those big white organs with its only “rhythm section” available at the push of a button.) Needless to say his sets started getting longer and ours shorter.  Some of the trumpet players got their mutes signed by former Chancellor Kohl. A surreal gig that Bob was lucky to miss!


Over the years, NAO recorded New Works, Waltzing with Zoe, Get Well Soon, Spirit Music, and Standards plus Madly Loving You. Most of these were recorded at the great Studio Bauer with the equally great engineer, Carlos Albrecht, a man Bob really trusted to help capture our sound.


The last record with Fay Claasen, recorded this past March, was a touching experience where the band collectively reaffirmed what a special band we have, what a special sound Bob gave us. It is an exceptional feeling to be part of a band where each and every player is wholeheartedly dedicated to Bob and is there for no other reason than to play their hearts out for him and his music.


And some incredibly important personal moments: At the Schleswig-Holstein festival in 1995 I think, the NAO played a part of a 12-hour classical meets jazz concert. Another set featured parts of the NAO with orchestra. Vibist Matt Moran was called from Boston to play the Milt Jackson part in a piece that Gunther Schuller wrote for the Modern Jazz Quartet with orchestra. Matt and I also ended playing a short free improvised duo set. This was my introduction to Matt, one of my favorite musicians, one of my chief musical buddies and stalwart member of The Claudia Quintet.


Also, that day, a high school friend of his came to see him (she was an exchange student living in Heidelberg). Although she did not notice me, I took an instant attraction to her and did not forget her. She saw NAO again a few years later at a concert near Heidelberg, and not too soon after that we became a long-distance couple. Kate is now my adored wife of 5 years!


Now I’m listening to the NPR-Jazz Profiles on Bob. Most of this stuff I know, but it is just great to hear Bob’s voice, and his sound.


Aside from the NAO gigs, various musicians in the band started asking me to play on their own projects. This led to many tours in Germany and ten years later led to my getting a professorship in Berlin, at Jazz Institute Berlin.


The 70th birthday recording that Ed Partyka organized was yet another moving experience. A band that was not officially the NAO, but quite close, recorded pieces written by friends of Bob’s. I always liked Bob’s deep, low voice, so I created a composition with a musical scenario where “Father Bob” marches into the hall (Processional) and then gives us some fatherly advice: the poem, Desiderata (by Max Ehrmann). I asked Bob to recite the poem and he reluctantly agreed. Eventually he warmed up to the piece and even asked for a study score. In the end, his recitation was exactly what I was hoping for. It is too early for me to listen to this piece now, too painful, but I do hear one of the last lines resonating in his voice clearly in my head…”Strive to be happy.” You can listen to it here.


Around his 74th year, I recorded a small group CD with him and Kenny Wheeler. Thanks to John Snyder for capturing that on film too! Now I need to listen to some of this, it has been a while. The title track, Island, is one of the great tunes Bob wrote for the recording session. Just watching Bob and Kenny sweetly interact with each other personally and musically was inspiring to see. I’m just going to let this record play out so I can give it my full attention. Kenny and Bob’s  approaches are so different, but they obviously really admired each other. I remember Bob laughing about Kenny asking him for composition lessons. Check out the DVD!


A few years ago, Bob and I did a couple of quartet gigs with Brad Shepik and Drew Gress in NYC and Cheltenham, UK. It was so deep to experience Bob in that intimate atmosphere and he even played some piano! He was struggling physically (I think it was his knees) but still played great. I asked if we could play a tune of his that he played with sextet that I heard in Binghamton in 1982 and he graciously agreed (it was not his habit to play “old” tunes). I was always hoping that Bob would feel good enough again to do more quartet playing.


For Bob’s 80th birthday, Dave Rivello organized a concert at the Eastman School. I wrote a short musical “happy birthday” with a human greeting card and flowers. (Thanks fellow Eastmanites for making it happen!). Later I expanded this 2-minute piece into Bob Walk for the Orchestre National de Jazz (including a “boomwhacker” introduction with the members of the ONJ slowly reciting the spelling of Bob’s name).


Bob has significantly and positively influenced my life on so many different levels and for that I am eternally grateful. Because of Bob, I: found a band of my own (The Claudia Quintet), found a soulmate (Kate), found my dream teaching gig, am in one of the best big bands EVER (with some of the nicest guys you will ever meet!), and found my voice as a composer and as a mature human being. The thing is, my experience is probably not that unique. I know Bob has touched many others’ lives in the same way, which is the true testament to how exceptional a man and musician he was.


Once a few years ago, Bob left me a phone message, telling me that he loved me. He was the first man to tell me that. That still means a lot to me, not only that he felt it, but that he was courageous enough to say it. This act helped me so much as person, to try to open up and not be afraid to express the strongest of feelings.


Bob, I love you too. In moments like this it is soothing to imagine that you are “up there” jamming with Mel, Gerry, Jimmy and all the others. I now have to stop writing and get back to listening to the hours and hours of great music that you left us! I’m going to start with your arrangement of Willow Weep For Me, that one always gives me chills.

Your beloved friend, fan and eternal student,

John Hollenbeck

Claudia Quintet @ Cornelia Street Café, Top-Tens, Search & Restore and more…


CQ+1 is visiting the West Village this weekend and hopes that you’re in town. Got the kids this weekend? Bring the kids. Bring your mother, even if you just saw her last weekend. We know you’re busy. That’s why not only will John & co. play both Friday and Saturday nights, they’ll even let you eat dinner right there while you’re listening so you can save time. TONY critics picked it as one of their top 5 things you should do this week, because “Led by drummer-composer John Hollenbeck, this all-star group combines proggy grooves, floating harmonies and searching improv into a slyly cohesive amalgam that’s unlike anything else in or out of town” and they don’t want you to miss out.

BONUS: Special guest is revealed at last! Did you know it’d be Kurt Elling?

(Really can’t make it? CQ will be back for APAP in “classic” configuration on Jan 7th.)


John’s collaboration with Daniel Yvinec’s Orchestre National de Jazz, Shut Up & Dance, was chosen for Fred Kaplan’s Best Jazz Albums of 2011 list in Slate. Please respond with your favorite French language equivalent for “kickass” and we’ll compile the results in a future bulletin.


Please support nonprofit community-gluers SEARCH & RESTORE. S&R is not only an expertly-tuned show-listing machine for the invented music community, it’s also a huge video repository of live performances from throughout the creative spectrum.Visit this page to learn more about their plans for the coming year; we hope you consider making a donation.


The poet, artist, and stirring precursor would have been 100 years old today.

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

The Rise of “Falling Men” + Claudia’s Tour Continues

BREAKING (really!): John Hollenbeck has been nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Composition! The nomination is for “Falling Men”, one of ten mini-concertos John instrumentally composed for Daniel Yvinec’s Orchestre National de Jazz, appearing on that group’s stellar Shut Up & Dance. You can (and should!) learn more about “Falling Men” at this familiar blog post right here. Meanwhile all parties involved and many that are not are duly excited. John, for example, has already begun to prepare for his pre-awards show masterclass on advanced topics in percussion, featuring Robyn and Megadeth (info on signups will be made available as it emerges).

And now, our regularly scheduled update from the land of Hollenbeck…

Claudia Quintet+1 continues its irrepressible back-and-forth march through the mid-Atlantic, packing houses as they go and spreading tell of What Is The Beautiful?, their still-new LP featuring and dedicated to the poetry of Kenneth Patchen. The record has been earning no shortage of welcome, moving critical pens and upticking steadily the already heavy traffic in both physical and digital recordings. Among the record’s many fans are Down Beat’s John Murph, who deemed it a 4.5 star affair. While deep in Silver Spring, MD, Cuneiform was rising mightily to fill the order overflows, John & company were visited at Philly’s show by room-shrinking crowds, including radio superwoman Terry Gross and jazz critic Francis Davis. In New York, octogenarian impresario George Wein saw CQ+1 break open The Stone and decided he’d have to have them at Newport next year (Kurt Elling is also slated to appear, setting the stage for another team-up). Without question, the race to align with this six-to-eight-man jazz machine is only intensifying.

Stay tuned for details about more opportunities to see CQ+1, before prominence carries them out of range and away to megastadiums, rural superfestivals and aircraft carriers. All we can say now is they’re slated to appear at the Cornelia Street Café on December 16th & 17th with a special guest whose initials are K.E. Hmm….

While you wait for intel, enrich your Hollenloving mind with this article JH wrote in the latest issue of Downbeat magazine. The topic: composing from a drummer’s perspective.

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

What Is the Beautiful? Certified ‘Awesome’; Claudia Quintet+1 Continue Tour

All throughout the Jazz Critopolis, praise for Claudia Quintet+1’s latest creation What Is The Beautiful? keeps on ringing out bell-clear. Daniel Spencer of the BBC spared no kindnesses in his appraisal, concluding,

“It all comes together on the title-track: an intensely compassionate piece of writing, bursting with apocalyptic love for humanity, and punctuated by the repeated refrain: “Pause. And begin again.” Supported by a beautifully understated accompaniment, that lets Elling’s delivery exhale just the right amount of gravitas, it’s genuinely moving – and easily elevates the album to the status of vital, living art.”

Meanwhile, John Murph of flame-keepers emeritus DownBeat gave WITB? 4.5 stars of love and affection, asserting, “John Hollenbeck continues to astound as a composer.”

Lucky for us, John Hollenbeck also continues to tour as a musician. As these reviews pour in alongside several many others, Claudia Quintet+1 is readying dates this very upcoming weekend. Friday, November 18th CQ+1+Theo will entrance Zorn-built Alphabet City stalwart The Stone. Saturday, November 19th that crew moves south to the Philadelphia Art Alliance, before continuing on to Metro Gallery in Baltimore, MD that Sunday. Hit those links for tix—IF there’s any left!

Meanwhile if, owing to serious personal calamity or other life-altering circumstances, you have still yet to purchase your own copy of WITB?, have no fear. The good people at Cuneiform Records, now working double-overtime to keep pace with torrential demand, are ready for you to at last make your move. Buy the album at this mighty & unwavering web-store here, where not only can you become the next proud owner of the latest CQ+1 record, you’ll also get instant satiety with two free CQ+1 downloads, right there on the spot. (And while you’re out there hanging ten on the world wide web, why not link arms with your fellow fan at our Facebook-Based Pro-Claudia Adoration Center?)

We leave you now with this freshly-inked annotated playlist that John did for JazzTimes, his picks for 10 vital tracks by drummer Jack DeJohnette.

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

John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble + Kenny Wheeler, Claudia Quintet +1’s New Album Now Available

JHLE will play music by and with Kenny Wheeler at the Jazz Standard this weekend 

Yes, you read that correctly. The persistently huge John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble will be performing at the ninth Festival of New Trumpet Music at the Jazz Standard on Friday October 21st and Saturday October 22nd in tribute to (and alongside!) octogenarian vet Kenny Wheeler. You can familiarize yourself with the work of Mr. Wheeler, noted by NYT‘s critics pick-er Nate Chinen as “a trumpeter of integrity”, with the video above, and purchase tickets for the event right here. For those keeping score, here’s this weekend’s batting lineup on team JHLE:

On the drums: John Hollenbeck, drums

On trumpet: Kenny Wheeler, Shane Endsley, Jon Owens, Nate Wooley, and Tony Kadleck

On trombone: Alan Ferber, Jacob Garchik, Mike Christianson, and Rob Hudson

On tenor sax: Chris Cheek, Dan Willis

On alto sax: Jeremy Viner and Jon Gordon

On baritone sax, Bohdan Hilash

Matt Mitchell will be on piano

Kermit Driscoll will be on acoustic bass

Brad Shepik is on guitar

Theo Bleckmann will bring his voice

J.C. Sanford will conduct.

CQ+1’s latest album What Is The Beautiful? is available now

Claudia Quintet+1, alongside Theo Bleckmann and Kurt Elling, have just released a brand new full-length LP, dedicated to and featuring the poetry of Kenneth Patchen. The album may be bought in a series of easy keystrokes from this swift and powerful website here.  The Times’ Ben Ratliff praised its title track as “a marvel of composition,” while All About Jazz opined it was “a sophisticated work of art whose emotional resonance is as profound as the intricate formal elements that support it.” Over at the LA Times, the vocalists are singled out for praise, noting the ethereal quality lent the record by Theo’s “otherworldly voice”, and how “Elling nearly steals the record with his trademark baritone.”

All online orders come with an instant digital download of two tracks–”Job”, off WITB?, and “No D”, recorded live from Texas. You can also visit this page to order other excellents heapfuls of JH music, including Claudia’s Royal Toast, and JHLE’s Grammy-nominated Eternal Interlude. 

Meanwhile, for those of you who love CQ+1 and are not afraid to make known that love to the Internet universe, we invite you to join our the ever-growing Facebook-Based Pro-Claudia Adoration Center (better known as the CQ “Fan” page). Surely there’s no better place on the web for simpatico CQ fans to join forces, make friends, and rally around a common clause. There you’ll also find news, announcements, breaking media and, if the heavens align just so, the occasional easter egg. See you there!

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

Claudia Quintet+1’s New Album What Is The Beautiful? Has Arrived

john sends greetings from natal


Deep breaths, friends. Endless-feeling moments of raw wait are now over. Today, Claudia Quintet+1, alongside the mighty voices of Kurt Elling & Theo Bleckmann, release What Is The Beautiful?, a brand-new full-length LP dedicated to and featuring the poetry of Kenneth Patchen. Father Time and Mother Nature have stepped aside, and now you may purchase this record whenever you want, from anywhere, at this lovingly effective website here. All orders come with an instant digital download of two tracks–“Job”, off WITB?, and “No D”, recorded live from Texas. You can also visit this page to order other excellents servings of JH music, including Claudia’s Royal Toast, and JHLE’s Grammy-nominated Eternal Interlude. 

Curious what the hired pens have said? Of the album’s title track, NYT’s Ben Ratliff offers this: “For seven minutes, everything logically and constantly grows, until the chilling and unresolved end. It’s a piece with a lot of improvisation, one that takes a lot of cues from its literary source, but at the same time it’s a marvel of composition.” All About Jazz is already all about it. Their review calls WITB? “A unique merger of evocative poetry and avant-garde jazz…a sophisticated work of art whose emotional resonance is as profound as the intricate formal elements that support it.” Washington City Paper feels similarly, with particular love for Kurt & Theo’s poetic evocations and the ways they’re underpinned by deft work from the band.

More sentiment printed and otherwise is certainly on the way, but wow, as the professional reviewers file in, the voice we want most to hear from now is yours. Come join our nascent Facebook-Based Pro-Claudia Adoration Center (better known as the CQ “Fan” page) and make known your love. There you’ll find like-minded Claudia Quintet fans of all stripes, organized in neat pixels and at the ready to talk Hollenshop with you and yours all day long. There you’ll also find news, announcements, breaking media and even, if you’re very good, the occasional easter egg. We can’t wait to see you there.

Oh yeah, the dates: November 18th, CQ+1 will madly pillage the Stone in New York, followed by a November 19th date at Philadelphia Art AllianceOn November 20th they appear, with Theo, at the Cuneiform Records Showcase in Baltimore, MD December 16th-17th CQ+1 will touchdown at The Cornelia Street Café. Finally, on February 18th, JHLE enlivens Amherst College, in Massachusetts. We can’t wait to see you there either.

These words have been brought to you by Jacques Swartz, Chronicler of John, to whom John has relegated all duties pertaining to web PR and general online upkeep. 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



Refuge Trio’s Stop-Motion Spring, Pre-Orderage Continues, and the Tour Dates March On

We begin our broadcast with this lovely stop-motion animation from German artist-designer Sarah Hartwig  That mellifluous background sound you’ll hear is none other than Refuge Trio, the nom-de-jazz of John’s combo with Messrs Theo Bleckmann & Gary Versace.

Delightful, no? Now we return you to the ever-pressing concern of Pre-Ordering the New Claudia Quintet + 1 album, What is the Beautiful?. As we’ve recently reminded you, you can get an agressive head-start on your ownership of this superb new album by pre-ordering it from this website right here.

For those who may not know, this latest CQ+1 record features and is dedicated to the poetry of Kenneth Patchen. For a swell overview of Mr. Patchen’s interdisciplinary oeuvre, we refer you to this Rochester City Newspaper article, an article that just so happens to conclude with a review of CQ+1’s addition to the canon:

…a recording produced by Richard Peek (Director of Rare Books and Special Collections, UR Libraries), percussionist, keyboardist, and composer John Hollenbeck masterfully sets Patchen’s evocative works to decidedly modern music. His band, The Claudia Quintet (Ted Reichman, accordion; Chris Speed, reeds; Matt Moran, vibraphone; Drew Gress, bass; and Matt Mitchell, piano) plays them beautifully. The all-important voices are supplied by a nicely theatrical Kurt Elling and a wonderfully plaintive Theo Bleckmann.

Check out the new album on the CQ+1 Bandcamp, download the new “Job”, and get on the pre-ordering train so you can pre-own this fast-oncoming record!

But wait, there’s….


First & foremost, we promised you more details on JH’s appearances at the James Madison University this October 3rd-5th. Here, complete & excerpted for John-centricity, we present to you, the program:

Monday, Oct. 3

8 pm – Concert I (Forbes Center Concert Hall)

The Claudia Quintet with John Hollenbeck and Theo Bleckman

John Hollenbeck: Grey Cottage Studies – Wanchi Huang, violin;  Michael Overman, vibraphone

Tuesday, Oct. 4

11am – 12 noon (RH)

Talk with John Hollenbeck and Theo Bleckmann

Wednesday, Oct. 5

12:20-1:10 pm (Music Building Rm 142)

Composition master class with John Hollenbeck

1:25-2:15 pm (Music Building Rm 142)

Voice demonstration/lecture with Theo Bleckmann

7:30 pm – Pre-concert talk with John Hollenbeck and Theo Bleckmann (CH)

8 pm – Concert IV (CH)

“Chamber Music Meets Jazz”

Michael Gordon: Industry, for solo amplified cello – Carl Donakowski, cello

John Hollenbeck: Ziggurat, for 4 saxophones and 5 percussionists

JMU Jazz Ensemble plays selections by John Hollenbeck, featuring the Madison Singers and Theo Bleckmann, with Andy Connell, Dave Pope and Bob Hallahan

“This festival is sponsored in part by the JMU Office of International Programs.

Concerts I-IV are ticketed. All other events are free and open to the public. For ticket information, visit http://www.jmu.edu/jmuarts/, call the Forbes Center Box Office at 540.568.7000, or visit the Box Office between 10:00 am and 5:30 pm, Monday through Friday.

Could you ask for anything more?


Well November 18th, CQ+1 will reemerge at the Stone in New York, followed by a November 19th gig at Philadelphia Art AllianceOn November 20th they perform, with Theo, at the Cuneiform Records Showcase in Baltimore, MD December 16th-17th CQ+1 will visit The Cornelia Street Café. Finally, on February 18th, JHLE will perform at Amherst College, in Massachusetts.

Got all that? Watch this space for further details and more show dates and visit this page to stay atop the scene…

These words have been brought to you by Jacques Swartz, Chronicler of John, to whom John has relegated all duties pertaining to web PR and general online upkeep. 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


You can pre-order Claudia Quintet’s new album RIGHT NOW


Sure, you can wait and regular order What Is the Beautiful?, the newest release from the Claudia Quintet+1 feat. Kurt Elling & Theo Bleckmann. But then it’ll be later. Pre-order the album now and while waiting to feast on WITB? snack on a sweet six-track digital sampler. Four excellent CQ tracks of various vintage, plus a new song from WITB?, ”Job”, and a live track, “No D”, all completely yours to bounce between your ears whenever you want.

This is what the professionals call aggressive foresight. Curious what the gang has in mind for Mr. Kenneth Patchen, the artist & poet to whom this album is dedicated and whose poetry is read aloud alongside the instruments? “Job” will provide a taste. Eager to get onboard with digging this band and looking for a quick way into the oeuvre? These six hand-selected tracks will guide your way. Meanwhile, when October 11th(ish, depending on your shipping address) rolls around, you’ll have the new CQ+1 disk. You will have foreseen, aggressively.

Still feeling uncertain? Take a baby step with “Job”, listenable–and downloadable–right here.


For those of you who enjoy live music (or despise recorded music), there’s good news as well: Claudia+1 will be crisscrossing the Northeast  as they perform throughout the autumn & winter.

Next month, all ye Virginians, John & Co. will be doing all sorts of fun and interactive gigs at the 31st Contemporary Music Festival at James Madison University. To wit: October 1st is a CQ+1 open rehearsal (time & location still TBD (ooh!)). On the afternoon of Tuesday, October 2nd, CQ+1 perform 4pm at the Jazz Festival in Crozet and then 9pm at The Camel. Monday, October 3rd, John CQ+1 reunite with Theo for a live performance at JMU. Then, with appetites surely whet, you’ll get the chance to learn firsthand from John & Theo as they host a masterclass/clinic on October 4th. On October 5th, the James Madison University Jazz Ensemble will be performing John’s music as John himself looks on, his feet tapping all around the beat.  You can call (540) 568-7000 to demand entry or hunt for access at this site here.

Meanwhile the massive John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble will be performing at the ninth Festival of New Trumpet Music at the Jazz Standard which runs from October 20th-23rd, with JHLE appearing October 21st-22nd in tribute to (and alongside!) octogenarian vet Kenny Wheeler.

Looking ahead: On November 18th, CQ+1 will reemerge at the Stone in New York, followed by a November 19th gig at Philadelphia Art Alliance. On November 20th they perform, with Theo, at the Cuneiform Records Showcase in Baltimore, MD December 16th-17th CQ+1 will visit The Cornelia Street Café. Finally, on February 18th, JHLE will perform at Amherst College, in Massachusetts.

Got all that? Watch this space for further details and more show dates and visit this page to keep track of all that is upcoming…

These words have been brought to you by Jacques Swartz, Chronicler of John, to whom John has relegated all duties pertaining to web PR and general online upkeep. 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

The Great Post-Festival Newport News Roundup

Despite the weekend’s well-documented downpours, John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble performed at Newport Jazz Fest without incident and much to the delight of those present. For those folks unable to make it (or otherwise interested in reliving the set) we present a multimedia menu of reviews, news, and sounds:

-First & foremost, check out NPR Music’s full recording of JHLE live in concert. The sound is superb and includes ample solid-brass snippets of already-classic Hollenbanter in-between songs.

-Grey Lady-lovers can enjoy reporting from NYT’s Mr. Ben Ratliff, both in the form of his on-the-spot bloggage as well as a longer, full-service/big-picture review filed after the weekend, notable both for its highlight picks and its take on the broader feel of the festival and its audience.

-For the New Englander viewpoint, Mr. Steve Greenlee offers up his perspective via the Boston Globe, desribing JHLE as having played “the weekend’s most innovative set”.

-In other words from the city on the hill, Mr. Jon Garelick provides an extensive rundown of his own in the Boston Phoenix.

-From up above the 42nd parallel, Mr. Peter Hum writes his recollections in the Ottowa Citizen, supplemented in no small part by swell photos, including this one of Theo & Kate.

Did we miss anything? Have you read or seen some key JHLE news that’s escaped our eye? Better yet, were you there yourself to bear witness & testify? Let us know!

Update: Alex W. Rodriguez, who writes about Jazz at Lubricity, brought this brief interview with WBGO’s Josh Jackson to my attention, in which John discusses, among other things, his take on Newport’s ‘facilities’. Thanks, Alex!

These words have been brought to you by Jacques Swartz, Chronicler of John, to whom John has relegated all duties pertaining to web PR and general online upkeep. 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 at Newport Jazz Festival Nonattendance Contingency Plan

As you’re sure to already know now, John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble will play the Newport Jazz Festival in Newport, Rhode Island, USA on August 7th. If you’ve been on the fence about buying tickets, there’s still time, but we know at this point you’ve likely already prepared a whole array of supporting materials in preparation for your trip to Newport, including an estimated daily budget, annotated travel itinerary and home-made fiberglass stencil (“HOLLEN-YES”) for use in making posters and decorating public property.

If, however, you will not be attending–be it due to an unprecedented natural catastrophe on your block, or your detainment by government agents for suspected treason–we have discovered a means to enjoy the festival from afar. Turns out American media megalith National Public Radio will be both recording and live webcasting the festival from this site. John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble has even been included on a preview mix by WBGO, now available for your perusal. Obviously these Internet-fed aural experiences will fall drastically short of seeing JHLE live and in concert. But, if, owing to extenuating circumstances, you simply can’t be there, they will at least help dull the sharp pangs of longing liable to pervade your weekend at home.

JHLE at Newport Jazz + New Claudia Quintet Album

BREAKING: Fivesome fanatics and vocal enthusiasts rejoice, for Claudia Quintet+1 (with Matt Mitchell now joining on piano) has just finished recording a new album. Alongside CQ+1 will appear Theo Bleckmann and fellow noted jazz vocalist Kurt Elling. The album also features and is dedicated to the poetry of Kenneth Patchen. It will be released by Cuneiform on October 11th.

NOW: As heat indices across America surge ever-skyward, our thoughts again turn to that mighty peninsula of Jazz, Newport, Rhode Island. On August 7th, just a handful long weeks from today, John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble will appear at the Newport Jazz Festival alongside frequent Hollenvocalist Theo Bleckmann, vocalist Kate McGarry, and the singular Uri Caine on piano and organ. There they will perform John’s arrangements of songs by Imogen Heap, Jimmy Webb, Ornette Coleman and Kraftwerk, plus John’s original work. August 6th is close approaching–plot out the vacation days, make arrangements for the pets, then go forth and flee your homes in search of Jazz Paradise. Naturally tickets and more info is available here.

THEN once finished there JHLE will sail on a to-scale replica of the Santa Maria from the New World backwards to Lisbon, Portugal where they will perform at the Jazz Em Augusto festival on August 14th. Details for European fans and hungry travelers is available here.  For those who’d like to attend but lack the airfare, be advised that at this time JHLE is still seeking volunteer rowers to help propel their modest vessel across the Atlantic; it is expected that, with equipment, ninety men will need to row nonstop  for seven days if the band is to arrive on schedule. Interested parties should refer to the email below.

IN OTHER NEWS: This week John will be teaching an Alternative Big Band Workshop at Cornish College of the Arts with none other than the great Wayne Horwitz. From the (awesome-sounding) course description:

We will survey different approaches to composing for the jazz big band outside the mainstream, and explore texture, voicing, and form through examination of scores and recorded examples. Students will also have the opportunity to play and perform new compositions and arrangements by workshop instructors Wayne Horvitz and John Hollenbeck. The week culminates in a Friday evening concert featuring a student ensemble.

LASTLY stalwart arbiters of culture Downbeat Magazine recently concluded their 59th Annual Critics Poll and found the ascendant John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble to be this year’s Rising Star Winner for the category of Big Band. You can see all the winners from this poll at Downbeat’s website here.

These words have been brought to you by Jacques Swartz, Chronicler of John, to whom John has relegated all duties pertaining to web PR and general online upkeep. 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

Claudia Quintet Will Animate Undead Jazz Next Week

Next week John Hollenbeck actives his favorite fivesome to play NYC’s 2011 Undead Jazz Festival, a crisp summer festival entrée hosted by new jazz archivist-curators Search and Restore. Claudia Quintet will take to Stage 1 at Public Assembly on June 26th at 9pm. They appear a rare strictly five-man combination, sans common accomplices Matt Mitchell and Theo Bleckmann. Accordingly, gig-goers can expect to hear plenty already-classic Claudia oldies. You can buy admission to the three-day city-spanning festival in the usual range of multi-day passes and single-shot tickets here.

IF YOU SIMPLY CANNOT WAIT, however, you can (and should) see a rare and awesome combination of musicians convene on June 25th to perform re-imaginings of Meredith-Monk’s music at City Hall Park in Manhattan. Monk-loving supergroup Future Quest is made of such gentle men as Ellery Eskelin, Tony Malaby, Erik Deutsch, and, ever the Monk-lover, John himself. They are again joined by Theo as well as Guinean group Fula Flute. The show begins 730pm at the Michael Schimmel Center for the Arts. Tickets are free but limited; reservations can be made here.

LASTLY AND MOSTLY it is never too early to remember that John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble will play the Newport Jazz Festival on Sunday, August 7th. They appear up there with Theo, vocalist Kate McGarry, and Uri Caine on piano and organ. The show will feature John’s arrangements of songs by Imogen Heap, Jimmy Webb, Ornette Coleman and Kraftwerk plus John’s original work. Sweet. Newport, for those of you who don’t know, is thrice-bounded by water, peninsula-style, and thus boasts temperatures appreciably lower than will be found deep in the rubber dish glove heat that is NYC in August. ROI is thus assured when you pack up the children, flee New York for a weekend in Newport, and go see JHLE. Apparently there will be other musicians there too–you can learn their names and all the relevant info right here.

These words have been brought to you by Jacques Swartz, Chronicler of John, to whom John has relegated all duties pertaining to web PR and general online upkeep. 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


Two Cities, Chocolate & Champagne for Claudia

[[National Center for the Performing Arts in Bejing. ONJ will perform Shut Up & Dance here next week. On June 4th, they will be appearing to perform SU&D at the Jazzdor Festival in Berlin.]]

O DREARY NORTHEAST, can it really be all of two weeks until summer starts? As this interim weekend approaches–call it Almost But Not Quite Memorial Day Weekend–we’re pleased to remind you that Claudia Quintet is back to tide us over. For those of you nearest to Boston, Claudia appears at Lilypad on Friday, May 20 at 9pm. Tickets are gettable here. For those of you nearest to New York, you can hear Claudia perform new work by John written especially for The 10th Look & Listen Festival, a new stalwart enterprise hosted by select superheroes of public radio. Claudia performs with Theo Bleckmann as part of a rich concert program at The Chelsea Art Museum on Saturday, May 21st at 8pm. The concert will be followed by a chocolate and champagne reception hosted by Terrence McKnight. Tickets here. This, we trust, will be exactly what’s needed to survive until the end-of-May 3-day magic takes hold and summer begins proper.

IN OTHER NEWS: The John Hollenbeck Musical Empire has insinuated itself into nominations for the 2011 Jazz Journalist’s Association Awards in not one but two categories. JHLE is up for Large Ensemble of the Year and John himself is up for Composer of the Year. You can see the full list of nominees here. The (doubtless star-studded) awards gala will be held on June 11th in New York City. Anyone figure out who constitutes the voting body, let us know and we’ll begin directing our considerable bribery resources accordingly.

LASTLY, A TREAT:  A selection from John’s latest Tree Series, which premiered at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia last month, is now available to be viewed online. To refresh: For this piece, JH drew inspiration from the early twentieth century painting series of same name by Piet Mondrian. From The Kimmel Center:

Tree Series…shows an evolution from representational art to his spiritual, geometric abstractions that the world would fall in love with. The program also features faculty and students from the Schools of Dance and Music at the University of the Arts in Stravinsky’s Ebony Concerto and with with forces from the University of Delaware on George Antheil’s percussion ensemble work Ballet Mécanique.

The piece is performed here by the University of the Arts Big Band. Check it out:


From Trees // John Hollenbeck from John Hollenbeck's Web PR on Vimeo.

These words have been brought to you by Jacques Swartz, Chronicler of John, to whom John has relegated all duties pertaining to web PR and general online upkeep. 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

John Hollenbeck: Most Telegenic Man on the Internet?


John Hollenbeck: Reveling in the Unknown from NewMusicBox on Vimeo.


“New Music” and “Suaveté” rarely cross paths in the same sentence–but watching this superb and depths-plumbing interview on NewMusicBox, could you deny it? In it John sheds light on everything from childhood formulation to the evolution of his creative process. Emphatically not to be missed.

In (lots) other news–JH’s collaboration with Orchetre National de Jazz, Shut Up & Dance has received no shortage of sweet ink lately. To wit:

-Four Stars from that key upstate organ The Buffalo News

Featured on All Things Considered‘s recent foray into new excellent jazz releases

-Praise for JHLE & ONJ’s SU&D performance from Nate Chinen at The New York Times

If we’ve missed anything, including positive press from you, our dear reader, please don’t hesitate to shout.

Lastly, for those medium-term planners, be advised Claudia Quintet will play at Lilypad in Cambridge, Boston on May 20th. Details available here. On May 21st, they play the Look and Listen Festival, point yourselves here for tickets and more information. Meanwhile JH is presently hard working on the next Claudia recording, which will be dedicated to poems by Kenneth Patchen and featuring Messr’s Kurt Elling & Theo Bleckmann

These words have been brought to you by Jacques Swartz, Chronicler of John, to whom John has relegated all duties pertaining to web PR and general online upkeep. 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

John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble Will Join Orchestre National de Jazz at Le Poisson Rouge Next Week

First things first: The kind folk at Sunnyside Records have made JHLE’s Grammy-nominated Eternal Interlude available for streaming, complete and unabridged, right from their website. Better still, from now until Tuesday, you can purchase a download of your own at the price that you name. Will it be mp3 dollars and fifty cents, or mid-90s $21.99? It’s all up to you! Check it out here.

Next: As I’m sure you may already know, On April 25th the mighty John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble returns from their brief respite for a special one-shot dobule-bill performance at approachably hip downtown Manhattan cavern Le Poisson Rouge. Their set will be followed by a performance from longtime life-partners  L’Orchestre National de Jazz. As if any further enticement were needed, JHLE will be joined that evening by Theo Bleckmann, Kate McGarry & Uri Caine. The show is free for LPR members and $15 for the general public. Doors are at 630, show begins 730. You can buy tickets and bask in a bevy of other media by clicking here.

We hasten to note this event comes pre-vetted by the good folks at Time Out New York. To wit:

That’s right, we’re bigger than Gaga right now.

ONJ & JHLE’s storied affair springs springs from an ongoing collaboration between Hollenbeck & Daniel Yvinec, ONJ’s artistic director. In 2010 Hollenbeck composed and recorded “Shut Up And Dance”, a series of  ten mini-concertos each tailored to a different member of ONJ. You can visit ONJ’s Shut Up & Dance page pour en savoir plus and visit this store here to purchase an ONJ/SU&D download of your very own. Can’t wait for April 25th? Re-watch this stellar recording of ONJ performing “Shut Up & Dance” at Le Théâtre du Châtelet this past December.

(Le) Poisson Rouge would like to remind you “This is a first-come, first-served partially seated event. Seating is limited and not guaranteed; please arrive early”. Once again, for emphasis: you can reserve tickets at this link here.

In other key Hollenbeck news:

John’s newest work, The Tree Series, will premiere at Philadelphia’s Kimmel Center this Friday, April 22nd & Saturday, April 23rd. For this piece JH draws inspiration from the early twentieth century painting series of same name by Piet Mondrian. The Kimmel Center describe the work in more detail:

John Hollenbeck will create a new work for large jazz ensemble and dancers, taking inspiration from this first Paris period in Mondrian’s work. Specifically, the Tree Series that shows an evolution from representational art to his spiritual, geometric abstractions that the world would fall in love with. The program also features faculty and students from the Schools of Dance and Music at the University of the Arts in Stravinsky’s Ebony Concerto and with with forces from the University of Delaware on George Antheil’s percussion ensemble work Ballet Mécanique.

Tickets can be purchased by clicking here. Also in the area: ONJ will be performing at World Café Live in Wilmington, DE on April 24th. Tickets? Ici.

These words have been brought to you by Jacques Swartz, Chronicler of John, to whom John has relegated all duties pertaining to web PR and general online upkeep. 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

Claudia Quintet to Tour Switzerland, Netherlands, Gowanus

On April 1st, Claudia Quintet will board skipper John Hollenbeck’s refurbished catamaran and set sail up the Gowanus Canal towards Denmark.  In an awesome display of nautical mastery, Claudia hopes to make this 4000 mile transatlantic journey in under twelve hours, then go on to play shows for the women and men of Copenhagen, Berlin, Luzern, and beyond. Before they are allowed to depart America, however, they must petition a quorum of musical peers for renewal of their Seafaring Jazzmen License. Please join us on March 31st at Littlefield, where we will come to consensus on whether or not to allow Theo Bleckmann, Matt Mitchell, Håkon Kornstad, and Red Wierenga to follow Hollenbeck and his reduced-price multihull speed machine into the record books.


MARCH 31 LITTLEFIELD 8:00pm Brooklyn/USA www.littlefieldnyc.com

APRIL 2 JAZZHOUSE 9:00pm Copenhagen/DENMARK www.jazzhouse.dk

APRIL 3 WABE 8:00pm Berlin/GERMANY www.wabe-berlin.de

APRIL 5 AMR Jazz Festival 8:30pm Geneva/SWITZERLAND www.amr-geneve.ch

APRIL 7 JAZZKANTINE 8:30pm Luzern/SWITZERLAND www.jsl.ch/kantine.htm

APRIL 8 LANTAREN VENSTER 8:30pm Rotterdam/NETHERLANDS www.lantarenvenster.nl

APRIL 9 BIMHUIS 8:30pm Amsterdam/NETHERLANDS www.bimhuis.nl

These words have been brought to you by Sir Jacques, Chronicler of John, to whom JH has ceded control of his online persona. All queries, complaints, kind remarks and general feedback regarding this blog may be directed to johnhollenwebpr@gmail.com


Love & Thanks from the John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble

JHLE would like to extend its loving thanks to all those who came out in support of its first-ever tour. From Cornish to Clovis, Seattle to SFO, Hollenbeck’s heroes were met with gracious energy everyplace up and down the West Coast. One young man from the San Joaquin Valley wrote to John to express this in words, excerpted here:

I was scheduled to take my high school jazz band over to Clovis but Saturday morning my wife went into labor and just before the 7:30pm concert our son Khalil was born. The jazz band was able to go and play at the festival that day on their own with a few chaperones. It was such a great day for my wife, our family, our friends, and myself. Checking in with the high school group right after your concert and hearing what great time they had that day made it even more special. Thanks for being a part of it and for being such a positive and centered person/musician.

Thanks to you for being such positive and centered fans. You can view JHLE’s tour diary in photos now in full here, truly stellar chronicling by Theo Bleckmann and his compats.  Meanwhile those of us on the East Coast can look forward to the return of Herr Hollenbeck and his slimmer outfit, Claudia Quintet. THey begin a tour of their own at Littlefield on March 31st, featuring Matt Mitchell, Theo Bleckmann, and, direct from Norway, the great Hakon Kornstad. Thinkers-ahead can purchase tickets here. Watch this space for more on all things Hollenbeck.

Have you seen John Hollenbeck, musically?

We’re looking for everyone with photos, videos, audio recordings, watercolors, sketches, blog posts or text messages about seeing John perform live. This material helps us build our database of John Hollenbeck Moments and provides a rare chance to show the world what John looks like from where you’re sitting.  Email us at (once more, for emphasis) johnhollenwebpr@gmail.com with anything and everything.

These words have been brought to you by Sir Jacques, Chronicler of John, to whom JH has ceded control of his online persona. All queries, complaints, kind remarks and general feedback regarding this blog may be directed to johnhollenwebpr@gmail.com

Heralds of Hollenbeck

Chris Barton at the LA Times has likewise caught Large Ensemble Fever. “For me that’s kind of what I thought jazz is about,” JH told him.  “The forward motion and kind of music that you couldn’t really get a handle on.” Read the article and its not unsteady handles on JHLE here

Have you pledged allegiance to the Tour? Only our West Coast Tour Invitation lets you officially declare your RSVP to all Facebook creation.

These words have been brought to you by Sir Jacques, Chronicler of John, to whom JH has ceded control of his online persona. All queries, complaints, kind remarks and general feedback regarding this blog may be directed to johnhollenwebpr@gmail.com

“Where on the West Coast is JHLE?”

As the John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble embarks on its first-ever tour, we’re sure many of you Pacific-huggers are pressed more than ever by this very question. To ease your wonders, we’ve assembled a special Internet-powered map to help guide you along the journey.

View Where on the West Coast is JHLE? in a larger map

Yes, each colorful symbol you see littered on along the Northwest corridor represents another stop along the 18-person whirlwind. Click on it to view address information, ticketing information, and a link to the venue’s website. As the band progresses, we’ll mark their progress. We’ll also keep you posted with to-the-minute inside-tourblimp status updates along the way. It’s our hope these new tools (and the ways we wield them) will help our West Coastal folk make well-informed decisions about how many JHLE shows to attend this coming weekend. You can even show your support for the whole all-out JHLE venture on our special West Coast Invitation Page.

And don’t forget that before these musicians make their way there, they’ll be here at the beautiful Jazz Standard this Tuesday, March 1st at 730 & 930pm. New Yorkers ready to get onboard can visit their own special New York Invitation Page. Says Fung Chern Hwei, “I MUST COME”. So must you!

We leave you with the championship performance of the 2005 Reed High Winter Percussion Program, playing a tune we suspect you’ll know. Enjoy.

These words have been brought to you by Sir Jacques, Chronicler of John, to whom JH has ceded control of his online persona. All queries, complaints, kind remarks and general feedback regarding this blog may be directed to johnhollenwebpr@gmail.com

John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble to Convene at Jazz Standard Next Tuesday

As promised, John Hollenbeck has returned to his native New York to convene the eighteen musicians of the John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble. The group meets Tuesday, March 1st, first at 730, then again at 930. John has selected The Jazz Standard to serve as the venue for the confab, designed to resolve the matter of seating arrangements aboard Hollenbeck’s private blimp, “Wizmark”. Only twelve seats will be available as 18 players journey 3000 aerial miles from New York to Seattle this week for The John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble Grand Tour Hollenbeck is said to have been overheard remarking, “I’m quite excited to see how this will turn out.”

You can buy tickets for the 730pm show here and tickets for the 930pm show here. Visit this page to gaze intently at links to both shows while you contemplate which to attend.

Real quotes from real people:

“Profound, imaginative, well-developed pieces for 20 musicians, grown out of jazz and classical music, built around soloists but never subservient to them. As a big-band jazz composer, Mr. Hollenbeck was already good; now he’s become great.” — Ben Ratliff in the NY Times

“John is one of the most brilliant musicians I’ve had the privilege of working with.” — Meredith Monk

These words have been brought to you by Sir Jacques, Chronicler of John, to whom JH has ceded control of his online persona. All queries, complaints, kind remarks and general feedback regarding this blog may be directed to johnhollenwebpr@gmail.com

John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble Crash Courses to Fit Every Schedule

As JHLE gears up for its bicoastal tour, we reach out to those who don’t yet know this big band’s bag. How to become better informed on the John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble in…

Ten seconds: Stare deeply into this picture of them:

One MinuteRead this blurb from TONY’s David Adler (via Ann Braithwaite):

“John Hollenbeck’s 18-piece Large Ensemble can explode with rhythmic drive and technical dazzle, or it can evoke serene calm, tone poetry and even prayer. It’s a big band for a new eclectic world, building on the legacy of seminal big-band composer Bob Brookmeyer and other role models. Hollenbeck holds it together with intricate drumming, compositional acumen and searing wit as he marshals the resources of top jazz improvisers, including saxophonist Tony Malaby and vocalist, Theo Bleckmann. The ensemble is currently touring to celebrate Eternal Interlude (nominated for a Grammy in 2009), the eagerly awaited follow-up to A Blessing (nominated for a Grammy in 2006) and Joys and Desires, a memorable side project with Europe’s Jazz Bigband Graz.”

Nine minutes: Watch this video of JHLE performing “Guarana” live at the Painted Bride in Philadelphia, PA

20+ minutes: Listen to WNYC’s “No Cover” feature on JHLE. The easiest way into JHLE is through its music, here artfully curated by WNYC and bearing its own set of quick, blurby factoids.


[Full article]

A good hour: Purchase, download and listen to “Eternal Interlude”, JHLE’s grammy-nominated 2009 album. Because you still believe in the special integrity that goes along with listening to a really great album start to finish.[LINK]

Bonus assignment: Using your newfound understanding of the JHLE ouevre, write them a section on John’s Wikipedia entry With your mighty hand, knowledge-holders, go inscribe them in the book of Wiki forevermore. Theirs can be a robust entry, all we need is you!

These words have been brought to you by Sir Jacques, Chronicler of John, to whom JH has ceded control of his online persona. All queries, complaints, kind remarks and general feedback regarding this blog may be directed to johnhollenwebpr@gmail.com

Orchestre National de Jazz Premieres Shut Up and Dance [Video] [Contains Dance]

A more beautiful embedded player you never did see. Let us take you floating through the Théâtre du Chatelet for the Paris premiere of John’s latest Franco-American engagement, “Shut Up And Dance”. From 58:00, you will see this series of ten mini-concertos written for the Orchestre National de Jazz, “each one dedicated to a different orchestra musician and tailored to their personality and language.” Appropriately, the musicians will be joined onstage by real dancers. May we recommend “Life Still” at 1:26:00, “Shaking Peace” at 1:44:00, “Praya Dance” at 2:01:00, and, our pick for Best Costume, “Melissa’s Dance” round 2:18:00.

BBC’s Jazz on 3 showcased “Shut Up & Dance” this past Monday evening featuring an interview with John and the broadcast of its world premiere performance, recorded at the London Jazz Festival in 2010. At press time you’ve five days left to listen to it here. Earlier that day, Monday’s Jazz on 3 Newsletter saw presenter Jez Nelson wonder aloud about some revolutionary notions:

The success and enterprise of the ONJ begs the questions – why doesn’t Britain have a publicly funded and artistically progressive jazz orchestra? Besides the good work done by the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra, could more be done to support new writers for large jazzensembles?

“Could more be done” indeed!

Visit ONJ’s Shut Up & Dance page pour en savoir plus and please visit this store here to purchase an ONJ/SU&D download of your very own. And don’t forget ONJ joins the John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble at Le Poisson Rouge on April 25th. When tickets go on sale, you’ll be the first to know.

These words have been brought to you by Sir Jacques, Chronicler of John, to whom JH has ceded control of his online persona. All queries, complaints, kind remarks and general feedback regarding this blog may be directed to johnhollenwebpr@gmail.com

Claudia Quintet on the Highway of Love

Shrink-wrapped chocolates returned to pharmacy shelves across the nation last week as a freezing America turns its thoughts to candy and true love. But for Jozen Cummings, every day is Valentine’s Day. Cummings is the voice of Until I Get Married, a web diary of modern bachelorhood as told by a relationship expert. Last week he brought the stylish, certifiably brilliant Jason Moran onboard to curate a list of the five best jazz albums to play while you’re making out (“ol’-fashion style”). Guess who got number three?

Now, if Royal Toast doesn’t seem offhand too libido-stoking, that’s because, as Moran puts it,

“This is taking the soul aesthetic and then running it through a conservatory and then running it through a PhD, but it’s still soulful too, kind of like these chefs who strain their sauces two or three times.”

Right? Honor Roll Soul. Soul au Jus. Unexpectedly, certifiably romantic.

Turns out not everyone agrees with Moran. I won’t spoil the story, just the setup:

“John Hollenbeck, he’s also a very funny dude who feels very comfortable talking to his audience. He was telling me this story: After one of these gigs, a woman came up to him, gave him a note, and walked away…”

Reap the wisdom so hard won by John & Jason at The Until I Get Married Guide to Jazz.

Have you seen John, Musically?

Has John Hollenbeck set off a love reaction in your life? Does Claudia Quintet put you in the mood for makeouts? Drop us a line at johnhollenwebpr@gmail.com, or flag down our Twitter bird, @john_hollenbeck Don’t forget to consult our Live page to make sure you’re not missing out on any great upcoming John Hollenbeck action near you.

These words have been brought to you by Sir Jacques, Chronicler of John, to whom JH has ceded control of his online persona. All queries, complaints, kind remarks and general feedback regarding this blog may be directed to johnhollenwebpr@gmail.com


Where to find John Hollenbeck


1) Today John’s in Paris, studying Mondrian at this Centre Pompidou exhibit. He’s working on a piece for the University of the Arts in Philadelphia based on Mondrian’s Parisian days. The work debuts at UArts’ Merriam Theatre on MARCH 1.


2) From next week ’till the end of the month, John will be at der Universität Luzern, teaching Lucerniacs the secrets of composition, improvisation, and performing in the streets of Switzerland without the use of a large rubber mask.


3) As the post below describes in deep neon, March 1st John returns to his homeland of New York State to organize the 18 musicians of the John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble into seating arrangements on his 12-person private blimp. They will be meeting onstage at The Standard, once at 730pm, then again at 930pm. The public is encouraged to spectate as the musicians battle for seats on the six-hour flight.

4) All other inquiries about John’s whereabouts are likely answered by the LIVE page.


5) These words have been brought to you by Sir Jacques, Chronicler of John, to whom JH has ceded control of his online persona. All queries, complaints, kind remarks and general feedback regarding this blog may be directed to johnhollenwebpr@gmail.com

And now, an important message: We’re looking for everyone with photos, videos, audio recordings, watercolors, sketches, blog posts or text messages about seeing John perform live. This material helps us build our database of John Hollenbeck Moments and provides a rare chance to show the world what John looks like from where you’re sitting.  Email us at (once more, for emphasis) johnhollenwebpr@gmail.com

Please join us again next week for the latest in all things Hollenbeck.



18-Piece John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble in NYC at Jazz Standard March 1

Plus JHLE tours 5 West Coast cities March 2-7

* * Performances in Seattle, WA; Salem, OR; Fresno, Palo Alto and Los Angeles, CA * *

“…Hollenbeck is taking the big band into the future. ” — Chris Barton, LA Times

“Profound, imaginative, well-developed pieces for 20 musicians, grown out of jazz and classical music, built around soloists but never subservient to them. As a big-band jazz composer, Mr. Hollenbeck was already good; now he’s become great.” — Ben Ratliff, NY Times

“John is one of the most brilliant musicians I’ve had the privilege of working with.” — Meredith Monk



Wishing you…

the best holiday season and a spectacular New Year!


PLUS the Best Toilets of 2010 (by John Hollenbeck)…CLICK HERE!

“Shut Up and Dance” Premieres November 16th at the LONDON JAZZ FESTIVAL

Produced in a creative sphere covering New York, Paris, Berlin and Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, Shut Up And Dance emphasizes the relation between music and movement.  The spotlight turns to rhythm in all aspects of expression, at times even where least expected: a ping pong ball bouncing across piano wire, miscellaneous objects mistreated by computer software, instrument keys, hands rubbing, PVC tubes morphing into melodies… Percussion is everywhere, a bona fide sequence of powerful melodic passages that blend the shades of a repeating musical sound, pygmy music, art music, electronic music, not to overlook a Gnawas’ trance or a Duke Ellington swing.John Hollenbeck’s compositions, inspired specially for this program, stem from an extensive collaboration with Daniel Yvinec and reveal the excitement and body of classical works, in a series of ten mini-concertos, each one dedicated to a different orchestra musician tailored to their unique personality and language.

Turning the notion of instrumental function on its head without a moment’s hesitation, the wind instruments drive the beat, while the prepared piano moves onto the percussion side of the orchestra… It’s all about the idea of movement, conveyed in these mesmerizing rhythms, always and forever crisscrossing so as to ease our separation from self.

NOVEMBER 16 2010

NOVEMBER 17 2010

WATCH Shut Up and Dance EPK on YouTube



JHLE in Brooklyn…October 13th


with special guest, Kate McGarry-voice
622 Degraw Street (b/3rd and 4th Ave) BKLYN

$14 cover, $6 drink minimum
under 21: $7 cover, $3 drink minimum
8pm and 9:30pm

Ben Kono (flute, soprano saxophone, alto saxophone), Jeremy Viner (clarinet), Tony Malaby (tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone), Ellery Eskelin (tenor saxophone) Bohdan Hilash (baritone saxophone, bass clarinet), Rob Hudson (trombone), Mike Christianson (trombone), Jacob Garchik (trombone), Jeff Nelson (bass trombone), Jon Owens (trumpet), Tony Kadleck (trumpet), Dave Ballou (trumpet), Laurie Frink (trumpet), Kermit Driscoll (bass), John Hollenbeck (drums), Gary Versace (piano), Patty Franceschy (mallets), Theo Bleckmann (voice), Kate McGarry (voice), and J.C. Sanford (conductor).

welcome to new website!


September 23rd: John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble
Iridium Jazz Club NYC

Claudia Quintet Fall 2010 midwest tourlette:
September 27th Cedar Cultural Center Minneapolis, Minn
September 29th Moraine Valley Community College Chicago, Ill
September 30th University of Indiana Bloomington, Indiana
October 1st Oberlin College Oberlin, Ohio
October 2nd EdgeFest Ann Arbor, MI

October 13th JHLE at Littlefield Brooklyn, NY

Upcoming Shows


will perform at the Undead Jazz Festival
at LPR at 10:20pm in NYC

Ben Kono flute/sopranosaxophone/alto saxophone
Jeremy Viner clarinet/tenor saxophone
Ellery Eskelin tenor saxophone
Dan Willis tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone
Bohdan Hilash bass clarinet/contra-alto clarinet/clarinet

Rob Hudson, Mike Christianson, Jacob Garchik, Alan Ferber

Jon Owens, Peter Evans, Dave Ballou, Laurie Frink

Bass-Matt Clohesy
Drums/Composition-John Hollenbeck
Piano-Matt Mitchell
Vibraphone-Matt Moran
Voice-Theo Bleckmann
Conductor-JC Sanford





(on Cuneiform Records)
at the 45Bleeker 10:30PM
45 Bleecker Street, NYC

Chris Speed – clarinet/tenor saxophone
Matt Moran – vibraphone/percussion
Ted Reichman – accordion
Drew Gress – acoustic bass
John Hollenbeck – drums
SPECIAL GUEST – Matt Mitchell – piano


The JOHN HOLLENBECK LARGE ENSEMBLE will kick off the Bang on a Can Marathon at NOON with “Perseverance”
at the World Financial Center Winter Garden

Ben Kono flute/sopranosaxophone/alto saxophone
Jeremy Viner clarinet/tenor saxophone
Tony Malaby, Ellery Eskelin tenor saxophone
Bohdan Hilash bass clarinet/contra-alto clarinet/clarinet

Mark Patterson, Mike Christianson, Jacob Garchik, Alan Ferber

Tony Kadleck, Jon Owens, Dave Ballou, Laurie Frink

Bass-Matt Clohesy
Drums/Composition-John Hollenbeck
Piano/Organ-Gary Versace
Vibraphone-Matt Moran
Voice-Theo Bleckmann
Conductor-JC Sanford

Listen to the entire recording on the NPR website “FIRST LISTEN”

On their fifth CD, Royal Toast, The Claudia Quintet raise a glass in salute to their regal muse with a set of new music fit for a king — albeit one with more refined tastes and open mind than your average monarch.

If a round table seems a wholly appropriate setting for this egalitarian ensemble (with an extra place setting this time out), theirs is as much Algonquin as Camelot, renowned for their sophisticated wit as well as their sharply-honed musical jousting.

As composer/leader John Hollenbeck points out, the title might also sound a bit “silly” —  but there’s something in its odd incongruity that exemplifies the band’s one-of-a-kind sound.

“I like toast,” Hollenbeck explains with characteristically laconic humor, “and I noticed that if you put ‘royal’ in front of something, it seems elevated.”

The Claudia Quintet has similarly been finding the majestic in the mundane (or vice versa) for more than a dozen years. Nowhere is that more evident than on Royal Toast, where Hollenbeck began by collecting song titles found in often unlikely sources, divorcing them from their original context, and devising music inspired by these evocative phrases.

Hollenbeck’s compositions somehow conjure raucous beauty from dizzying complexity, enticing the emotions with lilting melodies or irresistible grooves while engaging the cerebral side in a surreptitious workout. The music marries jazz, new music, post-rock — but no laundry list of influences is quite sufficient to describe their iconoclastic sound. Suffice it to say, you can feel secure bringing your hipster nephew and your math professor along to a gig, and everyone will go home happy.

Of course, no one could pull off such a a trompe l’oreille without a well-honed ensemble, and The Claudia Quintet has, through intensive collaboration since their 1997 debut, developed a language all their own. The music can best — perhaps only — be defined by the individuals who create it — Hollenbeck on drums, Drew Gress (Tim Berne, Ravi Coltrane, Fred Hersch) on bass, Matt Moran (Slavic Soul Party, Mat Maneri, Ellery Eskelin) on vibraphone, Ted Reichman (Anthony Braxton, Marc Ribot, Paul Simon) on accordion, and Chris Speed (Bloodcount, Yeah No, Human Feel) on clarinet and tenor sax.

As attuned as the Quintet have become to each other, they’re each remarkably attuned to themselves, as Hollenbeck discovered while recording the CD. Bridging several of the pieces on the album are short improvised interludes in which each member plays a short improvised duet with himself — unbeknownst to them until the tracks were in the can. While they sound as if each side of the mirror is reacting to the other, they were actually played separately and married after the fact.

“I didn’t know if it was going to work, so I didn’t tell anybody I was doing it,” Hollenbeck admits. “And I couldn’t believe it because each one just worked fabulously. It was totally unbelievable how they breathed in the same places — Drew even has a rest in the same spot. I think the result is better, actually, than if I had asked them to react to their solos. That might have been a little artificial.”

The quintet is here supplemented by pianist Gary Versace, a longtime collaborator of Hollenbeck’s (including the composer’s Large Ensemble and in the Refuge Trio along with vocalist Theo Bleckmann).

“Gary and I have very similar aesthetics,” Hollenbeck says, “so what he plays is exactly what I would I be doing if I could play piano really well. Gary has a very composerly approach, so he’s very sensitive to the music and tries to make his part sound composed even when it’s not.”

The addition of Versace means that half of the band is now essentially playing percussive instruments, giving Hollenbeck more opportunity than ever to follow his polyrhythmic muse —  which emerges most fully on the gleefully intricate title track. But the album begins not with force but with lush intoxication. “Crane Merit” sets an unexpectedly atmospheric mood, enveloping the listener with an idyllic warmth.

Introduced by a Hollenbeck solo that gradually builds into funky propulsion, “Keramag” is the album’s toe-tappingest tune, densely wrought and utterly infectious. It and “Zurn” have the titles with the least concrete associations; the latter is a through-composed piece that generates considerable tension through an insistent drum/piano figure that is thoroughly dispelled by its ethereal finale.

“Sphinx,” on the other hand, brings very distinct associations to mind, which Hollenbeck followed through Egypt to African rhythmic influences. The word “Standard” crops up twice, and in each case the composer took this as a cue to use jazz as a leaping-off point, penning an abstracted ballad with “Ideal Standard” and a fractured anthem on “American Standard.”
The album closes with the elegiac “For Frederick Franck,” an homage to the Dutch-born painter, sculptor and author who died in 2006 at the age of 97. Hollenbeck’s personal connection to the artist comes via a sculpture park in upstate New York that Franck designed and where Hollenbeck proposed to his wife. But Franck’s expansive philosophy is also representative of Hollenbeck’s boundary-blurring approach to genre.

“The meaning of life is to see,” Franck espoused in his work, and The Claudia Quintet approach music with eyes wide open.

OTHER upcoming dates:

  • JUNE 13TH
    The JOHN HOLLENBECK LARGE ENSEMBLE will perform at the Undead Jazz Festival at LPR at 10:20pm in NYC
  • JUNE 27TH
    The JOHN HOLLENBECK LARGE ENSEMBLE will perform “Perseverance” at the Bang on a Can Marathon at the World Financial Center Winter Garden