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!
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
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
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.
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.
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!
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.
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
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.)
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!
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
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 SUPERPETITE.
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!
“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
We, 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!
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.)
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!!
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…
…I’ve got lots of great excuses.
Anyway, enough about me. Let’s talk about my summer!
The Adirondack Mountains
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!)
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!)
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 (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.
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.
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:
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
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 Festivalon 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! -Johnnycakes
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.
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.
It has been a while, so I’m packing a LOT of stuff into one blog. Read-look-listen away!
CQ IN EUROPE
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.
CQ IN FLORIDA
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.
CQ VIDEO PROJECT
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.
CQ GOES TO NEPAL
Julie Mallozzi Productions put this amazing video together documenting our trip to Kathmandu, Nepal for the Jazzmandu 2013 Festival.
72 HOURS IN NOLA
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.