Theo Bleckmann voice
Kate McGarry voice
Uri Caine piano, organ
John Hollenbeck composer, arranger, conductor
Gary Versace melodica, organ
hr Radio Bigband
Heinz-Dieter Sauerborn alto/sop sax, flute
Oliver Leicht alto sax, clarinet, alto clar, flute
Tony Lakatos ten/sop sax
Julian Argüelles sop sax
Steffan Weber ten/sop sax, flute, bass clar
Rainer Heute bass sax, bass/contra-bass clar, clar
Frank Wellert trumpet, flugelhorn
Thomas Vogel trumpet, flugelhorn
Martin Auer trumpet, flugelhorn
Axel Schlosser trumpet, flugelhorn, flumpet
Günter Bollman trombone
Peter Feil trombone
Christian Jaksjø trombone, bari horn, bass tpt
Manfred Honetschläger bass trombone
Martin Scales guitar
Thomas Heidepriem bass
Jean Paul Höchstädter drums
Claus Kiesselbach [as special guest]
mallet percussion, timpani
Including Songs Made Famous by Cyndi Lauper, Daft Punk, The Carpenters, The Fifth Dimension & More
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 you’re hearing with these truly extraordinary jazz artists is jazz giving itself permission to luxuriate in pure haunting beauty with no guilt whatsoever. And with Hollenbeck, you’re hearing such shameless and luxurious intelligence applied to melodies that are both familiar and beloved.
And, as the leader/arranger proves, just as lovable when they’re given such hardy but exquisite instrumental settings.
Leave plenty of room in your life to be hearing this music continuously for days or even weeks.”
– Jeff Simon, Buffalo News