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Claudia Quintet — Semi-formal
(Cuneiform Rune 217, 2005, CD)

by Jon Davis, Published 2006-05-01

Semi-formal Cover artThe Claudia Quintet is back with another lovely set of what I think of as Chamber Jazz. While the music mostly gives the impression of being pretty thoroughly composed, there is a looseness to the performance that lends the aura of jazz, and I’ve certainly seen it categorized that way. The sonic palette varies a fair amount, but the dominant instruments are vibraphone, acoustic bass, clarinet and sax, with accordion making frequent appearances as well. Leader and sole composer John Hollenbeck sets up some great busy patterns on his drum kit, but they remain low in the mix, not dominating the sound. Moments of energetic whimsy are balanced by floating sections of wandering tones. On the amusingly titled “They Point... Glance... Whisper... Then Snicker...” Chris Speed gets a chance at freedom on tenor sax, with some of the wildest moments in the collection. The music consistently defies predictability, with a kind of deceptive simplicity coupled with amused lightness throughout, as if they’re all simultaneously winking and smiling knowingly at their listeners. The five musicians rarely clutter up the mix by all playing at the same time, and in spite of their readily apparent talents, never hog the spotlight. All energy is focused on the crisp realization of Hollenbeck’s oddball compositions, and that makes for one of the highlights of 2005.

Filed under: New releases, Issue 33, 2005 releases

Related artist(s): The Claudia Quintet

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