The Claudia Quintet — September
(Cuneiform Rune 377, 2013, CD)
by Jon Davis, Published 2014-08-01John Hollenbeck and Company's latest collection of jazz-inflected chamber music is another winner from start to finish. For composer Hollenbeck, the month of September often features residencies or retreats in various locations, and is a particularly inspiring time of year. That inspiration shows in this set of tunes named for various days in the month, with some of the most creative and unusual arrangements yet for this consistently interesting ensemble. Red Wierenga's accordion is given a prominent role, as are Matt Moran's vibes, and the sax and clarinet of Chris Speed provide lovely colors. One of the most attention-grabbing pieces is "29th: 1936 'Me Warn You'", which takes a recording of a Franklin D. Roosevelt speech and extracts the rhythms and melodic tones of his voice as a melody, which the other instruments then use as material for their playing. It is both a brilliant intellectual achievement and an eminently entertaining experience. And it also makes me wonder if FDR was a particularly melodic public speaker, or if this procedure would also work on other famous speeches. All speculation aside, this group has carved out a niche with their distinctive instrumentation, using the diverse acoustic properties to great effect, contrasting the thin, reedy tone of the accordion with the bell-like tones of the vibraphone and the breath-driven reeds. Hollenbeck's drumming is outstanding as always, a fully equal partner in the arrangements rather than mere timekeeper — a happy result of the situation of the drummer being the composer. September is simply one of 2013's best releases, and would be a standout in any year.
Related artist(s): The Claudia Quintet
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