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by The Claudia Quintet
Cuneiform Records, Silver Springs, MD, 2007
Audio CD, 8 tracks, 61’42". $ 15.00
Cuneiform Rune 247
Distributor’s website: http://www.cuneiformrecords.com.

Reviewed by Michael R. (Mike) Mosher
Saginaw Valley State University


The Claudia Quintet is celebrated for its eclecticism, and it confidently draws from a variety of traditions and genres in its fourth album, For. The unfortunately-named "I'm So Fickin' Cool" has the tonality of 1960s jazz, which is logical since bandleader John Hollenbeck lists Stan Kenton as an influence. Yet it's less frenetic than a lot of that past decade's jazz, with less revolutionary bona fides to prove, and perambulates like a friendly and determined commuter-train. I show my design students a 1970 Anglo-German movie on the Bauhaus, and its soundtrack is similar to this. The track "August 5, 2006" begins in the same vein but with Afro-Brazilian percussive spices. Soon the serial repetition of a short phrase starts to sound like a record player needle stuck in an LP's groove, and this reviewer is not sure that the composition fully works.

"Be Happy" honors the founder of Vipissana meditation with complex rhythms, then offers serialism but more softly and sensually, the repeated musical phrase stirred by a flute played at a low volume. There's a soulful one-note sax bleat, as vibraphone chords reassemble in the background, and Hollenbeck's drum swoops around like a petrel or hungry larks. Then, near the end of the track, Ted Reichman's accordion emerges. "Rug Boy" builds upon a bombastic drum introduction with bumblebee-flight accordion, till the saxophone enters to gamely jam around the busy drummer. The accordion is promptly chastised, as if slowed down by police at a traffic stop.

The Quintet's "Rainy Days/Peanut Vendor Mash-up" has a slightly nautical feel; Stan Kenton dons a yachting cap. A voice mutters "dream" beneath the bubbling "For You", and the slow "This Too Shall Pass" assembles itself into something as melancholy and thoughtful as the funeral march for an intelligent circus clown.



Updated 1st September 2007

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