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by The Claudia Quintet
Cuneiform Records, Silver Spring, MD, 2006
Audio CD, 8 tracks, 61’42". $15.00
Cuneiform Rune 247

Distributor’s website: http://www.cuneiformrecords.com.

Reviewed by Stefaan Van Ryssen
Hogeschool Gent


The Claudia Quintet (Drew Gress——double bass, John Hollenbeck——drums, composition, Matt Moran——vibraphone, percussion, Ted Reichman——accordion, Chris Speed——clarinet, tenor saxophone) was founded in 1997 and has released four albums so far. This, its fourth, includes eight compositions by its founder John Hollenbeck, each one dedicated to someone or other; so they are all ‘for…’, hence its title.

The New York based quintet aims first and foremost at a recognisable and unique sound. The rather unusual but certainly no longer exceptional accordion and some of the added taped backgrounds, indeed, add a certain peculiarity, without really moving the band into the realm of experimental or supposedly futuristic music. Overall they present a cautious extension of what a loungey jazz ensemble should sound like. The same goes for their compositions. Staying within the general axioms of jazz, they succeed in unprovocatively exploring its borders in several directions: towards the idioms of minimal, post-rock and electronic music. Probably ‘eclectic’ is the best word to describe the final result.

The most interesting track by far is called ‘For you’ (number 6). It is appropriately dedicated to the listener, as it also offers the most rewarding listening experience. Melodic and harmonic instrumental snips move slowly against the backdrop of an electronic tape prepared by Hollenbeck, while the countdown-like voice of Matt Moran adds an intriguing meta-rhythm. At the end, one definitely feels they urge to say ‘thank you, Claudia.’ These thanks are due because of the undeniable mastership of the musicians, which is for this listener the most memorable aspect of the album.

By the way, the Quintet takes its name from a one-time fan called Claudia. The whole story, if not apocryphal, is told at Hollenbeck’s website: www.johnhollenbeck.com.



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