The Claudia Quintet is one of the most promising and influential groups to emerge in recent years from downtown New York’s alt jazz scene. Led by drummer-percussionist and three-time Grammy nominee John Hollenbeck, its very existence is proof positive that the pessimists were wrong: jazz is not dead, despite being embalmed by major labels and confined by the narrow-minded to dead-ends. The stunningly original and lyrical works of The Claudia Quintet reveal breathtaking new vistas for jazz that transcend genre walls.
Hollenbeck, a native of Binghamton, New York, is one of the most distinctive, innovative and respected composers in jazz and new music. He received degrees in percussion and jazz composition from the Eastman School of Music before moving to New York City in the early 1990s. After arriving in New York, Hollenbeck quickly struck up relationships with some of the leading lights of jazz and new music -- Fred Hersch, Tony Malaby, Kenny Wheeler, Theo Bleckmann, and composer/choreographer Meredith Monk, the latter for whom Hollenbeck wrote and performed three separate percussion scores; “Magic Frequencies,” “Mercy,” and “The Impermanence Project.” Hollenbeck has served as a professor of jazz percussion and improvisation at Jazz Institute Berlin since 2005.
The Claudia Quintet has been accruing an estimable body of work since the late ’90s. They are renowned for their wry improvising spirit and backbone of surging, mesmerizing rhythm. Through compositions that meld mental challenge with charm, jazz breaks through its rigid shell, recombines with a myriad of other musics, and is reborn in a transcendent new form. Nate Chinen of the New York Times praises The Claudia Quintet’s “clockwork intricacy and crisp premeditation ... [striking an] accord between the factions of progressive jazz, classical Minimalism and low-glare experimental rock.”
In addition to the Claudia Quintet, Hollenbeck also leads the John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble, a twenty person big-band consisting of top musicians from New York. The JHLE has earned acclaim for its rich, panoramic orchestral sound as well as its members’ powerful individual voices. With a line-up that rarely changes, it is impossible to mistake this ensemble for an agglomeration of disjointed musicians. Practically all twenty of the JHLE’s members recorded on 2005’s “A Blessing,” and continue to play live with the band to this day.
John Hollenbeck’s numerous awards and recognitions include a 2007 Guggenheim Fellowship, the 2010 ASCAP Jazz Vanguard Award, the top spot as Rising Star Arranger (2012/2013) and Rising Star Big Band (2011) in the Down Beat Magazine International Critics Poll, and a 2012 Doris Duke Performing Artist Award.