The award-winning leader of the Claudia Quintet, John Hollenbeck, agreed to a quick Q & A session via email. We discussed the formation of the Claudia Quintet, the future of Jazz, and his worst concert ever–which included an Italian heckler who beckoned for Hollenbeck to “Speak English.” Note to self: never order your salad before your entrée in Italy. Read on:
Q: You said on your wikipedia page that you wanted the Claudia Quintet to have a ”female quality.” What do you mean by this?
HOLLENBECK: Jazz-based music is dominated by men and it usually has a lot of male energy and male qualities. The actual sound of this band, is a soft sound-even at our harshest. Also to generalize male=intellectual, female=emotional….although a generalisation-I have found it to have a lot of truth to it. So it is something to keep in mind, to try to use emotion more as a music/compositional force.
Q: I was told in one of my History of Jazz classes that Jazz music is “dying” and becoming “a museum piece.” Do you agree with this assertion? Have you felt the effects of this? What are some of the struggles associated with being a successful jazz musician in today’s musical age?
HOLLENBECK: Jazz was once “pop” music with the associated majority of listeners intact. Now it is one of many small minorities. But I do not think about the above assertion because this assertion uses a certain type of jazz as the basis of it’s theory. I am alive and my cohorts are too and what we play some people would call jazz. That being said, the support for jazz, like many others things has gone down alot in many countries that once had the means to supported the music and the musicians-this is being felt by today’s “jazz” musician for sure. But we have no choice but to keep playing the music we love for people who also love it.
Q: If you hadn’t chosen the drums to be your primary musical instrument, what else might you have chosen and why?
HOLLENBECK: The drums chose me….as I carry my drums throughout the world, many people tell me that I should have taken up the flute-which from a logisitical point of view seems like a good idea.
Q: How does the composing process begin for you? Where do you find inspiration, and what are you trying to communicate through your music?
HOLLENBECK: Inspiration comes from everyday life….anything….a name, an experience, a number, a person, a book, a speech, etc……Each composition comes from one of these little inspirations. Beauty, which is subjective, is what I’m trying to convey.
Q: What was your worst concert ever, and why?
HOLLENBECK: Interesting question! I cannot think of one that pops up. As an improviser, you get use to dealing with the moment and things not going the way you had thought they would. So when I think about this question, what comes to mind are concerts that could have been the worst because something unexpected happened (like someone getting sick or some piece of equipment not working)but usually me and my friends deal with it and make it ok. I once played a gig where we tried something that made the audience basically stop listening, we became background music, so when we stopped, no one even noticed…. but I have fond memories of this moment for it’s uniqueness. Once I played in Italy with the Claudia Quintet and tried to speak Italien to the audience that was more interested in eating and talking then listening …at some point one person yelled “speak english”-also the band was not happy with me because at dinner I asked for the salad first instead of salad at the end-and the waiter did this for everybody—so it was not my favourite evening, but I can say it was the worst…and now with time that too is a fond memory-at least for the other members of CQ.
Q: Do you have a favorite jazz album(s)? What era of jazz stands out most to you?
HOLLENBECK: I like it all, nothing pops out as my favourite because I really enjoy all of it.
Q: What advice might you give to aspiring jazz musicians looking to succeed in the music industry?
HOLLENBECK: The question itself gives me a pit in my stomach. Music and industry are two words that are artificially connected but really do not belong together. I would say try to do what you love and if you can do that, consider yourself lucky.
Q: In forming your ensemble, why did you choose to have an accordion and a vibraphone?
HOLLENBECK: It was more the people that were chose-it happened that they played interesting instruments. I had played with Ted Reichman for a year before in a collective trio called Refuseniks, and I met Matt Moran on a random gig in Germany around the same time….so playing with them was just an experiment that I soon realized really worked in a fresh and beautiful way.
Q: How has your playing changed/evolved since playing in the Claudia Quintet?
HOLLENBECK: Hopefully I has gotten better with age and experience.
I know that from the beginning , I continue to try to play softer, to find a clear sound that does not get in the way of the other instruments. and I am more calm when things are not perfect, but I’m still trying to evolve.
Q: Who are some of your favorite jazz drummers?
HOLLENBECK: Elvin Jones, Jack Dejohnette, Baby Dodds, Joey Baron, Jim Black, Philly Joe Jones, Doug Hammond
The Claudia Quintet, led by John Hollenbeck, will perform at the Brooklyn Conservatory of music this Thursday, June 14th. Purchase tickets HERE
Written by Brooklyn resident John Forte (formerly of the famous hip-hop ensemble the Fugees), the music video features Nets offensive stratagems and shots of Forte in what looks like his home studio.
Read this great article from sfist.com about a struggling amphitheater, the nonprofit org trying to make it over, and the locals who want it to stay the same.
What do Phillip Glass, Shaggy and the Barenaked Ladies have in common? Not a lot, that is until today when BRIC Arts announced the lineup to their 35th annual Celebrate Brooklyn festival!
The aforementioned are just three of the many acts participating in the festival, which contains 29 (29!!) mostly free shows spanning the entire summer. Each concert kicks off at around 7-7:30 at the Bandshell in idyllic Prospect Park.
Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Wynton Marsalis will be there. Brazilian psych-rock pioneers Os Mutantes will be there. Even international weirdo Beck will be there. The question is, will you?
Festivities kick off on June 5 with a free concert by American folk singer Patty Griffin. So check out the schedule, pick a concert (or twenty) and make some plans!
On May 4, Palmetto Park in Brooklyn Heights was rechristened as Adam Yauch Park. On that day a year ago, the late Beastie Boys member–widely known as MCA–lost a three-year battle with cancer a the age of of 47. The renaming ceremony was attended by Yauch’s parents and Beastie Boys’ Adam ‘Ad Rock’ Horovitz.
Adam Yauch Park is another testament to the way in which musicians touch the lives of their listeners. Here are some other places that have immortalized some of our favorite late musicians.
Joey Ramone Place (New York, NY)
The iconic lead singer of seminal New York punk band the Ramones died of lymphoma in April of 2001 at the age of 49. The corner of Bowery and East Second Street was renamed Joey Ramone Place on November 30, 2003. According to the Associated Press, the above sign is one of the most frequently stolen in the entire city, so much so that in 2010, the sign was elevated to 20 feet above street level.
Frank Sinatra Memorial Park (Hoboken, NJ)
Ol’ Blue Eyes left us on May 14, 1998 of a heart attack at the age of 82. In 1998, this beautiful Hoboken park was dedicated to Sinatra’s memory upon its completion. Although Hoboken is famed as the birthplace of the legendary singer, his relationship with the One Square Mile went sour after he was booed at a 1948 performance during a celebration for the city’s mayor. He didn’t make a public appearance in the city again until 1984.
St. John Coltrane Church (San Francisco, CA)
Trane was only 40 years old when he died of liver cancer on July 17, 1967. The Saint John Coltrane Church was founded by Archbishop Franzo King and Reverend Mother Marina King under the name of ‘One Mind Temple Evolutionary Transitional Body of Christ.’ The two were inspired after seeing a 1965 performance of Coltrane, and believed that his playing came from the power of God. Embedded throughout Coltrane’s life was a deep sense of spirituality, from his early Christian upbringing to his later interest in Buddhism and Islam.
4147 Lennon (Space)
John Lennon was tragically gunned down in December of 1980 at the age of 40. This minor planet on the main asteroid belt was discovered in 1983, with the name officially announced in a 1990 issue of Minor Planet Circular. Interestingly, in 2008 Lennon’s song ‘Across the Universe’ was the first ever song to be beamed directly into space.
Picture yourself in a park in the sunshine, where all the hot labels sell vinyls galore…
Brought to you by Smorgasburg, Brooklyn’s weekly flea marketeers, the bi-annual Brooklyn Flea Record Fair is a hallmark event for the spin-crazy. BrooklynVegan reports a flux of new releases from record labels like DFA, Jagjaguwar and Secretly Canadian, and an impressive lineup of live DJ sets throughout the day.
From tattoo-laden indie bands to slightly less tattoo-laden classical composers, some of Brooklyn’s finest gathered to celebrate modern music’s most fertile ground.
“We may all be Brooklynites soon,” says San Francisco Classical Voice writer Brett Campbell, in a great article focusing on the festival and the continually blurring lines between rock n’ roll and classical music.