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The Claudia Quintet + 1 featuring Theo Bleckmann
Record Release Celebration
Ars Nova Workshop is excited to present a performance by John Hollenbeck's Claudia Quintet, with special guests Theo Bleckmann and Philadelphian Matt Mitchell, and an opening set by Jason Adasiewicz's Rolldown. Tonight is also a Record Release Celebration for the new Cuneiform LP by The Claudia Quintet, What Is The Beautiful?
“It's fun to grapple with music that doesn't fit a prescribed notion of genre—it forces you to listen a little harder and think a little more about actual sound,” wrote Pitchfork's Joe Tangari referring to The Claudia Quintet's Royal Toast (Cuneiform; 2010). The New York City-based ensemble formed in 1997, and after over 10 years, 6 albums, and multiple tours around the world, they continue to defy categories and force audiences to re-evaluate how they listen to music.
Staying together for 14 years is no easy feat, especially in the jazz world, where new duos, trios, quartets, and tentets emerge each week. And this feat is doubly impressive for the Claudia Quintet, whose members are some of the most productive and sought after musicians on the jazz scene today. To list the countless awards, collaborations, records (as sidemen and leaders and co-leaders!), and achievements of drummer and group leader John Hollenbeck, bassist Drew Gress, vibraphonist Matt Moran, accordionist Ted Reichman, and saxophonist Chris Speed would be an insurmountable task.
Trying to pinpoint The Claudia Quintet's sound is similarly challenging. “From surf rock to chamber jazz to hyperarticulate acoustica club beats—all rendered with exquisite precision and heedless abandon—there are too many moments of brilliance to list here,” wrote one bewildered, but delighted, JazzTimes reviewer. It's safe to say the quintet is equivalent to an indescribable event—you have to see it to believe it, or, in this case, you have to hear it for yourself.
For tonight's performance, The Claudia Quintet will be joined by Philadelphia-based pianist Matt Mitchell, who has played and toured with them on many occasions and is a member of Tim Berne's Los Totopos and John Hollenbeck's Large Ensemble, and Grammy-nominated German vocalist Theo Bleckmann, who has worked with Anthony Braxton, John Zorn, Phillip Glass, the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, and frequently with Hollenbeck. The septet will perform pieces from their new Cuneiform album, What Is The Beautiful?, which features vocalists Kurt Elling and Bleckmann reciting and singing the poetry of Kenneth Patchen. Many of the compositions that appear on the LP were commissioned by the University of Rochester to celebrate the 100th birthday of the avant-garde, proto-Beat poet, visual artist, and novelist who, in the 1940 and '50s, collaborated with John Cage and Charles Mingus.
“It's an updating of a particularly fractured brand of post-bop that centered on Blue Note artists like Andrew Hill, Grachan Moncur III, Bobby Hutcherson, and Joe Chambers,” The Austinist wrote about Varmint (Cuneiform; 2009) by Jason Adasiewicz's Rolldown. “But this is an update with a hell of a lot of bite.”
Vibraphonist Adasiewicz has been a fixture of the Chicago jazz scene for many years, working in Rob Mazurek's Exploding Star Orchestra, Josh Berman's Old Idea, and Mike Reed's Loose Assembly. In 2003, he formed Rolldown with many of the Windy City's most explosive players: cornetist Berman, reedsman Aram Shelton, bassist Jason Roebke, and powerhouse drummer Frank Rosaly.
The quintet's sound is melodically rollicking and breezily swings, but there's definitely a hell of a lot of bite. For those of you who saw Adasiewicz play with Mazurek's Starlicker—who Ars Nova Workshop brought to Philadelphia back in May—you know that his relationship with the vibraphone can oftentimes become quite confrontational.There are few, if any, contemporary vibraphonists who can summon both enraged and beautifully delicate playing quite like Adasiewicz.
Ars Nova Workshop is a Philadelphia nonprofit jazz and experimental music presenting organization. As a facilitator between artists and their audiences, Ars Nova Workshop works to inform, inspire and challenge listeners in order to elevate the role of jazz, improvisation and experimental music in contemporary culture.