Formed by drummer John Hollenbeck in the late 1990s to play his small group compositions with some of his favorite collaborators, the Claudia Quintet also includes Chris Speed (clarinet, tenor saxophone), Matt Moran (vibraphone, percussion), Drew Gress (acoustic bass), and the newest addition, accordion player and keyboardist Red Wierenga, who replaced original member Ted Reichman late in 2011. (There's no "Claudia" in the group - the name is derived from an overenthusiastic fan who showed up at one of their early gigs, spent the whole evening gushing about how much she liked the music and planned to return every week, and then never was heard from again.)
Though nominally a jazz group, the Claudia Quintet incorporates a variety of influences, also drawing on minimalism and other styles of contemporary composition as well as pop music. They released their first, eponymous recording in 2001, and since have issued five more albums. Their most recent, What Is The Beautiful?, was released late in 2011, and features poems by Kenneth Patchen set to music with vocals by Kurt Elling and Theo Bleckmann.
Bleckmann also will be on hand for the Quintet's St. Louis date, which Hollenbeck said will feature much of the material from that latest CD. (Look for yr. humble editor's interview with the drummer/leader next week on the Riverfront Times' RFT Music Blog)
Because What Is The Beautiful? just came out in December, there really are no videos online yet featuring live performances of those particular songs. Instead, today we have a sampling of slightly older clips from 2009 and 2010 that nevertheless serve to show off some Hollenbeck's compositional ideas and demonstrate the musicians' interactions in a live setting.
Up above is a version of "Royal Toast," the title track from the Quintet's 2009 CD, seen here in a version recorded at the Jazz Baltic festival that year. Down below, you'll find the song "Rainy Days" from the same show.
Below that are four numbers from the Claudia Quintet's show at a festival in 2010 in San Sebastián, Spain: "Be Happy," "Paterna Terra," "Jazz Envy" and "They point, Glance...". (Note that this gig featured electric bassist Trevor Dunn subbing for Gress.)
To wrap up, we've got a short snippet of an improvised duo performance featuring Hollenbeck and Bleckmann, who have worked together in that format for more than a decade. Bleckmann also has a thriving solo career of his own, having released several albums as a leader and worked with a variety of high-profile musicians including avant-garde composer Meredith Monk, Laurie Anderson, Anthony Braxton, Steve Coleman, Dave Douglas, Phillip Glass, John Zorn, the Bang on a Can All-Stars, and many others.