Monday, June 11, 2007

The Claudia Quintet - For (Cuneiform, 2007)

The Claudia Quintet is a novel jazz ensemble made up of John Hollenbeck on drums, Drew Gress on acoustic bass, Matt Moran on vibes, Ted Reichman on accordion, and Chris Speed on clarinet and tenor saxophone. This group blurs the barriers between jazz, classical and ethnic music to create a well balanced and individual music. In particular, the combination of clarinet, vibes and accordion make for an unusual and memorable sound. The opening track “I'm So Fickin' Cool” grabs you right away, and builds to an intense improvisation of swirling and colorful sound. Another improvisation that displays the jazzier side to the band is the brief but potent “Rug Boy” which shows the band in an intense collective improvisation. “Rainy Days/Peanut Vendor Mashup” shows the groups quirky and humorous side by combining The Carpenters soft rock anthem “Rainy Days and Mondays” with Stan Kenton’s “The Peanut Vendor.” It’s hard to think of a more unlikely combination of music, and it’s a testament to the band that it works so well. This album works well as a whole telling a coherent musical story, and the only soft spot on the record is the lengthy experiment in minimalism with a little spoken word, “For You” which briefly slows the group’s momentum to a meditation-like crawl. But this is a minor quibble, and as a whole, this album provides unique and thoughtful compositions and suburb improvisational dexterity.

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