Monday, May 24, 2010

The Claudia Quintet w/ Gary Versace - Royal Toast (Cuneiform Records, 2010)

With a wide variety of influences ranging from experimental jazz to rock and classical, the eclectic Claudia Quintet can always be counted on to make interesting and unusual music. Consisting of Drew Gress on bass, John Hollenbeck on drums, Matt Moran on vibraphone, Ted Reichman on accordion, Chris Speed on clarinet and tenor saxophone, and special guest Gary Versace on piano. The group covers a wide range of musical territory on this album. The music is broken down into original improvisations for the group and short individual unaccompanied interludes from each musician of the group. There is a lightness and an airy feeling to the music that separates it from most contemporary jazz being made today. Hollenback has been quoted as saying that he wanted the group's sound to have something of a female quality, and this come through quite successfully here. Speed's clarinet and saxophone gently float over a luxurious bed of shimmering vibraphone and swirling accordion. Hollenbeck's compositions and agile drumwork are the foundation of the groups overall sound, carving out a unique niche. "Crane Merit" opens the album with a mellow and dreamy slow building hypnotic feel. Gently comped piano and slow saxophone round out the gauzy sound that envelops the music. "Keramag" raises to tempo to a spritely fast level with agile drums and vibes and punchy accordion. This combination of instruments is unusual in jazz and makes for a very cool and enjoyable sound. Smears of saxophone over light and fast percussion usher in "Paterna Terra" building to an intense quasi-free feel with swirling accordion gaining in intensity and speed throughout. "Ideal Standard" slows the pace down to a moderate level and allows the band to fully investigate the haunting melody and arrangement. This is multi-faceted music that always deviates from the expected. Often filled with a gentle impish humor, the music here is filled with the personalities of its creators and makes for compelling listening. Royal Toast -

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