The Blue Whale was filled to the brim last night for New York's Claudia Quintet performing works from their most recent album, What is the Beautiful?, a tribute to the late poet Kenneth Patchen. With hipsters from all stages of life, the room was buzzing with anticipation for a rare appearance by this long-running band. The addition of Theo Bleckmann made things even better.
Bleckmann is an amazing vocalist, something like a German Bobby McFerrin minus the body drumming. He is capable of filling a hall with sounds both soothing and guttural. In the context of his set with the Claudia Quintet, he worked exclusively as a team player, working wonders to create a cohesive band sound, blending in with their unusual instrumentation perfectly.
The set opened with Bleckmann and bassist Chris Tordini locked in unison, as Bleckmann recited Patchen's Show Time (Soon It Will Be)." With each pass through the poem another member of the band joined the melodic recitation, before launching into a solo of their own. Vibraphonist Matt Moran struck his instrument like he was throwing a baseball. Saxophonist Chris Speed built his staccato honk slowly but surely.