John Hollenbeck Distinctive Voice, No Matter Who Is Performing

John Hollenbeck
John Hollenbeck composes so much music for his own bands—Refuge Trio, the Claudia Quintet and his Large Ensemble, each unmistakable in its identity—that you could go a long time before wondering about the transferable aspects of his style.

What does his writing sound like beyond the circumference of his peer group? When he's not shaping the pulse from the drums? When the power of interpretation has been entrusted to another group, with another point of view?

We might not feel the need to pose these questions if Mr. Hollenbeck weren't known primarily as a jazz musician. Composers dwell in ideas; the execution may or may not involve them. And Mr. Hollenbeck has grown increasingly accomplished as a composer, ever more assured in the distinctive clarity of his voice. That point was brought home, powerfully, at Le Poisson Rouge in Greenwich Village on Monday night.

Presented by Undead Jazz, it was a double bill featuring the John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble and, from France, the 10-piece Orchestre National de Jazz. Both bands played Mr. Hollenbeck's music: the Orchestre, an initiative of the French Ministry of Culture, now in its 25th year, tackled a body of work called “Shut Up and Dance," recently released as a double album on the Bee Jazz label.

The artistic director of the Orchestre, for a three-year term, is Daniel Yvinec, a polymath who studied bass in a jazz context in New York. Under his guidance, the institution has taken on a daring character, with a lineup youthful enough to make it look like a student ensemble. Each piece in “Shut Up and Dance" is a mini-concerto for a specific member of the Orchestre.

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