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Meet Drummer/Composer John Hollenbeck on the AAJ Bulletin Board

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John Hollenbeck’s versatility as a percussionist and composer is revealed in a body of work that challenges countless boundaries. Performances with Fred Hersh, Achim Kaufmann and Bob Brookmeyer have showcased Hollenbeck's melodic and sensitive small-group jazz drumming. His unique approach to big band work is evident as a member of Bob Brookmeyer's New Art Orchestra, the BMI Orchestra, Jim McNeely’s Tentet and as a frequent guest with the Village Vanguard Orchestra. He has performed and recorded with the WDR Big Band and the Maritime Jazz Orchestra with soloists John Taylor, Kenny Wheeler and Norma Winstone. John’s rock-infused drumming can be heard on recordings with the Cuong Vu Trio with Stomu Takeishi.

Hollenbeck's performance career stretches far beyond jazz. He has performed a variety of traditional musics from around the world, including klezmer performances with David Krakauer's Klezmer Madness and Frank London (of the Klezmatics), projects in Colombia with Antonio Arnedo, in Argentina with Fernando Tarres and with Astor Piazzolla’s pianist, Pablo Ziegler, at Carnegie Hall.

As a composer, Hollenbeck combines elements of his experiences in jazz and world music. The recipient of a B.M. in Percussion (1990) and a M.M. in Jazz Composition (1991) from the Eastman School of Music, Hollenbeck has received many awards and commissions including a National Endowment grant to study composition with Bob Brookmeyer (1994) and a Meet the Composer's Grant in 1995 and 2001. He won the Jazz Composers Alliance Composition Contest in 1995 and 2002 and was awarded the 2002 IAJE Gil Evans Fellowship and 2003 IAJE/ASCAP Commission. Hollenbeck was also awarded a grant from Arts International to travel with his Claudia Quintet to Brazil in the spring of 2002.

Exceptionally creative and versatile, John continues to create a passionate new musical language based on world rhythms, lyricism, and spirituality: he composed “The Shape of Spirit", a piece for wind ensemble which was issued on the Mons label in 1998, and in 1999 composed Processional and Desiderata for wind ensemble and orator. This composition, written for and featuring the voice and trombone of Bob Brookmeyer, was released on Challenge Records in 2001. The Cloud of Unknowing, commissioned by the Bamberg Choir in Germany was released in September 2001 on the Edel Classics label along with works by J.S. Bach, Igor Stravinsky & Paul Hindemith. Hollenbeck’s most recent chamber piece Demütig Bitten, was commissioned by the Windsbachner Knabenchor (Germany) and released on December 2004 on the Rondeau label along with works by Giovanni Gabrieli, Josquin des Prez and J.S. Bach.

In January 2002, John’s IAJE Gil Evans Fellowship Commission piece, A Blessing, featuring vocalist Theo Bleckmann, was performed to critical acclaim at the IAJE Conference; and in January 2003 his IAJE/ASCAP Commission, Folkmoot, was premiered in Toronto, Canada. John composed and performed the percussion score to Meredith Monk's Magic Frequencies and her newest work, Mercy, which was released on the ECM label in October 2002.

John released three discs on the CRI jazz imprint Blueshift in the winter of 2001/2002. The album no images presents an eclectic composer’s statement featuring Ray Anderson, Dave Liebman, Ben Monder, Ellery Eskelin, the voice of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and others (October 2001). No images was voted one of “the best jazz records of 2001" by Gary Giddins of the Village Voice. Quartet Lucy offers a union of spacious, understated, ethereal, and spiritual moods which reflect the influences of Brazilian and other world music folk traditions (January 2002); and The Claudia Quintet release showcases tremendous wit, tasteful improvisation, strong melodies and equally strong grooves (January 2002). This recording was voted one of the “ten best releases of 2002" by JazzTimes magazine. In 2004, the Claudia Quintet released its second recording, I, Claudia, on Cuneiform Records. This recording received 4 stars from DownBeat Magazine. In February 2005, John has released his first large ensemble recording, A Blessing on Omnitone Records. His 2nd large ensemble recording will be released in August on Intuition Records with Jazz Big Band Graz. The Claudia Quintet will release it’s 3rd recording (2nd on Cuneiform Records) in September. John’s music is a bold attempt to combine a wealth of experience into a style that is as accessible as it is advanced.

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