John Hollenbeck’s journey has been one of the most remarkable in contemporary music. After receiving degrees in percussion (B.M.) and jazz composition (M.M.) from the Eastman School of Music, Hollenbeck moved to New York City in the early 1990s. He has worked with many of the world’s leading musicians in jazz (Bob Brookmeyer, Fred Hersch, Tony Malaby, the Village Vanguard Orchestra, Kenny Wheeler), world music (Pablo Ziegler) and new music (Meredith Monk).
His recording career as a leader began in the winter of 2001 with the audacious simultaneous release of three critically acclaimed CDs on CRI/Blueshift: no images, Quartet Lucy and The Claudia Quintet. His second Claudia Quintet recording, I, Claudia, appeared on Cuneiform in 2004, followed by Semi-Formal in 2005. Also in 2005, Hollenbeck was nominated for a GRAMMY Award in the category of Best Jazz Big Band CD for his Large Ensemble’s debut, A Blessing (Omnitone). His next large ensemble recording, Joys and Desires, featuring Jazz Big Band Graz and Theo Bleckmann, was released by Intuition in 2006 to critical acclaim.
Hollenbeck’s numerous commissions include the IAJE Gil Evans Fellowship and the IAJE/ASCAP Commission. He has also received commissions from the Bamberg Symphony Choir, the Windsbacher Knabenchor, Studio Percussion (Graz), the Ethos Percussion Group and the Bang on a Can All-Stars.
In 2004 and 2006, Hollenbeck was nominated for Up and Coming Jazz Musician of the Year by the Jazz Journalists Association, and in 2006 was also nominated for Composer of the Year. Down Beat magazine has recognized him as a Rising Star in the Composer, Jazz Artist, Arranger, Big Band and Jazz Group (Claudia Quintet) categories. In 2007, John won the prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship. Hollenbeck is currently a professor of drum set and improvisation at Jazz Institute Berlin (Germany).
Genre-bending, -skipping and -skirting vocalist and composer Theo Bleckmann has been a steady force in the music scene in New York for over 15 years. He has performed worldwide on some of the great stages, including Carnegie Hall’s Zankel Hall, the Sydney Opera House, L.A.’s Disney Hall, The Whitney Museum and the new Library Alexandrina in Alexandria, Egypt. The New Yorker called him a “local cult favorite,” The New York Times “excellent,” and according to Out magazine, Bleckmann is “a singer who has only recently fallen to earth.” For the past two years, Bleckmann has been voted into the small group of artists called “Cultural Elite” by New York Magazine.
A Winter & Winter recording artist, Bleckmann’s whimsical collection of showtunes, Las Vegas Rhapsody, has been described as “the most transcendent vocal album in many a moon” by Francis Davis in the Village Voice. His great range, vocally and emotionally, inspired some of today’s great composers (such as Mark Dresser, John Hollenbeck, Phil Kline, Ben Monder, Kirk Nurock and Bang on a Can’s David Lang, Michael Gordon and Julia Wolfe) to create pieces especially for him and with him – prominently, composer and multimedia artist Meredith Monk, whose core ensemble Bleckmann has been a member of since 1994. His long track record of collaborating with composer John Hollenbeck is documented in recordings and tours world-wide.
In 2005, Bleckmann was commissioned to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the German encyclopedia Brockhaus at the International book fair in Frankfurt, which he orchestrated for 31 voices in a surround-sound performance. His setting of Kenneth Goldsmith’s text Fidget for voice, piano, percussion, bass, video and three sewing machines was premiered at the Whitney Museum in 1998. He has sung with such artists as Laurie Anderson, Anthony Braxton, Steve Coleman, Dave Douglas, Philip Glass, John Hollenbeck, Sheila Jordan, Michael Tilson Thomas, John Zorn and the Bang On A Can All-stars, was a guest vocalist with the San Francisco Symphony Chorus, Estonian Radio Choir, Merce Cunningham Dance Company and Mark Morris Dance Group, and contributed his unique vocal capabilities to the soundtrack to Spielberg’s Men in Black.
His voice can be heard on over 40 recordings found on ECM, Cantaloupe, CRI, High Note, Label Bleu, Polygram, Songlines, SoulNote, Sunnyside, Tzadik, Traumton and Winter&Winter.
Since Hollenbeck first presented the band in an internet cafe on Avenue A in Manhattan in 1997, the Claudia Quintet has amazed audiences from Alabama to the Amazon. Their unique sound has inspired dancing hippie girls at a New Mexico noise festival, the avant-garde cognoscenti in the concert halls of Vienna and Sao Paolo, and a generation of young musicians worldwide.
Drew Gress is one of the world’s most in-demand bassists, currently working with John Abercrombie, Tim Berne, Uri Caine, Ravi Coltrane, Fred Hersch, Ralph Alessi, Marc Copland and many others. He has also played and/or recorded with Don Byron, Dave Douglas, Ray Anderson, Erik Friedlander, Ellery Eskelin and many more. As a composer, Gress has received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, Meet the Composer and Chamber Music America. He has released three albums as a leader: Spin and Drift (Premonition), Heyday (Soul Note) and the recent critically-acclaimed 7 Black Butterflies (Premonition).
Vibraphonist Matt Moran has a revolutionary approach to the instrument, creating new sounds and techniques, expanding the vibraphone’s sonic palette. He has performed and recorded with a diverse range of artists, including Joe Maneri, Theo Bleckmann, Mat Maneri, Nate Wooley, Saban Bajramovic, Merita Halili, Combustible Edison and Lionel Hampton. Also a percussionist, he leads the brass band Slavic Soul Party!, playing new music inspired by Balkan and American brass traditions. He has released five albums, including Sideshow (songs of Charles Ives) on the CRI label and three Slavic Soul Party! albums on the Knitting Factory and Barbès Records labels. In 2006, Moran placed in the Rising Star category for vibraphone in the Down Beat Critic’s Poll.
Born in Aroostook County, Maine, Ted Reichman’s musical explorations started on an upright piano on a bean farm. At Wesleyan University, he studied with Alvin Lucier and Anthony Braxton, who hired Reichman to play accordion when he was nineteen. Reichman went on to record eight albums with Braxton, including Duo (Leipzig 1992) and the early documents of Ghost Trance Music. After moving to New York, Reichman became involved in free improvisation (with Marc Ribot, Anthony Coleman, Eugene Chadbourne), Jewish music (David Krakauer, Roberto Rodriguez), alternative country (Sue Garner, Laura Cantrell) and rock and roll (Paul Simon, Sam Phillips, Shivaree). In the process, he founded a concert series at alt.coffee and became the original curator of Tonic. Reichman’s work as a composer includes the critically acclaimed albums Emigré (Tzadik 2003), My Ears are Bent (Skirl 2006) and the original scores to the films Rick, René and I, States of Unbelonging and The Memory Thief.
One of the leading saxophonists and clarinetists of his generation, Chris Speed has appeared on over ninety records and has been voted rising star clarinetist by Down Beat three years in a row. The legions of artists he has worked with include Jim Black, Tim Berne (Bloodcount), Uri Caine, Ben Perowsky and John Zorn. Speed is a member of Alas No Axis, The Clarinets and the recently reunited Human Feel (with Jim Black, Andrew D’Angelo and Kurt Rosenwinkel). In 2006, Speed founded Skirl Records, a new record label focusing on Brooklyn music.
Compositions by Meredith Monk © Meredith Monk Music / ASCAP