John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble, A Blessing

A magnum opus from John Hollenbeck up there with Royal Toast. Vocalist Theo Bleckmann provides a benign serenity to the title track right at the beginning, the album bookended by ''blessings'' posited initially against the gently lapping …

Published: 30 Mar 2020. Updated: 2 years.

A magnum opus from John Hollenbeck up there with Royal Toast.

Vocalist Theo Bleckmann provides a benign serenity to the title track right at the beginning, the album bookended by ''blessings'' posited initially against the gently lapping piano-playing of Gary Versace, later with a more mystical dressing.

A who's who of well known jazz players join the drummer-composer Hollenbeck, best known for the Claudia quintet.

Conducted by JC Sanford, compositions are Hollenbeck's.

After the low profile opening 'Folkmoot' has a ritualistic uptempo minimalist bee-in-a-hive quality that completely changes the mood.

The 18-piece band never seems like a juggernaut; the more that you delve the more ''classical'' avant garde A Blessing not so much anti-swing more swing-averse becomes (I'm thinking Webern a bit on 'RAM'). For rhythmic impetus 'Weiji' provides this in abundance – oh, and a good dollop of implied anarchy too.

Hollenbeck has a panoramic sense as a composer which is one of the reasons A Blessing works so well. 'Abstinence' is very much a where-have-we-got-to track if you listen in sequence and you need patience here be warned or you might just skip this puzzler too soon; 'April in Reggae' is the most accessible and least interesting. Finally, back to where we began in terms of benediction: a very different blessing to the opening variation on this theme, Bleckmann the shaman. SG

Out in April. John Hollenbeck, photo, top: Bandcamp

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Ferdinando Romano emerges as a leader

Italian double bassist Ferdinando Romano, who has been working fairly recently with trombone great Robin Eubanks and emerges from both a classical and jazz background, has an upcoming album called Totem feat. Ralph Alessi on Losen Records out on 24 …

Published: 29 Mar 2020. Updated: 2 years.

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Italian double bassist Ferdinando Romano, who has been working fairly recently with trombone great Robin Eubanks and emerges from both a classical and jazz background, has an upcoming album called Totem feat. Ralph Alessi on Losen Records out on 24 April that rewards close listening.

Recorded last October, beautifully captured in striking clarity by Stefano Amerio, the great Italian sound engineer at his world class studio near Udine, the album is comprised of eight pieces all by the bassist (Alessi is on six of them). Romano also produced the record, his band has saxophone and trumpet in the front line and is flavoured by vibes augmenting the core piano trio rhythm section. Romano reminds me a little of Dave Holland and certainly possesses excellent technique he puts to imaginative use. Worth discovering. Check out beautifully arranged opener ‘The Gecko’ above. Totem, top.