The Claudia Quintet and Eileen Myles riff where banned words are rife

As host it's the voice of poet Eileen Myles cryptically beginning 'Evidence-based' the lead-off track and title track of drummer composer John Hollenbeck and the Claudia Quintet's upcoming record out on Hollenbeck's Flexatonic Records on 3 …

Published: 21 Aug 2021. Updated: 28 days.

As host it's the voice of poet Eileen Myles cryptically beginning 'Evidence-based' the lead-off track and title track of drummer composer John Hollenbeck and the Claudia Quintet's upcoming record out on Hollenbeck's Flexatonic Records on 3 September. It may not be at all unusual any more and certainly not news that musicians make records not necessarily in the same room together but look at the different places the musicians recorded their contributions to the record: reeedist Chris Speed (incidentally a new recruit to the latest set-up of The Bad Plus) recorded his in Los Angeles; accordionist Red Wierenga so important in the early part of the tune made his in his mother-in-law's basement in a place in New Jersey and at home in Brooklyn; vibist Matt Moran laid his down in Brooklyn; bassist Drew Gress made good use of a South Blooming Grove studio; and Hollenbeck chose the Schulich School of Music at McGill in Montreal for his part.

The track titles of the new record riff on ''banned'' words, the ''Evidence'' in question can be capitalised (it's ''based'' on a fraction of Monk piece 'Evidence') or not (''evidence-based'' make the cut in a taxonomy of banned, discouraged, words in a Centers for Disease Control list that the album uses as a framework).

No one sounds quite like the Claudia Quintet not at all your usual chill-out. And the title track is a fantastic introduction to this latest work. When they play live, say like in 2013 hearing the Claudias in Belfast, they cut an unusual dash. Hollenbeck’s tunes have an intricate yet human appeal. That time the deftly looping spoken word section featured the oratory of Franklin Delano Roosevelt in a pro-welfare speech ('29th: 1936 Me Warn You’), which appeared on their Cuneiform album around at the time September, a warning from history in many ways. Is banning words another warning from yet another history and more to the point are we all ready to digest and even begin to engage with that other chill, the more insidious kind, of the censor?

John Hollenbeck photo: Bill Douthart

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Track of the week: Helen Sung, Feed the Fire, Sunnyside ****

Drawn from Quartet + first thing's first Helen Sung's fast and furious take after the introductory exploratory scene setting is delivered on Geri Allen's 'Feed the Fire' (which goes back to the 1990s on Allen's 1994 Blue Note album Twenty One with …

Published: 20 Aug 2021. Updated: 29 days.

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Drawn from Quartet + first thing's first Helen Sung's fast and furious take after the introductory exploratory scene setting is delivered on Geri Allen's 'Feed the Fire' (which goes back to the 1990s on Allen's 1994 Blue Note album Twenty One with Ron Carter and Tony Williams and later on Some Aspects of Water that Storyville released three years later) has been extraordinarily well-mastered and the zestful playing packs a considerable punch. The thing flies.

The clarity of the piano sound is so direct you'd swear it was in the room with you. Sung is special. I know that from hearing her a few times best of all in London's Soho in late-2015 when the US player was in clarinettist Oran Etkin's all-star band in the Pizza in the club's basement under Dean Street. A beautiful cadential figure from Sung at the end provided a big highlight of the evening and stays with me like it's still resounding.

Next month sees the release of all the tracks on Quartet + as a complete album on New York jazz label Sunnyside cooking with gas a lot this year with piles of fine albums already. Co-produced by mainstream swing violin star Regina Carter, the concept is a core band plus the strings of the Harlem Quartet, John Ellis is on sax, David Wong double bass and the fine erstwhile Blanchardian & Ellingian Kendrick Scott on drums. The album also sees Sung originals and arrangements of pieces by Carla Bley, Mary Lou Williams, Marian McPartland and Toshiko Akiyoshi.

Helen Sung, above. Photo: Kat Villacorta