Claudia Quintet and the John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble plus has a list of sideman ranging from Meredith Monk to Tony Malaby to Fred Hersch and beyond.
"Songs We Like a Lot" (Sunnyside Records) is a follow-up to 2013's "Songs I Like a Lot" - both feature vocalists Kate McGarry and Theo Bleckmann plus the Frankfurt Radio Big Band who also commissioned both recordings. Gary Versace (who, as an accordionist, is an integral member of the Maria Schneider Orchestra) plays keyboards on the 2013 recording (and appears on 1 track here) while Uri Caine is at he piano and organ for the newer disc. Both recordings feature an eclectic repertoire that takes inspiration from American pop music and folk music (plus a few surprises). The album opens with lovely take on "How Can I Keep From Singing", a Christian hymn that Pete Seeger learned from folklorist Doris Plenn and is attributed to the 19th Century minister Robert Lowry. Before Ms. McGarry sings the plaintive melody, the vibraphone of guest Claus Kiesselbach creates a contemplative mood as befitting the lyrics. The mix of reeds and brass bring Aaron Copland to mind.
|photo by Bill Douthart|
"Songs We Like a Lot" is yet another triumph for John Hollenbeck. His writing for large ensembles, nurtured by his relationships with Bob Brookmeyer and Meredith Monk, stands out among contemporary composer/arrangers, alongside the work of Maria Schneider, Jim McNeely, and Michael Gibbs. This music will take several listens to begin to sink in - if you give the album time, the music will reward you time and again.
For more information, go to johnhollenbeck.com.
Here's the Jim Webb song: