(Cuneiform)

The Claudia Quintet – led by John Hollenbeck, who’s played with virtually everyone in the New York scene, from Meredith Monk to Rich Woodson – follows the tradition of unclassifiable Cuneiform bands which have been gracing our ears for twenty years or so; we’re talking Doctor Nerve, Birdsongs of the Mesozoic, Curlew just to name a few. Their third album, second for the Maryland label, transcends the boundaries of definition: Hollenbeck is flanked by four monster multi-instrumentalists (Drew Gress, Matt Moran, Chris Speed and Ted Reichman, each one having his own fabulous CV) in a lively, unpredictable, intelligently strange pot-pourri of virtuoso technique and fragmented nomadism, the result being a record that’s very accessible even during its most contorted moments. It’s a new generation of contemporary audio vignettes, full of useful quirky vistas for lovers of jazz, pop, rock and avantgarde in equal measure, revealing a peculiar outlook on the strangest aspects of today’s music via fanciful playing and fresh approaches. The best aspect of Claudia probably lies in their impressive balance of heart, humour and detachment; it’s no surprise then that Hollenbeck calls this “semi-serious music by musicians who only take themselves semi-seriously”.

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