“You’d never mistake Claudia for anyone else.”

“Sensing the tipping point where improvisation undermines a composer's intentions, or composition imprisons good improvisers, is the challenge for musicians who like giving equal weight to both – and the Claudia Quintet are frontrunners at this tricky game.”
The Guardian

“...imparts another testament to their enduring resilience and idiosyncratic representation of the jazz vernacular. (Passionately recommended....)”
All About Jazz

“Unclassifiable by any standard...The Claudia Quintet has explored the permeable boundaries between genres with single-minded dedication.”
Point Of Departure

Formed by composer / drummer / arranger John Hollenbeck in 1997, this NYC ensemble’s sound explores the edge without alienating the mainstream, proving that genre-defying music can be for everyone. Over the past decade, the group has released CDs that are critically acclaimed world wide and whose appeal extends well beyond, as well as including traditional jazz audiences. 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. In the course of the thousands of miles they have traveled together and hundreds of concerts they’ve played, the Claudia Quintet has evolved and grown, developing a dynamic live sound based on trust and spontaneity. They bring this powerful energy into the studio, where they record the old-fashioned way, live, playing as a band.


RUNE 427

Short doesn’t necessarily mean simple. Drummer-composer John Hollenbeck acrobatically explores the dichotomy between brevity and complexity on Super Petite, the eighth release by the critically-acclaimed, proudly eccentric Claudia Quintet. The oxymoronic title of the new album, captures the essence of its ten new compositions, which pack all of the wit and virtuosity that listeners have come to expect from the Claudia Quintet into a shorter time-frame.

Hollenbeck’s uncategorizable music – which bridges the worlds of modern jazz and new music in surprising and inventive ways - is realized by Claudia’s longstanding line-up. Over the course of 19 years and 8 albums, the band has forged an astounding chemistry and become expert at juggling mind-boggling dexterity with inviting emotion and spirit.

The concept of shorter works was both a personal challenge for Hollenbeck as a composer always dealing with a wealth of ideas, but also a reaction to a tendency in modern music toward the epic. “I’m feeling things in the opposite direction,” the composer explains. “When tunes are longer, there tend to be moments when not a whole lot is happening. If you have a really short tune, the whole thing has to be compelling.” 

Equally compelling, the release comes with a fat, 20 page color booklet, designed by KarlssonWilker, who have done all of the artwork for Claudia's releases, which is filled with unusual and attractive art.

Super Petite press release

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RUNE 377
John Hollenbeck • Matt Moran • Chris Speed • Red Wierenga • Drew Gress + Chris Tordini

“Rich with ambition and empathetic interplay...the Claudia Quintet doesn’t...sound like anybody else. Which is exactly what makes them worth seeking out.” — Los Angeles Times

Led by composer, drummer and three-time Grammy nominee John Hollenbeck, The Claudia Quintet have quietly but firmly and definitively recast jazz into shimmering new shapes inflected by classical minimalism, new music, progressive rock and post-rock. They are one of the most influential stylists on other musicians in cutting-edge jazz today and the sound of jazz and what jazz can be in our time has changed because of their sound and stance.

Celebrating 15 years of work together with the release of September, this NYC ensemble’s sound continues to explore the edge without alienating the mainstream, proving that genre-defying music can be for everyone.

September press release

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RUNE 327

Drew Gress • John Hollenbeck • Matt Moran • Ted Reichman • Chris Speed • Matt Mitchell • with Kurt Elling and Theo Bleckman

For their sixth album, What Is the Beautiful?, The Claudia Quintet + 1 brings together the acclaimed compositional approach of leader John Hollenbeck with two of the most important male singers in improvised music, Kurt Elling and Theo Bleckmann. Elling and Bleckmann recite and sing the poems of avant-garde/proto-beat American poet, Kenneth Patchen, an innovator in his time.

"Claudia with vocals?" Yes, Claudia with vocals, and it will probably not surprise anyone who has followed this much-loved, one-of-a-kind ensemble that that it still sounds completely like Claudia...but different! Kurt Elling, probably the most popular male jazz vocalist today, brings to these words – words which are, by turns, funny or poignant or thought-provoking – a hipster swagger somewhere between Ken Nordine and Tom Waits. Theo Bleckmann is, as always, Theo Bleckmann; one of the truly singular and distinctive singers in jazz today. Having both vocalists on board, with their radically different styles, was a brilliant move and gives What is the Beautiful? an tremendously wide sweep.

As on their previous CD, Royal Toast, the Claudia Quintet is again supplemented by a +1, in this case Philadelphia-based pianist Matt Mitchell. His virtuosity and spontaneity make him a perfect fit with the long-running core group – Hollenbeck on drums, Drew Gress on bass, Matt Moran on vibraphone, Ted Reichman on accordion, and Chris Speed on clarinet and tenor sax.

What is the Beautiful? press release

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RUNE 307
John Hollenbeck • Drew Gress • Matt Moran • Ted Reichman • Chris Speed • with Gary Versace

"Throughout the decade of the 2000s, The Claudia Quintet recorded, toured, and became one of the top five progressive jazz units in the U.S. and the world. For 2010 they continue with Royal Toast, implying elegance and a golden brown, perfectly prepared, even buttery music. ...Versace's role is that of shading or propping up these melodies, and one should listen closely to his contributions here. It's another extraordinary musical experience from the Claudia Quintet, who deserve all the high marks they receive as an innovative, thought-provoking, singularly unique contemporary ensemble." – All Music Guide

" of the most characterful small jazz groups of recent times." – The Guardian

"The references span from surf rock, to chamber jazz to hyperarticulate “acoustica” club beats, all rendered with exquisite precision and heedless abandon...there are too many moments of brilliance to list here..." – JazzTimes

"...a chamber band that has tickled the ears of adventurous listeners for a decade with its deft blend of improvised jazz solos, run-on, minimalist figures that gradually shift shape and color, and unusual instrumentation." – Downbeat

Royal Toast is the long-awaited fifth release by this wonderful and undefinable ensemble. Led by twice Grammy-nominated drummer/composer John Hollenbeck, who The Village Voice called, "...superb, technically ingenious... passionate and serious, but also playful and funny...", the band features four other versatile and acclaimed players: Drew Gress (bass), Matt Moran (vibes), Ted Reichman (accordion) and Chris Speed (tenor sax, clarinet), all of whom are bandleaders in their own right in addition to their work with Claudia. The quintet is here supplemented by pianist Gary Versace, a longtime collaborator of Hollenbeck’s. Perhaps the most surprising thing about the addition of piano to the group's now quite well known 'standard' sound is actually just how naturally it fits in! It's not a shocking thing at all to the long-time listener; the piano just becomes one more voice in the multi-musical-line stew. The addition of Versace means that half of the band is now essentially playing percussive instruments, giving Hollenbeck more opportunity than ever to follow his polyrhythmic muse; it absolutely and dinstinctly still sounds like Claudia, but now there's even more to love!

"John Hollenbeck's New York based ensemble, founded in 1997, continues to trace an original route through contemporary jazz." – The Wire

When it comes to making Royal Toast, there are lots of tasty ingredients. John Hollenbeck, the drummer-composer who leads the Claudia Quintet, blends the complexities of prog rock with the sonorities and refinement of chamber music, not to mention minimalism la Steve Reich and jazz's improvisatory spark. The resulting compositions are unpredictable, engrossing and richly detailed. In a word, Royal Toast is mind-expanding, and unless you would prefer to pass on some mind expansion, it will reward your attention many times over." – The Ottawa Citizen

Royal Toast press release

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RUNE 247
Drew Gress • John Hollenbeck • Matt Moran • Ted Reichman • Chris Speed

"This is a true ensemble from top to bottom, a sonic equivalent to a hand-woven tapestry.... Impressive." - Downbeat

"Fantastically 'new' compositions executed flawlessly, yet dangerously, by master players." - Jazzhouse

Since their founding in the late 1990s, The Claudia Quintet has walked a unique path in contemporary jazz. Unlike most jazz ensembles where the particular musicians may come and go, drummer, composer and leader John Hollenbeck always wanted Claudia to be a 'band' with a sound not only determined by the compositions and the instrumentation, but with the actual players who perform the music. This conception is why Claudia has had an immediately identifiable sound since its inception and why I am taking the time to name the other musicians in the group who are able to both play the intricate compositions that John hands them but to also improvise within and around these compositions and give them life. Drew Gress-acoustic bass, Matt Moran-vibes, Ted Reichman-accordion and Chris Speed-clarinet and tenor sax all make Claudia the fantastic band that it is. Since Cuneiform started working with Claudia on their second album in 2004, the band has met with tremendous and growing acclaim and success, both for their records and their live shows, which has pleased me immensely, as they are pursuing a completely singular path in 'jazz' music and while they completely deserve to have an audience for their singular music, it was by no means assured. An astonishing band with a huge range of emotional depth and range and with appeal far beyond strictly 'jazz' listeners. For this, their fourth album, they've released an album of dedications. My cornering John after a show in 2002 and basically badgering him about why he needed to sign with Cuneiform may be the smartest thing I've done this decade.

"They don't really sound like anyone but themselves....Brilliant." -

For press release

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RUNE 217
John Hollenbeck • Drew Gress • Matt Moran • Chris Speed

The Claudia Quintet is proof positive that the pessimists were wrong: jazz is not dead, despite being embalmed by major labels and confined by some musicians to dead ends. In the works of this sensational NY-based, 'jazz and beyond' ensemble, jazz has broken through its rigid shell and been reborn in shimmering and beautifully alluring new form. It lives and breathes in music that melds influences from classical minimalism, new music composition, and progressive and post-rock with an astonishingly fresh jazz sensibility. Whatever one wants to call their music, it has very striking original, unique and attractive qualities. This is a slowly unfolding album; group leader/drummer/composer John Hollenbeck has specifically stated that this album is "...a 'listener's record' - a record that might not make perfect sense when individual tracks are listened to randomly on one's ipod shuffle or on a writer's deadline.... In the end, despite despite cultural pressure to create an instant "hit", I had to listen to my inner voice and go for this - whatever you want to call it - (is it a concept album?) album that I hope will cater at the very least to the deep, patient listener." In addition to Hollenbeck, the band has four other superb musicians: Drew Gress (double bass), Matt Moran (vibraphone), Ted Reichman (accordion) and Chris Speed (tenor sax and clarinet). Their previous release, "I, Claudia" was a huge critical and sales success, even reaching the top 15 jazz albums played in the US, according to CMJ, a major industry guide!

"The Claudia Quintet creates a fresh, distinctive sound while it obliterates barriers between jazz, classical and progressive rock." – DownBeat

Semi-Formal press release

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RUNE 187
John Hollenbeck • Drew Gress • Matt Moran • Chris Speed • Ted Reichman

The 2nd release by this sensational 'jazz and beyond' ensemble. Their music, while clearly influenced by the jazz idiom, goes far beyond jazz, and many parts of this record have more in common with musicians such as L'Ensemble Raye, Hamster Theatre, Nimal, Von Zamla and others. This album demonstrates that "Innovative jazz does not have to be harsh, angry, loud, shrill or grating; it can be delicate, witty, ethereal and radiantly lyric, as the Claudia Quintet pointed out..." [Chicago Tribune]. Formed by composer/drummer John Hollenbeck in 1997, this NY ensemble creates music that explores the edge in a manner that captivates and enthralls novice listeners, and keeps experienced fans returning for more. I, Claudia is a highly seductive work, ripe with compelling, propulsive grooves, dynamic sensitivity, catchy melodies and telepathic improvisation. Remarkably accessible, its music can perhaps be called postjazz. As the NY Times stated recently: "...if the music were a little bit dumber, it would resemble the music of the rock band Tortoise. No disrespect to Tortoise." In addition to Hollenbeck, the band features four other versatile and acclaimed players drawn from the huge pool of talent in New York: Drew Gress (double bass), Matt Moran (vibraphone), Ted Reichman (accordion) and Chris Speed (tenor sax and clarinet).

I, Claudia press release

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For press and media: cover art and high resolution images are available below for download (click thumbnail, right-click image and select "Save As.."). Please credit the photographer (when available) and "Courtesy of Cuneiform Records". For more information, click here.

Super Petite
What is the Beautiful?
Royal Toast
I, Claudia
Scroll for more photos and art from other albums

Super Petite press release
September press release
September press quotes
What is the Beautiful? press release
What is the Beautiful? press quotes
Royal Toast press release
Royal Toast press quotes
For press release
For press quotes
Semi-Formal press release
Semi-Formal press quotes
Semi-Formal interviews and excerpts
I, Claudia press release
I, Claudia press quotes

1/1/14: Cuneiform Year in Review: 2013
4/18/13: April is Jazz Appreciation Month!
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