Although it’s led by a drummer, the Claudia Quintet is not necessarily about groove. Percussionist/composer John Hollenbeck instead goes for odd mixed meters and a precisely detailed robotic herky-jerk that’s underlined by the sharp-angled dissonance of his melodic lines.
So don’t go looking for jazz swing, folkloric Afro-Latin dance forms, or rock backbeat. With Claudia (as opposed to his more epic Large Ensemble), Hollenbeck leavens the severity of his attack with instrumental warmth and unusual ensemble timbre: reeds (Chris Speed), accordion (Ted Reichman), vibes (Matt Moran), bass (Drew Gress), percussion — plus, on Royal Toast, frequent collaborator Gary Versace on piano.
So the marching mechanistic clatter might be broken by the full, flexible tone of Chris Speed’s bebop tenor-sax phrasing. Or the piano will comp around a soloist with spare, plunking chords while the vibes dart along in counterlines. And Hollenbeck has broken up the longer pieces with short interstitial sequences of each soloist playing against himself — not overdubs, but succinct post-production mash-ups. So, no, this isn’t body music, but you could call the tempoless reverie of “Zurn” — with clarinet, accordion, piano, bass, and vibes circling one another as brushes patter — a kind of dance.