THE CLAUDIA QUINTET — Royal Toast (review)

THE CLAUDIA QUINTET — Royal Toast album cover Album · 2010 · 21st Century Modern Buy this album from MMA partners
5/5 ·
SaltyJon
Royal Toast has been one of my favorite discoveries this year. Upon reading about the Claudia Quintet on Wayside Music, I was intrigued by their descriptions, so I ordered the band's latest album. What I got was a thoroughly pleasing mix of modern jazz and bits of chamber music sound. The group's core lineup has remained the same throughout the many years they've been recording, but on this album they were joined by pianist Gary Versace. He's been collaborating with Hollenbeck for quite a while now, playing with him in his Large Ensemble and other groups, and Hollenbeck has said that "what he plays is exactly what I would I be doing if I could play piano really well." This really plays to the advantage of the group, and he fits in so naturally that if I didn't know better I'd say he's been with the group for years.

The music on the album was mostly composed by Hollenbeck, and so it's all very rhythmically complex. The group manages to maintain this complexity without detracting from the listenability of the album. I really like the style of music on display here. It's both melodic and based on the various rhythmic ideas present in the different pieces. One of the most unique things about this album is the short interlude pieces "Ted vs. Ted", "Drew with Drew", "Matt On Matt", and "Chris and Chris". On these pieces, the musician in the title was asked to improvise a duet with himself, an experiment which worked out very well in my opinion. The musicians didn't even know that the pieces would be played together, and each line was recorded separately. Along with these experimental duets, the rest of the tracks are some incredible avant-jazzy compositions sure to please slightly adventurous listeners, and quite possibly beyond. It always manages to get my toes tapping along to the beat (though my feet sometimes get lost in the shuffle).

This album should have something for just about everyone, and as far as avant-jazz goes, it's really not all that "out there." This is easily one of my favorite albums from 2010, and I have no hesitation in giving it the full five stars.
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