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Universal acclaim - based on 9 Critics What's this?

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  • Summary: The experimental jazz quintet led by Grammy-nominated John Hollenbeck invites Gary Versace for its fifth album.
Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 9 out of 9
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 9
  3. Negative: 0 out of 9
  1. 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.
  2. Claudia's timbres, eerie and winsome in equal measure, prove its greatest strong point. The combination of clarinet, accordion and vibraphone fashions an electric whistle and whir that squares the circle between 90s indie science frictioners Stereolab and 60s proto-proggers Soft Machine, making it clear that Claudia is a jazz group questioning the divide between genres and points in time.
  3. Structure and liberty are both so integrated into the band playbook that they don't assume any kind of opposition. That's more commonplace than it used to be too, though this group still makes it feel special.
  4. The quintet adds Gary Versace on piano, and he blends in seamlessly, sometimes as ensemble player with a perfect grasp of Hollenbeck's jolty, elastic sensibility, and elsewhere with a cool pianism that brings the sound back to more familiar jazz terrain.
  5. Short, overdubbed dialogue solos by Speed, bassist Drew Gress and vibist Matt Moran add diverting interludes, and there's plenty of dreamy humming-glass sounds and luxurious accordion sighs to balance all this fine album's industrious busyness.
  6. Frequently mining a trebly, contemplative territory, the album can initially feel somewhat monochromatic, but unexpected pleasures lie below the surface.
  7. I wouldn't mind hearing Hollenbeck use the group to explore his softer side, because the pulsing comedowns on this record are some of its most arresting moments, even though the in-betweenness makes it unique and enjoyable on its own merits.

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