Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Artists' Quarter Review of Koplant No

Joel Vanderheyden and Koplant No (10/28):
Thirty minutes after the last notes of Figment, I found myself across the river in St. Paul, at the Artists Quarter for the local debut of Koplant No, a very young (it seemed) quintet led by native Twin Citian and now Iowa resident Joel Vanderheyden. Joel finished a doctorate in classical saxophone at the University of Iowa in Iowa City and has stayed on, leading Koplant No (he says the name comes from a bumper sticker, “Coal Plants – No!”) and recording his first CD (Complete Life) with the quintet and a few additions including veteran Iowa guitarist Steve Grismore. Koplant No plays all original music, much of it contributed by Vanderheyden, much of it integrating acoustic and electronic elements (and some vocalization) into generally melodic wholes. There’s injections of humor everywhere, particularly in the titles that are somewhat reminiscent of Bad Plus monikers, “Stubby McGhee is Somewhat Less Than Confrontational” being my favorite title. Often the music has an ECM ambience but there’s also that Midwest down-home comfort feel in the midst of the loops and pedals and tonal eccentricities. Koplant No will be on the main stage of the Iowa City Jazz Festival next summer.

Btw...we're a quartet, not a quintet.

BIG thanks to Andrea Canter for the photos and the nice review!

Read the full review HERE.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

John Hollenbeck - Eternal Interlude

Twitter and Facebook don't give me enough space to write about this piece of music. Last spring, prior to the release of this album, I met John Hollenbeck. He came to workshop some of the music that Johnson County Landmark (one of the big bands at the University of Iowa) had played the previous semester. I'm not normally interested in big band music, but Johnson County Landmark has played some of the most interesting big band music that I've ever heard and I was always glad to be a part of it. Anywho, John Hollenbeck is one of my favorite musicians, or composers, or musician-composers...whatever you want to call it. All the Claudia Quintet music is awesome and it has had a huge impact on me, so when Johnson County Landmark had the opportunity to play some of John Hollenbeck's music, I was very excited. I think some of the musicians in the band weren't exactly into it at the time but I loved it. Then again, I'm a huuuge nerd.

I met Hollenbeck the day that he came to do the workshop. He was traveling with Theo Bleckmann at the time. That night, they performed as a duo at the Sanctuary Pub in Iowa City. It was a great show. Theo Bleckmann was fantastic. After the performance, I approached Hollenbeck and sort of tried to explain to him what his music has meant to me. This is something I almost never do. Listening to certain music is a deeply emotional thing for me, so speaking with the musicians who make that music is just...weird. But he was floored that anyone outside of NYC could be that much of a fan. I responded simply by encouraging him to put out more albums, specifically albums with the Claudia Quintet.

I just listened to this album today for the first time. The John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble. The album is called The Eternal Interlude. The title track is definitely one of the more beautiful pieces of music I've heard in a long time. This track comes just shy of 20 minutes, so if you're gonna listen, relax, maybe get some coffee, take it all in. But do it, you won't be disappointed.

Btw...Real Records has plenty of copies of Complete Life by Joel Vanderheyden. :)