John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble Tonight @ Roulette

There’s no lack of flourish in the arrangements John Hollenbeck scripts for the Frankfurt Radio Big Band on his recent pair of albums, Songs I Like A Lot and Songs We Like A Lot. The pop nuggets he reimagines – “True Colors,” “Close To You” “Up Up and Away” among them – are snuggled into elaborate designs that deliver recognizable beauty even as they bet the farm on idiosyncrasy. For this celebration of the second disc’s arrival, his own Large Ensemble (a who’s who of NYC improvisers) put their own spin on the charts, with intrepid vocalists Kate McGarry and Theo Bleckmann out front riding the abstractions and balancing them with sentiment. Cyndi Lauper gets a dab of minimalism, Daft Punk the robotics they deserve; by the time Queen’s “Bicycle Race” subsides, you’ll know silliness is next to godliness. It’s on a par with the way the Fifth Dimension is whisked to the 5th dimension (in Hollenbeck‘s beautiful 20-member balloon).
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