August 16, 2009

Playlist

Retro-Soul and Jazz, Fine, but Krautrock, Anyone?

By NATE CHINEN

John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble

The drummer and composer John Hollenbeck inhabits a world of gleaming modernity, and “Eternal Interlude” (Sunnyside), the second album featuring his Large Ensemble, reflects both the clarity and brightness of his vision. Timbre is his forte as much as rhythm: his strategies for the band often involve an autumnal rustle of woodwinds and a billowing swirl of brass. On the superb 19-minute title track he creates a gossamer shimmer of flutes, clarinets, piano and marimba; on “The Cloud” he finds use for a chorus of whistlers. There’s room for robust improvising in his music — the tenor saxophonists Tony Malaby and Ellery Eskelin both make hay on “Perseverance” — but it always feels transitional, like a means to an end. So too does Mr. Hollenbeck’s interaction with the jazz canon here, as when he beams Thelonious Monk’s “Four in One” through a complex prism, yielding something meaningfully titled “Foreign One.”