On the Claudia Quintet's second latest, I, Claudia (Cuneiform) drummer and bandleader John Hollenbeck incorporates James Brown-influenced "Funky Drummer" backbeats and invigorating second-line grooves into the fabric of his not-easily-categorizable compositions. Is it ambient? Is it avant-garde? Is it minimalist? Is it Downtown? What the hell is it?
Hollenbeck's got such downtown ringers as bassist Drew Gress, clarinetist/saxophonist Chris Speed, accordionist Ted Reichman and vibist Matt Moran on board, so it's a safe bet that this provocative material will have precious little value above 14th Street in New York City-or virtually anywhere else in America, though they'll no doubt eat it up in Europe. Granted, Hollenbeck is an adventurous new-music composer and conceptualist who follows the courage of his convictions. But jazz fans looking for anything remotely swinging may want to bypass this heady, post-Steve Reich stuff.