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John Hollenbeck’s Claudia Quintet at the Earshot Jazz Festival

John Hollenbeck

Late October into early November is the high season of Seattle’s annual jazz calendar, because that is when the Earshot Jazz Festival happens. The 2003 version of the festival, the fifteenth, featured more major names than ever before, including Dave Holland and Joshua Redman and Bill Frisell and Ravi Coltrane and Keith Jarrett’s Standards Trio. But one of the brightest, freshest, most stimulating evenings at this year’s event was provided by a little-known ensemble named for a fan who abandoned them.

Drummer/composer/leader-of-record John Hollenbeck told the story of Claudia, attractive and bubbly, who, between sets at the band’s first-ever public appearance, gushed her love for their music, vowed to be there for every remaining night of the gig and disappeared forever. The fact that this band chose Claudia for its namesake and muse speaks to their droll postmodern aesthetic-a sensibility revealed in their opening number, “The Arabic Tune.”

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