The Claudia Quintet have a penchant for silly nerdish pranks. The Semi-Formal sleeve art features photos of the band decked out in dorky high school formal wear, the album features some overtly silly use of the piano accordion and their first record was called I Claudia. Oh dear.
All of this wackiness could start to grate if this New York jazz ensemble weren’ so full of accomplished players and so blessed with the ability to flit between styles, complex song structures and time signatures.
Over the course of the album the band runs through drummer John Hollenbeck’ compositions at breakneck speed, pausing only for minimal Terry Riley influenced “palate cleansers’. These segments usually feature spare chords hanging in silence. In full flight the quintet makes its way through Slavic ethno-jazz atmospheres, Tortoise style Vibraphone-laced grooves, unabashed lounge music and shronky sax meltdowns.
This whole record is so good-natured and downright accessible that it is pretty hard not to like it.