John Hollenbeck

Music journalist, author and sound artist Michael Rüsenberg invites jazz greats to an interesting exchange at "Speak Like A Child." The title of the series goes back to the title track of the legendary Herbie Hancock album from 1968 and is a reference to the musical primary color of the Stadtgarten. Now the popular interview series is also available as a podcast, to be heard here on this website, Spotify and iTunes.

Der Musikjournalist, Autor und Klangkünstler Michael Rüsenberg lädt Jazzgrößen bei „Speak Like A Child“ zu einem interessanten Austausch ein. Der Titel der Reihe geht zurück auf das Titelstück des legendären Herbie Hancock-Albums von 1968 und ist eine Referenz an die musikalische Grundfarbe des Stadtgartens. Jetzt gibt es die beliebte Interviewreihe auch als Podcast, zu hören hier auf dieser Website, Spotify und iTunes.

John Hollenbeck, born on 19 June 1968 in Binghamton/New York, is a drummer, arranger and composer; since 2016 he has been living in Montreal and teaching at McGill University there. He has written a lot for jazz ensembles, but his complete spectrum ranges from the Windsbacher Knaben Chor to new music for Bang On A Can or Meredith Monk.

In each case, it is music "that cannot be categorised, apart from the fact that it can always be identified with", as he aptly writes on his website. He develops it from the variation of the smallest components, from "cells".

Although (or precisely because) he has little to do with their tradition, Hollenbeck is considered an innovator of big band music. He has integrated patterns of minimal music, but would rather speak of "repetition" or "groove". His arrangements to the Beach Boys, Queen, Kraftwerk, but also Joni Mitchell or Ornette Coleman (e.g. for the Frankfurt Radio Big Band) are striking re-compositions that honour the originals by turning them upside down.

Hollenbeck is a student of the famous composer/arranger Bob Brookmeyer (1929-2001). Partly because of other Brookmeyer students who live here, Cologne was his first bridgehead in Germany. He has worked with the WDR Big Band, drummed for Florian Ross (2002), Jürgen Friedrich (2012), Hayden Chisholm and Ansgar Striepens. He has also worked with the UMO Jazz Orchestra in Finland and the Orchestre National De Jazz in Paris; three of his best albums have been with the Frankfurt Radio Big Band (hr Big Band). From 2005 -2016 he taught drums and composition at the Jazzinstitut Berlin.

The interview with John Hollenbeck took place on 11 May 2019 in the Stadtgarten concert hall, one day before his concert with the Cologne Contemporary Jazz Orchestra.
It was conducted in English.

Text: Michael Rüsenberg

„When I first came here, most of my friends, who were in Bob Brookmeyer´s band, lived here“ - on Cologne (00:00)
„You can´t really codify it (jazz), so you can´t really teach it“ - on teaching composition (00:00)
„That´s cool what you wrote, but I am hearing something else“ - on improvisation and composition (00:00)
„I got frustrated with Big Band Music. “ - Bob Brookmeyer, Jim McNeely, Maria Schneider and John Hollenbeck (00:00)
„Long-Long notes and short-long notes - but no short notes“ - learning from Bob Brookmeyer and Muhal Richard Abrams (00:00)
„I don´t practice so much. But when I do, I stop in the middle and start composing“ - the two roles of John Hollenbeck: drummer and composer (00:00)
„You can get into the guts of anything, find a cell in there - and then work with it!“ - arranging music that you don´t like (00:00)