Claudia Quintet Semi-Formal

Semi-Formal features more mathematically precise, swinging tunes from one of the most unusual bands in jazz. Starting off with the rocking "Major Nelson” — and by "rocking,” I mean to say that the most obtuse time signatures flow easily. This is followed by the supremely polyrhythmic "Drew’s Late,” which goes back and forth from groove to double time many times. A brief respite is offered by "Kord,” a series of the same chord with different pauses and colours acting like some kind of minimalist sorbet to cleanse the palate before the next complex dish. Inevitably, the Chicago comparison must be made due to the frequent rocking tempos and chamber jazz instrumentation of vibes and clarinet, but the entire affair is executed with more intense rhythmic verve than most Chicago outfits of this sort can pull off. As usual, reedsman Chris Speed is a secret weapon, creating angular melodies or tonal coloration that always adds another layer to any given song. Drummer and leader John Hollenbeck has a way of writing for vibes, bass and drum kit so that each of them trade ideas while holding down the rhythm at the same time. He also has a knack of creating songs from seemingly thin ideas, such as "Bindi Binder,” which develops a melody out of what sounds like an instrument tune-up. Another secret to this band is their lack of skronk, so Semi-Formal goes down very easy with its advanced harmonic ideas couched in an ass-kicking rhythm section. (Cuneiform)