Aurora Nealand, Anna Webber, Chiquita Magic, & John Hollenbeck
Just last month, a new group called GEORGE released a single song called “Proof of Concept” in which shades of jazz, soft rock, and 1970s European synthesizer music meld into an organic ecosystem, all propelled by evolutionary drums. But if the unflashy band name is unknown, the people behind it are anything but.
Soprano saxophonist and vocalist Aurora Nealand—who leads her Royal Roses elsewhere at Big Ears—is a pillar of the new traditional jazz scene in New Orleans, just as tenor saxophonist and flutist Anna Webber, a Guggenheim Award winner, is in the Brooklyn avant-garde. Their conversational interplay with keyboardist Chiquita Magic, a Colombian Canadian microtonal magician, is bound by the capacious vision and inexorable cadence of the American composer and percussionist John Hollenbeck.
Every color of the prism refracts through Hollenbeck’s music, which is shiningly flecked through the most rarefied yet humane enclaves of jazz and classical since the nineties. A frequent collaborator with Meredith Monk, whose holistic approach casts much light on Hollenbeck’s borderless practice, he has created wild hybrids of meticulously notated and freely improvised sound with The Claudia Quartet and redefined the big band with the unlimited palette and purview of his Large Ensemble.
A music professor at McGill University in Montreal, Hollenbeck seems able to write for any combination of instruments in any style, thanks to the spirit of patient authenticity that underlies his projects and his exfoliating sense of time. His mere presence in a group is enough to convey its specialness, no proof of concept required.