Album Review

The Claudia Quintet with Gary Versace, 'Royal Toast'

May 17, 2010

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In the sometimes murky world of experimental jazz, New York’s Claudia Quintet stands out with a playful spirit and utterly distinctive sound that gets hips swaying and heads nodding in even the most austere music-nerd performance spaces. A not-found-elsewhere front line of accordion (Ted Reichman), clarinet (Chris Speed), and vibraphone (Matt Moran) makes for bright tones filled with folky allusions and plaintive undercurrents. The compositions of drummer-bandleader John Hollenbeck privilege rhythm, so that even the sparest passages crackle with momentum. On “Royal Toast,’’ its fifth album, the quintet adds Gary Versace on piano, and he blends in seamlessly, sometimes as ensemble player with a perfect grasp of Hollenbeck’s jolty, elastic sensibility, and elsewhere with a cool pianism that brings the sound back to more familiar jazz terrain. Brief interludes showcase each player in a solo with himself, a little studio trick Hollenbeck threw in. They act as palate cleansers between the barn-burners with post-rock tendencies (“Keramag,’’ “Royal Toast’’) and the elegiac pieces (“Ideal Standard,’’ “For Frederick Franck’’), where one picks up the scent of great lyrical composers like Duke Ellington. (Out tomorrow) SIDDHARTHA MITTER

ESSENTIAL “Ideal Standard’’