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"Throughout the decade of the 2000s, The Claudia Quintet recorded, toured, and became one of the top five progressive jazz units in the U.S. and the world. For 2010 they continue with Royal Toast, implying elegance and a golden brown, perfectly prepared, even buttery music. ...Versace's role is that of shading or propping up these melodies, and one should listen closely to his contributions here. It's another extraordinary musical experience from the Claudia Quintet, who deserve all the high marks they receive as an innovative, thought-provoking, singularly unique contemporary ensemble."
– All Music Guide
"...one of the most characterful small jazz groups of recent times."
– The Guardian
"The references span from surf rock, to chamber jazz to hyperarticulate “acoustica” club beats, all rendered with exquisite precision and heedless abandon...there are too many moments of brilliance to list here..."
"...a chamber band that has tickled the ears of adventurous listeners for a decade with its deft blend of improvised jazz solos, run-on, minimalist figures that gradually shift shape and color, and unusual instrumentation."
"John Hollenbeck's New York based ensemble, founded in 1997, continues to trace an original route through contemporary jazz."
– The Wire
When it comes to making Royal Toast, there are lots of tasty ingredients. John Hollenbeck, the drummer-composer who leads the Claudia Quintet, blends the complexities of prog rock with the sonorities and refinement of chamber music, not to mention minimalism à la Steve Reich and jazz's improvisatory spark. The resulting compositions are unpredictable, engrossing and richly detailed. In a word, Royal Toast is mind-expanding, and unless you would prefer to pass on some mind expansion, it will reward your attention many times over."
– The Ottawa Citizen
Royal Toast is the long-awaited fifth release by this wonderful and undefinable ensemble. Led by twice Grammy-nominated drummer/composer John Hollenbeck, who The Village Voice called, "...superb, technically ingenious... passionate and serious, but also playful and funny...", the band features four other versatile and acclaimed players: Drew Gress (bass), Matt Moran (vibes), Ted Reichman (accordion) and Chris Speed (tenor sax, clarinet), all of whom are bandleaders in their own right in addition to their work with Claudia. The quintet is here supplemented by pianist Gary Versace, a longtime collaborator of Hollenbeck’s. Perhaps the most surprising thing about the addition of piano to the group's now quite well known 'standard' sound is actually just how naturally it fits in! It's not a shocking thing at all to the long-time listener; the piano just becomes one more voice in the multi-musical-line stew. The addition of Versace means that half of the band is now essentially playing percussive instruments, giving Hollenbeck more opportunity than ever to follow his polyrhythmic muse; it absolutely and dinstinctly still sounds like Claudia, but now there's even more to love!