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Drummer and Composer John Hollenbeck Brings His Grammy-nominated Ensemble For an Evening of Big Band Jazz

Composer, drummer, and bandleader John Hollenbeck.

Hollenbeck is one of the rare artists who has mastered the tradition of big band composition while crossing aesthetic boundaries and speaking directly to the current social landscape. His music is a mix of pure, heart-on-sleeve lyricism and rhythmic propulsion, and is an example of the power of big band jazz to express emotions well beyond swing-era clichés.

The John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble’s latest album, “All Can Work,” pays tribute to the Large Ensemble’s late trumpet player, Laurie Frink, a key force in the group and the jazz community. This third album garnered the ensemble its third Grammy nomination — its second album, “eternal interlude,” and debut release, “A Blessing,” all earned Grammy nominations for Best Jazz Large Ensemble Album. The performance by the 18-piece Large Ensemble will include selections from all three albums.

Hollenbeck is a conceptualist able to translate the traditions of jazz and new music into a fresh, eclectic, forward-looking language of his own invention that is intellectually rewarding yet accessibly vibrant. He began writing for big band when he was in college at the Eastman School of Music, and he formed the John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble in 1998. He gathered a core group of musicians he had studied with at Eastman and then selected a group of New York City musician friends and colleagues to complete the ensemble, creating a fine balance of camaraderie, integrity, and talent.

Hollenbeck’s awards and honors include five Grammy nominations, the 2012 Doris Duke Performing Artist Award, the 2010 ASCAP Jazz Vanguard Award, and a 2007 Guggenheim Fellowship.

While visiting Virginia Tech, Hollenbeck will lead a class for music composition students in the School of Performing Arts. The class will be hosted by Charles Nichols, assistant professor of composition and creative technologies.

Hollenbeck will also complete a week-long residency at Virginia Tech organized by Jason Crafton, associate professor of trumpet in the School of Performing Arts. Crafton and his colleagues from the electro-acoustic chamber group Fifth Bridge have collaborated with Hollenbeck and Henry Winter from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

This collaboration, presented by the School of Performing Arts, debuts “Colossale Sun” — a multimedia work featuring new music by Hollenbeck and images from the NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory. The performance will take place on Feb. 9 at 7:30 p.m. in the Moss Arts Center Cube and will include a short lecture by Winter, “Big Data to Big Art.”


Tickets for the John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble performance are $20-45 for general public and $10 for students and youth 18 and under. Tickets can be purchased online; at the Moss Arts Center’s box office, 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday; or by calling 540-231-5300 during box office hours.

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