The Squid's Ear Magazine

George (Hollenbeck / Webber / Nealand / Magic): Letters to George [VINYL] (Out Of Your Head Records)

Derived from the name Georgios and its dual meaning of earth and work, drummer & composer John Hollenbeck (Claudia Quintet) developed these lyrical and sometimes pop-inspired compositions, along with arrangements of Sonny Bono's "Bang Bang" and Cyril Tawney's "Grey Funnel Line", performed with Anna Weber on sax & flute, Aurora Nealand on voice, keys & sax, and Chiquita Magic on keys & voice.

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product information:

UPC: 1980004799607

Label: Out Of Your Head Records
Catalog ID: OOYH 018
Squidco Product Code: 33195

Format: LP
Condition: New
Released: 2023
Country: USA
Packaging: Cardboard Gatefold
Recorded at Planet Studio, in Montreal, Canada, on Janurary 26th, 27th and 28th, 2022, by Jacob Lacroix-Cardinal and Benjamin Pommier.


Anna Webber-tenor saxophone, flute

Aurora Nealand-voice, alto saxophone, soprano saxophone, keyboards

Chiquita Magic-keyboards, voice, piano

John Hollenbeck-drums, piano, composition

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Descriptions, Reviews, &c.

"From the Greek name Georgios, which was derived from the Greek word georgos meaning "farmer, earthworker", itself derived from the elements yn (ge) meaning "earth" and ergon meaning "work." George Washington Carver, George Clooney, George Floyd, George Wein, Georgia (the state and the country), Georgia O'Keefe, Saint George, George Saunders, George Michael, George Carlin, George Clinton, George Frideric Handel, George Orwell, Boy George, Curious George, George the magazine, etc..."-Out Of Your Head Records

"It's nearly impossible to talk about drummer, composer and bandleader John Hollenbeck without discussing his two acclaimed, long-running jazz bands: the John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble and The Claudia Quintet.

These two groups have served as his main creative outlets since the former was formed in 2005, but lately the leader desired a fresh project to take him in a different direction. Thus, in 2021 he founded the quartet GEORGE with three women who had never played together previously and recorded a single track "Proof of Concept" that convinced them that the idea was worth pursuing further. That led to the recording sessions in 2022 for the full debut, Letters to George.

Letters to George formally introduces GEORGE, led by Hollenbeck with Anna Webber on flute and tenor sax, Aurora Nealand on alto and soprano saxophones, keyboards and vocals and Chiquita Magic playing keyboards and adding more vocals.

Chiquita Magic is arguably the key addition to this band, simply because she comes from such a different place musically that she was bound to have the greatest impact on the rest of the band. Hailing from Columbia but now residing in Toronto, Canada, Magic has crafted her own unique brand of experimental, electronic pop that incorporates funk, hip-hop, EDM and cumbia, among other contemporary forms. Her inclusion in Hollenbeck's new band is a strong signal that Hollenbeck wanted to go outside of expectations and known comfort zones for his latest project.

Aurora Nealand and Anna Webber need no introduction on this site, they are veteran woodwinds aces and Nealand is a very capable vocalist to boot. Marrying these set of skills to Hollenbeck's advanced, rhythmically-charged compositional style could only produce a highly unique result, and for Letters to George, it surely does.

Hollenbeck's ability to meld complex rhythm and harmony into a catchy whole served him well with the Claudia Quintet and does so here. "Earthworker" sets the template for GEORGE for how Hollenbeck applies his tried-and-true principles to this modish sounding music. A synth bass line adds a retro-futuristic approach to the groove and though Webber and Nealand provide woodwinds improv, this music sits outside of the jazz aesthetic.

Webber and Hollenbeck engage in a lively joust for two minutes on "Clinton" before settling into a relaxed keyboard driven groove, topped off by a double layer of counter-melody saxes from Webber and Nealand. "Can You Imagine This?" sees Nealand's mostly wordless vocal going up against Webber's tenor sax and flute with sleek synth pulsations underneath.

That synth-pop sensibility Magic brings to the table really comes out for "Iceman," a smart but very danceable tune ... just see the video above for proof!

As in other Hollenbeck endeavors, having chops still matter. "Washington Carver" features Webber on flutes, sailing over Hollenbeck's signature hi-hat polyrhythms and later joined by Nealand's soprano sax. Hollenbeck's tortured drums that kick off "Floyd" serves as a fitting metaphor for the infamous death of a certain "George" whose last name is the title of this song. Webber's sax with conviction expresses that same sentiment.

Nealand's vocal performance on "Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)" captivates by how it combines with Hollenbeck to turn unusual phrasing of clever lyrics into a compelling rhythm pattern. "Grey Funnel Line" is another Nealand vocal feature, even more impressive in how in going at half tempo she still matches the backing band in building intensity, dovetailing with them right at the moment of release.

John Hollenbeck took a somewhat odd assortment of musicians and shaped them into the something truly fresh and compelling. I could be referring to the Claudia Quintet but the same is equally true of his latest endeavor GEORGE."-S. Victor Aaron, Something Else Reviews

Get additional information at Something Else!

Artist Biographies

"Reedist Anna Webber, a Brooklynite by way of British Columbia, is one of the most exciting new arrivals on the New York avant-garde jazz scene in the past couple years. Her second album, SIMPLE, demonstrates the inextricable link between her improvising and her compositions; her detail-rich writing recalls the work of elders as disparate as Tim Berne and Henry Threadgill, and her busy motion evokes a fizzy sort of exhilaration.-Peter Margasak, Chicago Reader

Anna Webber is an integral part of a new wave of the Brooklyn avant-garde jazz scene. A saxophonist and flutist who strives for the unexpected, she has furthermore consistently proven herself to be a unique and forward-thinking composer with releases such as 2014's SIMPLE (Skirl Records) and 2013's Percussive Mechanics. Binary, the follow-up to SIMPLE which features bandmates John Hollenbeck and Matt Mitchell, further establishes Webber as a compelling improvisor and composer."

-Anna Webber Website (

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"Aurora Nealand: An established bandleader, composer, performer and improviser, Aurora Nealand has become a prominent force in the New Orleans music scene since she first arrived in 2004. Combining the "formal education" - a music composition degree from Oberlin Conservatory and training at the Jacques Lecoq School of Physical Theatre in Paris - with the "informal" experience of playing music in the streets and clubs of New Orleans and throughout the northern Hemisphere, Nealand has emerged as an innovative, sensitive and daring music creator and performer.

She is most recognized for her performance on saxophones, clarinet and vocals and has been at the forefront of the revival of New Orleans Traditional Jazz amongst the younger generation of the city's musicians. After playing and learning as a sideman in established New Orleans Bands for several years, (Panorama Jazz Band, VaVaVoom, The New Orleans Moonshiners), in 2010 she formed her own Traditional Jazz band "The Royal Roses". The Royal Roses released it's first album, "A Tribute to Sydney Bechet: Live at Preservation Hall" to national acclaim and Nealand was voted as one of Downbeat Magazines top ten rising stars for soprano saxophone in 2010.

Nealand grew up in a musical family in California listening to Preservation Hall Jazz Band recordings side by side with Stravinsky, Joan Baez and the Pixies. Later, during her time at Oberlin College/Conservatory she was exposed and fell in love with the recordings of Mingus, the soundscapes of Mort Subotnik and the performances of Laurie Anderson. With a strong interest in interdisciplinary work and sound for theatre and installation, she moved to Paris to study at the Ecole du Theatre Physical Jacques Lecoq. Upon returning to the states, she bicycled cross-country collecting audio interviews and stories in rural America to be used in a series of compositions about true "American Dreams". This bicycle trip landed her in New Orleans, which has acted as her home base since 2005. In New Orleans she began playing traditional jazz, jazz manouche of Django Reinhardt, as well as Balkan/Klezmer music. She quickly became involved in the local improvisation scene as well, making frequent appearances at the Open Ears series playing her own compositions with various ensembles and artists.

In addition to leading the Royal Roses, Nealand is also the leader/frontman ofNew Orleans premier rockabilly band "Rory Danger and the Danger Dangers", and as performs frequently with her solo project, "The Monocle". She also is a member of Panorama Jazz Band and Why Are We Building Such A Big Ship. In 2010 and 2011 she appeared frequently as herself in the HBO TV series, "Treme".

Nealand has performed extensively in New Orleans at clubs, in the Jazz and Heritage Fest, FrenchQuarter Fest and Satchmo Fest. She has also performed frequently in New York City at Lincoln Center Summer Festival in NYC, the BlueNote, Knitting Factory, Barbes and has premiered original works at Symphony Space and Alice Tully Hall. Internationally she has appeared at the Istanbul Jazz Festival, London Swing Festival, Barcelona Swing Out, and has toured several times around Irealand, Sweden, Germany , France and the Balkans."

-Aurora Nealand Website (

Have a better biography or biography source? Please Contact Us so that we can update this biography.

Chiquita Magic is a Colombian / Canadian latinx artist. She produces microtonal music using synthesizers & voice. She is interested in the cross-pollination of seemingly contrasting styles (cumbia, salsa, choral music, hip-hop, jazz) with futuristic electronic textures.

-Chiquita Magic Facebook (

Have a better biography or biography source? Please Contact Us so that we can update this biography.

"John Hollenbeck is a composer of music uncategorizable beyond the fact of being always identifiably his. A conceptualist able to translate the traditions of jazz and new music into a fresh, eclectic, forward-looking language of his own invention, intellectually rewarding yet ever accessibly vibrant. A drummer and percussionist possessed of a playful versatility and a virtuosic wit. Most of all, a musical thinker - whether putting pen to paper or conjuring spontaneous sound - allergic to repetition, forever seeking to surprise himself and his audiences. [...]

Hollenbeck received degrees in percussion and jazz composition from the Eastman School of Music before moving to New York City in the early 1990s. He was profoundly shaped by the mentorship of two hugely influential artists: trombonist/arranger/composer Bob Brookmeyer and composer/choreographer Meredith Monk. His relationship with Brookmeyer reached back to the age of 14, when he attended the SUNY Binghamton Summer Jazz Workshop, and continued at Eastman, through NEA-funded composition study, and finally on the bandstand with Brookmeyer's New Art Orchestra and in the studio with Brookmeyer and trumpet great Kenny Wheeler. For Monk, Hollenbeck composed and performed the percussion scores for five of her works: "Magic Frequencies," "Mercy," "The Impermanence Project," "Songs of Ascension" and "On Behalf of Nature."

Hollenbeck's awards and honors include four Grammy nominations; the 2012 Doris Duke Performing Artist Award, the 2010 ASCAP Jazz Vanguard Award and a 2007 Guggenheim Fellowship; winning the Jazz Composers Alliance Composition Contest in 1995 and 2002; Meet the Composer's Grants in 1995 and 2001; and a Rising Star Arranger win in the 2012 and 2013 DownBeat Critics' Polls as well as in 2011 for the JHLE as Rising Star Big Band. John was a professor of Jazz Drums and Improvisation at the Jazz Institute Berlin from 2005-2016 and in 2015 joined the faculty of McGill University's Schulich School of Music."

-John Hollenbeck Website (

Have a better biography or biography source? Please Contact Us so that we can update this biography.

Track Listing:


1. Earthworker 6:05

2. Clinton 7:03

3. Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down) 3:08

4. O'keefe 4:37


1. Washington Carver 6:57

2. Can You Imagine This? 3:54

3. Iceman 3:20

4. Grey Funnel Line 5:52

Related Categories of Interest:

Vinyl Recordings
Improvised Music
Free Improvisation
Melodic and Lyrical Jazz
Song Based Music
Quartet Recordings
NY Downtown & Metropolitan Jazz/Improv
New in Improvised Music
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