By Frank Alkyer | Published January 2018
John Hollenbeck’s All Can Work is an album of awe-inspiring majesty. The latest recording by the drummer, composer and arranger and his 20-piece Large Ensemble is dedicated to trumpeter Laurie Frink, who passed away in 2013 after battling cancer. It’s a fitting tribute to an artist who was a beloved member of this ensemble, a revered educator and a highly respected musician on the New York jazz scene. The title for the album comes directly from email correspondence between Hollenbeck and Frink. In press materials, Hollenbeck explained that the title track’s lyrics include words and phrases that reflect Frink’s ability to be flexible and optimistic. On this track, vocalist Theo Bleckmann sings portions of actual emails between the two musicians, and the result is a song that is heartfelt, hopeful and sometimes hilarious. The lyrics are wrapped in a Hollenbeck arrangement of grand themes and grander beauty. And that can be said for the entirety of All Can Work. The section work is amazing, the soloists sublime. The way the horns play with and against each other and the rhythm section creates a dreamy, sound- and genre-bending pulse on Hollenbeck’s arrangement of Kenny Wheeler’s “Heyoke.” Tony Malaby delivers a stunning turn on soprano saxophone while soloing on the Hollenbeck composition “Elf,” a mighty fine, Strayhorn-inspired piece. And I always love to hear Hollenbeck’s interpretation of rock songs: The final cut here is a powerhouse reading of Kraftwerk’s “The Model.” There are those who can play an instrument, and then there are artists like Hollenbeck for whom the orchestra is the instrument. Throughout this program, Hollenbeck delivers layer after layer for listeners to explore. Shimmering horns, beautifully placed punctuations and little sonic surprises abound. It’s wonderfully complex music played beautifully, with precision and abandon, by a band that has spent a good deal of time together. Somewhere, Laurie Frink is smiling.