The Claudia Quintet began its performance at George Washington University's Phillips Hall Sunday with a song whose title few in the audience could pronounce. That's because drummer and band leader John Hollenbeck wrote it in an Arabic font on his computer, then promptly lost the typeface. But the quintet--Hollenbeck; Chris Speed, tenor sax and clarinet; Ted Reichman, accordion; Drew Gress, bass; Matt Moran, vibes--did remember the melody, which featured Steve Reich-like repetitive vibe lines while the other instruments wove beautiful counterpoint.
The experimental pub crawl "After a Dance or Two We Sit Down for a Pint With Gil and Tim" is merely an unwieldy song name that jokingly refers to legendary arranger Gil Evans and saxophonist Tim Berne. Though the title of "No 'D' " makes the tune seem like the perfect theme song for the Washington Wizards, the composition's lurching, heavily composed front end was nearly prog-rockian in its melodic complexity.
"Thursday, 11:13 a.m., Grey" is part of a suite about Hollenbeck's favorite day, though the mood was more Sunday: Moran began by bowing his vibes, creating haunting, ringing tones that sounded like a ghost opera as Hollenbeck shuffled his percussion pieces like a child scuffling Lincoln Logs across the floor.
The band closed with an almost drum-'n'-bass number inspired by a recent Volkswagen commercial: As the clarinet and accordion lines swooped around him, Hollenbeck played the crisp beat mostly on his high hat with snare punctuations. This time Hollenbeck could pronounce the song's foreign-language title; I, however, couldn't.