Multiple Hemingways

Composer, improviser, percussionist, educator, sensitive musician. I couldn’t say what definition of Gerry Hemingway is preferable. Open your ears and listen: the following ones are three great records – Tom And Gerry’s in particular.


Second edition of this assortment of recordings from a 1993 set at Ottenbrucher Banhof, Wuppertal-Elberfeld (Germany). The super group – this time it is really necessary to call it so – walks around a series of idioms with unimpeachable command informed by a temperament that stands halfway grotesquely ironic and utterly uncontaminated. The melodic awkwardness of “Slamadam” is followed by a baffling eradication of pedestrian routines from “A Night In Tunisia”, a great Ernst Reijseger soaring through innumerable multiplications of phrase fragments and instant escapades, before the whole flows into what could almost be called “free jazz rock”, trombonist Wolter Wierbos unafraid of revealing a tendency to masochistic impossibilities during his solo spots. “Buoys” is perhaps the most fascinating piece on offer, a brooding cross of chamber strings (Reijseger and Mark Dresser working wonders here) and softly talkative trombone that moves across suspenseful chiaroscuros. Wierbos and clarinettist Michael Moore exchange darts of psychic preposterousness over an incessant cello riff in “Holler Up”, whereas the leader puts the title track in eternal reiteration via circular rolling patterns needed as pretext for the rest of the gang to assemble an omnium-gatherum of glissando absurdity, frolicsome counterpoints, son-of-Lachenmann raindrops and Ayler-meet-Harth sax squeals. The finale is the fabulously swinging “More Struttin’ With Mutton”, its jokey theme sticking in the memory forever; but the bass clarinet and cello solos are also impressive, just like the entirety of Hemingway’s arrangements. (HatOLOGY)


JB on tenor and soprano sax, GH – besides drums and percussion – also using voice and sampler. The album was released in 2008, and it’s mostly excellent. In “Light Queen”, the dialogue is distinguished by an abundance of breathing room, revealing an enthusiastic aspiration to the reciprocal understanding of what the partner is expressing in order to complement the creative splinters in the best possible way. Butcher remains in the percussive side of the palette for the largest portion of the improvisation which, in general, is soft and sharp, incisively logical throughout. “Head Nickel” is a technically superior binge (pardon the definition), the saxophone as the vehicle for a strapping reverie, while “McGeist” explores the insides of the improvisational nucleus both in terms of timbre and dynamics, aggregating and disassembling parts in the space of thirty seconds. The musicians, here like everywhere else, seem to descend from the main genus of probing discordance (which is what renders the music quite piquant, thanks in part to Hemingway’s use of amusingly goofy electronic sounds). Successive sections are definable as sparingly tranquil, when not plain lyrical (if one can call Butcher’s multi-pitch intrepidness so). “No Illusion” is a mini-symphony of abraded metal and multiphonic torment that doesn’t offer a single point of orientation. The conclusive “The Good Neighbor” lets the drummer shine in no-ordinary-rhythm-if-you-pay-me uncontrollability as his actual neighbor overwhelms us with a special kind of philanthropic aggression characterized by a gazillion of all kinds of notes; it would take a week to brush them off the ground after the sparkles have ended. (Auricle)

TOM & GERRY – Kinetics

Where “Tom” is Thomas Lehn, as a matter of course on analogue synthesizer. We’re advised of listening on “high-quality audio equipment, preferably at a high volume”, but the music is so gorgeous that any decent setting should be sufficient to let us delight in the engrossingly lively shifts and diversified articulations that the duo generates. “Patina” is a cross of spacey pulse and liquefying clairvoyance typified by intelligent restraint, which prepares the listener to the innumerable timbral varieties that will follow, just like a ceremony’s preamble. The short “Verdigris” verges on the somewhat harsher characteristics of the instruments, privileging sharper frequencies in a partial disentanglement from the innermost vibration. “Mould” is maybe the first episode in which the sonic total transcends the basic musical concept, thus connecting to different kinds of reality: discerning touches, dynamic analyses aimed to a rational sharing of the reverberant surroundings, puzzling juxtapositions doing their best to prevent the audience from recognizing who plays what. The piece is splendid indeed, an exercise in self-discipline which leaves mystified – and wanting more. “Bozzetto” is a brief intermission of hissing micro-discharges and sputtering rudiments, directly throwing in the 32 minutes of “Maquette”, the record’s closure. It starts with a sensible emancipation from the commonly deduced notion of rhythm (please be aware that everything in the universe possesses its own beat – however, it’s too difficult to decode and set in sheer mathematical rationalization for a man’s delusional inanity to grasp it). Soon thereafter, the artists protract the journey through countless constellations of isolation, the only goal being “annihilation of sameness”. The exchange is wholeheartedly impressive, two instrumental sources enough to exhale fumes of interior knowledge while keeping an eye on what happens in the concreteness department, outstandingly perceptive drumming and insightful exploration of the synthetic realms totally corresponding in enlivening impetus. After long moments of (don’t laugh) cosmic expectation, the finale sees Lehn and Hemingway finally liberated, exchanging harder and harder blows to the head and body until exhaustion, probably the lone moment of actual lack of restrictions in the whole disc. Which – in case you didn’t get it yet – is a work of art that, to my understanding, has gone fairly unnoticed to date. Let’s go and change the trend. (Auricle)

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