Reviews that mention Gerry Hemingway

February 26, 2021

François Houle 4

Songlines SGL 1632-2

A new configuration with old associates, Canadian clarinetist François Houle’s

Recoder is a 15 track dissertation on expanded improvisational ideas interspaced with duo excursions focused on pastel moods. Houle, who now lives in Basel, convened the quartet with American drummer Gerry Hemingway, also a Swiss expatriate; New York bassist Mark Helias, who adds second clarinet passages to the frequent brief interludes; and Vancouver guitarist Gordon Grdina, whose Houle affiliation goes back 15 years. MORE

November 6, 2020

Michael Moore Fragile Quartet

Cretan Dialogues
Ramboy #35

By Ken Waxman

A slight misnomer, multi-reedist Michael Moore’s quartet is only partially fragile. In fact an alternate title could be Two Sides of Michael Moore. For while a good portion of the CD’s 14 tracks float in a ethereal, echoing Cool Jazz mists, a few are healthy and rhythmic. Moore, a Californian who has lived in Amsterdam since the early 1980s, is a member of the ICP Orchestra and other bands as well as leading his own ensembles. The drum chair here is filled by another Yank expat, Swiss-based Gerry Hemingway, who is constantly busy with groups on both sides of the Atlantic. The other Fragiles are Dutch: bassist Clemens van der Feen, who works with both notated music and jazz groups; and pianist Harmen Fraanje, who is part of several other groups on his own. MORE

April 8, 2020

Day & Taxi

Percaso 37

Like Roger McGuinn and the Byrds, the Swiss Day &Taxi (D&T) band is defined as being made up of multi-reedist Christoph Gallio and whoever plays with him. Over its 30 year history that’s included a small platoon of musicians, and now on Devotion D&T has evolved to a trio of Gallio, veteran American drummer Gerry Hemingway and young Swiss bassist Silvan Jeger. Jeger also leads his own Pop and Jazz bands, while Hemingway, who resides in Luzern, has worked with just about everyone in the advanced music scene during those same three decades. Both are adept interpreters of the compositions of Gallio, who moves among soprano, alto and C-melody saxophones. MORE

December 13, 2019

Izumi Kimura/Barry Guy/Gerry Hemingway

Illuminated Silence
Fundacja Sluchaj FSR01/2019

Michael Formanek Very Practical Trio

Even Better

Intakt CD 335

Gabriela Friedli Trio


Leo Records CD LR 828

Miles Perkin Quartet

The Point in Question

Clean Feed CF 529 CD

Torbjörn Zetterberg & the Great Question


Corbett vs. Dempsey CvsD CD 058

Something in the Air: Double bassists Score from the Background

By Ken Waxman

Probably the most misunderstood instrument in popular music, the double bass is hard to hear when any ensemble is playing full throttle. Yet the history of jazz, at least, would be markedly different if not for the rhythmic impetus propelled by sophisticated bassists. Not only that, but starting with iconoclasts like Charles Mingus and Oscar Pettiford in the 1950s, double bassists’ talents directing groups and as composers have kept pace with their burgeoning skill in playing both arco and pizzicato. This situation has only expanded over the years and these CDs offer some fine examples. Bassists may not be the designated leaders of all of them, but each highlights the bull fiddlers’ talents as accompanists, soloists, arranger and composers. MORE

September 12, 2019

Simon Nabatov

Readings Gileya Revisited
Leo CD LR 856

Big Tent

I Am Waiting

NotTwo MW 989-2


Who Has Seen the Wind?

Songlines SGL 1629-2

Horace Tapscott/Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra/Great Voice of UGMAA

Why Don’t You Listen?

Dark Tree DT (RS) 11

Ben Goldberg

Good Day for Cloud Fishing

Pyroclastic PRO 5

Something in the Air: Adapting Poetry to Jazz and Vice Versa

By Ken Waxman

Although the sentiment conjured up by the phrase Poetry and Jazz is of scruffy beatniks intoning verse to the accompaniment of a stoned bongo player, the intersection of poetry and improvised music has a longer history. As far back as the 1920s poets like Langston Hughes integrated jazz energy into their work and subsequent interaction involved whole groups of literary and musical types, with notable instances in San Francisco, Liverpool and Vancouver up until the present day. Some of the discs here extend the idea of sounds complementing words, while others work on the more difficult task of integrating both elements. MORE

March 28, 2019


Leo Records CD LR 832


Plays X-EN

Chant Records CR 1808X0

One of the foot soldiers of Free Music, Swiss-Italian cornetist, trumpeter and flugelhornist Guy Bettini is a veteran improviser whose long-lasting participation in exploratory sounds helps propel the music forward. Comparable but not identical, these CDs show off the Berlin-based brass player in two quartet settings. A regularly constituted ensemble, XOL includes two Italians: bassist Luca Pissavini and percussionist Francesco Miccolis plus Finnish soprano saxophonist Harri Sjöström, and has toured with Peter Brötzmann as well as on its own. More ad-hoc and even more international, the band on Exodos is filled out by Italian alto saxophonist/clarinetist Fabio Martini; Swiss bassist Luca Sisera, and Luzern-based American drummer Gerry Hemingway. MORE

March 23, 2019

Samuel Blaser

Early in the Mornin’
Outthere Records OTN 626


City of Gardens

Fundacja Słuchaj FSR 08/2018

After more than a decade of establishing himself as an individual voice as improviser and composer, Swiss-born, Berlin-based trombonist Samuel Blaser is apt to turn up in an assortment of sympathetic situations as leader or associate. A reimaging of 10 traditional Blues themes, Early in the Mornin’ is a program that unites Blaser’s earthy brass drive with an American-oriented rhythm section and two American guests on a couple of tracks. A festival presentation City of Gardens has the trombonist, Finnish trumpeter Verneri Pohjola and the Polish RGG trio interpret five compositions by the trio’s bassist Maciej Garbowski. MORE

May 22, 2018

Tree Ear

Witches Butter
Clean Feed CF 438 CD


Mein Freund der Baum

Wide Ear Records WER 026

With unusual configurations making up reed/strings/percussion trios, these two cooperative bands forge unique identities while reshaping the improvisationary thicket. Each stretches the definition a bit, pressing closer to expected swing at spots or abandoning it for sequences of pure dissonance elsewhere. While conventional balanced combos like these commonly include a saxophone, a double bass and drums, both replace the bass with the guitar and emphasize the bass clarinet. MORE

December 21, 2017

Guelph Jazz Festival

September 13-17, 2017
By Ken Waxman

Striding confidentially towards its 2018 silver anniversary, this year’s Guelph Jazz Festival (GJF) was invigorated with choice concerts throughout this Ontario college town. There were artists from the United States and Europe, yet two of the notable performances were from Canadian bands. Underlying their set at the Silence arts space September 15 with processed whooshes, pulses and hums, the Montreal-based members of Jane and the Magic Banana (JMB) found that sweet spot where punk attitude, tremolo oscillations and free experimentation locked together. Consisting of guitarist Sam Shalabi, electric bassist Alexandre St-Onge and drummer Michel F. Côté, all of whom used electronic processing JMB set was characterized by quick manipulation of a continuous drone which never sacrificed narrative for effects. Two nights later at the Cooperators Hall (CH), River Run Centre the Medham quartet playing a bracing set which nearly overwhelmed with ingenuity while adhering most closely to jazz conventions. With one dozen tunes given body by steady slaps or buzzing Arco from bassist Nicolas Caloia matched by the patterning groove from drummer Isaiah Ciccarelli, these two Montrealers, plus a third, growling baritone saxophonist Jason Sharp provided the backing and in Sharp’s rippling blasts, the challenge, to Vancouver-based violinist Josh Zubot’s slick, staccato horn-like sweeps. Dazzling as he swept or plucked his strings as the rhythm section output a connective beat, the violinist replied in kind to any sonic provocation from the others. MORE

December 6, 2017

Roberto Ottaviano Quarktet

Dodicilune Dischi Ed 354

Eric Revis

Sing Me Some Cry

Clean Feed CF 428 CD

Marcelo dos Reis/Eve Risser


JACC Records 034

Tim Daisy’s Celebration Sextet

The Halfway There Suite

Relay Recordings 016

Amok Amor

We Know Not What We Do

Intakt CD 279

Something In The Air: Seven Musical Voices for the Future

By Ken Waxman

The year just ending marked one important milestone in musical history. The first so-called jazz record was issued in 1917 by the Original Dixieland Jass Band (ODJB). Obviously that musical designation, which in its century of existence has gone through as many permutations and retrenchments as so-called classical music has in many centuries, is far different then the ODJB’s primitive efforts. But jazz/improvised music continues to evolve, buttressed by new voices. Here is a group of youngish improvisers who will likely still be contributing to the shape of jazz during its 125tn anniversary – and probably for years afterwards. MORE

September 8, 2017


The Long Road
Auricle Records AUR 16/17


A Wing Dissolved in Light

NoBusiness Records NBLP 105


This is Beautiful because we are Beautiful People

ESP-Disk ESP 5011


Krakow Nights

Not Two MW-937-2

Something in the Air: New Excitement at the Guelph Jazz Festival

By Ken Waxman

After a couple of quiet years the annual Guelph Festival (GJF), September 13 to September 17, is newly energized and asserting its role as one of Canada’s most consistent showcases of adventurous music. Another reason for this year’s buzz is that besides the outstanding Canadian and American musicians consistently featured at the GJF, major European improvisers will be on hand as well. MORE

June 6, 2016

The Who

Auricle Aur 14+15

Michael Formanek Ensemble Kolossus

The Distance

ECM 2484


Cosmopolitan Greetings

Red Piano RPR 4699-4419-2

Eric Platz

Life After Life

Allos Documents 012

Florian Hoefner


Origin Records 82706

Something In The Air: Those Who Teach Can Also Play

By Ken Waxman

As shibboleths go, the hoary “those who can do, those who can’t teach,” must rank at the very top of the list. Besides libelling the majority of educators who devote themselves to the task of imparting knowledge to students, it negates the activities of those who teach and do. Here are some musicians who maintain a full-time teaching carer along with consistent gigging. MORE

July 6, 2015

Artist Feature

Miya Masaoka
By Ken Waxman

As perhaps the pre-eminent innovator on the multi-string koto, Miya Masaoka is fully committed to the present and future via her compositions, performances and improvisations. But at the same time she stays in touch with her roots, often performing in traditional gagaku or court music ensembles, and took time during a recent Japanese trip to visit a shrine associated with members of the extended Masaoka family who have been priests and Shinto singers at that location since the 15th Century. Next year as well she’ll be the recipient of a Fulbright grant that will allow her to live in Japan for three months at a time, studying koto, gagaku and Noh theatre. “I hope to write a new work or series of works based on the research there,” she says. MORE

June 6, 2015

Artist Feature

Samuel Blaser
By Ken Waxman

Swiss-born trombonist Samuel Blaser maintains strong North American ties that extend far beyond the musicians on Spring Rain (Whirlwind), his newest CD. While the disc, dedicated to Jimmy Giuffre (1921-2008) feature all-American backing from keyboardist Russ Lossing, bassist Drew Gress and drummer Gerald Cleaver, one of his frequent trans-Atlantic trips bring him to NYC this month for a series of gigs with other long-time associates such as drummer Harris Eisenstadt, bassist Michael Bates and tenor saxophonist Michael Blake – all Canadians. “It’s like a big family” says Blaser, 33. “I like to draw upon the same members in many of my bands.” MORE

April 1, 2015


Literal Lateral
SuddenlyLISTEN No #

By Ken Waxman

Adding just enough emphasis to boost this free-flowing program to an elevated plane is American drummer Gerry Hemingway. That’s because the monumental sound infrastructure already launched by the Halifax-based trio of pianist Tim Crofts, cellist Norman Adams and bassist Lukas Pearce needs only supplementary foundation work not rococo decorations. One of the most in-demand percussionists internationally, conversant in jazz, notated and free music, Hemingway arrives with the appropriate tools, knowing exactly when either earth-moving crunches or subdued tapping is appropriate. Pillars of suddenlyLISTEN, the Nova Scotia capital’s creative music hub, Cofts, Adams and Pearce have played with many non-Maritimers developing a distinctive sound. MORE

December 26, 2014

2° étage

Grey Matter
NoBusiness Records NBCD 63


.AAA Live

Creative Sources CS 255 CD


Free Music on a Summer Evening

Sporeprint 1312-01

Based upon the interaction of a brass instrument with two other – ostensibly rhythm section – instruments, these CDs validate the almost infinite diversity of modern improvisation. Individually changing the line-up by substituting a single instrument creates distinctive programs though. Crucially as well while each session is characterized by restraint – even though two feature a drummer – careful listening reveals noticeable distinctions. Grey Matter is the most Jazz-oriented of the three, while .AAA Live is the most consciously experimental. Free Music on a Summer Evening slots comfortably between the two. MORE

September 26, 2014

Assif Tsahar/Mark Dresser/Gerry Hemingway

Code Re(a)d
Hopscotch Records HOP48

Jon Irabagon

It Takes All Kinds

JazzWerkstatt JW 139

Two youngish tenor saxophonists provide their own takes on the classic sax-double bass-drums formation with these discs attaining, but not surpassing, the praxis defined by progenitors like Sonny Rollins, Albert Ayler and Joe Henderson. Very much Free Jazz rather than Free Music, each CD has eight tracks and each is splendidly performed. The main demarcation is that Jon Irabagon’s It Takes All Kinds is a saxophone tour-de-force backed by a veteran rhythm section, whereas Code Re(a)d is more of a group effort with contributions from reedist Assif Tsahar, bassist Mark Dresser and percussionist Gerry Hemingway. MORE

July 11, 2014

Diane Moser Quintet

Music for the Last Flower
Planet Arts Recordings 301325

By Ken Waxman

Almost flawlessly composed and performed, Music for the Last Flower is unjustly unknown program music, composed in 2003, which receives its long overdue recording debut. An eight-part suite inspired by James Thurber’s 1939 book, the nuanced performance highlights the similarly unjustly under-praised writing and playing skills of New Jersey-based pianist Diane Moser, an educator and music director of the Composers Big Band.

Structuring her anti-war musical fable so that the brutal noises of combat and bucolic intimations of love, peace and flowers are present, Moser never overplays the programmatic concept, ensuring that the suite makes its point through hearty helping of advanced, swinging jazz. Following a cacophonous free-for-all introduction, the dynamic theme with echoes of Sun Ra’s more restrained arrangements, is first exposed and reappears in diverse guises throughout the suite. Most impressive throughout is the invigorating work of fleet trombonist Ben Williams, another Jerseyite. On the moving “…love is reborn…” for instance when a polyphonic theme variation arrives, it’s the trombonist’s balanced tongue flutters that incites a staccato response, that soon includes sharp boppish lines from Marty Ehrlich’s alto saxophone. Meanwhile the rhythmic connections bubble underneath via Moser, bassist Mark Dresser and drummer Gerry Hemingway. Later plunger lowing from the trombone joins kinetic piano lines to attain a descriptive climax. MORE

June 9, 2014

Samuel Blaser/Benoît Delbecq/Gerry Hemingway

Fourth Landscape
Nuscope CD 1027

Samuel Blaser Consort in Motion

A Mirror to Machaut

Songlines SGL 1604-2

Making a big noise for himself – literally – is Swiss trombonist Samuel Blaser, who in the past half-decade has moved from regularly working with local players to solidifying an international profile. These two fine discs, recorded within a month of one another and both featuring expatriate American drummer Gerry Hemingway, go a long way towards explaining Blaser’s appeal. MORE

June 9, 2014

Samuel Blaser Consort in Motion

A Mirror to Machaut
Songlines SGL 1604-2

Samuel Blaser/Benoît Delbecq/Gerry Hemingway

Fourth Landscape

Nuscope CD 1027

Making a big noise for himself – literally – is Swiss trombonist Samuel Blaser, who in the past half-decade has moved from regularly working with local players to solidifying an international profile. These two fine discs, recorded within a month of one another and both featuring expatriate American drummer Gerry Hemingway, go a long way towards explaining Blaser’s appeal. MORE

May 2, 2014


12: Live at the Bimhuis
Trytone TT 559-058

Luc Houtkamp/Simon Nabatov/Martin Blume


Leo Records CD LR 716

A cross-border variation on Cecil Taylor’s trio with Sunny Murray and Jimmy Lyon or perhaps the Alexander von Schlippenbach trio with Evan Parker and Paul Lovens, pianist Simon Nabatov is the weighty centre of these band configurations. But unlike the other combos which were working groups for extended periods, exhilaration, amazement and invention are mixed here since each CD captures a first time meeting. MORE

December 3, 2013

Artist Feature:

Ivo Perelman
By Ken Waxman

“When [Brazilian director] Gustavo Galvão first asked me to do the soundtrack for his film I thought he was crazy,” confesses tenor saxophonist Ivo Perelman, 52. “I said I don’t do that kind of thing and play to cues. I only play my music the way I do.” Yet Galvão, who had made a special trip to New York precisely to get the São Paulo-born saxophonist to create music for his film finally agreed to let Perelman do it his own way with musician of his own choice. Before heading into the studio with violist Matt Maneri and pianist Matthew Ship, Perelman explained the film concept to them, knowing that different moods would emerge as they recorded their improvisations. Titled after the fact, and sequenced into eight tracks, the improvisations now make up the music for the director’s first international feature A Violent Dose of Anything. (Uma Dose Violenta de Qualquer Coisa in Portuguese). Not only is the music preserved on a CD of the same title, but it recently won an award as best original soundtrack at a prestigious Brazilian film festival. Would he do other movie projects? “Introduce me to more people like Gustavo then I’ll do more film music,” jokes Perelman. MORE

October 7, 2012

Festival Report

The Guelph Jazz Festival
By Ken Waxman

A spectre was haunting the 2012 Guelph Jazz Festival (GJF), but it was a benign spectre: the ghost of John Coltrane. The influence of Coltrane, who died in 1967, was honored in direct and indirect ways throughout the five days of the festival which takes places annually in this mid-sized college town, 100 kilometres west of Toronto.

This year’s edition (September 5 to 9), featured two live performances of Ascension, Coltrane’s free jazz masterwork from 1965, one with the original instrumentation by an 11-piece Toronto ensemble at the local arts centre; the other on the main stage of the soft-seated River Run Centre concert hall featured the Bay-area ROVA saxophone’s quartet reimaging of the work, scored for 12 musicians adding strings and electronics to the basic ensemble. MORE

September 6, 2012

Albert Beger/Gerry Hemingway

There’s Nothing Better to Do
OutNow Records ONR 007

Matthew Shipp Trio

Elastic Aspects

Thirsty Ear TH 57202.2

ROVA Saxophone Quartet

A Short History

Jazzwerkstatt JW 099


Cabin Music

Hubro CD 2515

Something in The Air: New Excitement at the Guelph Jazz Festival

By Ken Waxman

One of jazz’s watershed musical creations, John Coltrane’s 1965 performance of Ascension marked his committeemen to Free Jazz and has since served as a yardstick against which saxophone-centred large ensemble improvisations are measured. On September 7 at the River Run Centre’s main stage, one of the highpoints of this year’s Guelph Jazz Festival is a reimagining of Coltrane’s masterwork by the Bay area-based ROVA Saxophone Quartet and guests. Not only is the ensemble gutsily tackling the suite, but its arrangement take Coltrane’s all-acoustic piece for five saxes, two trumpets and rhythm section and reconfigures it so that ROVA’s four saxes, and one trumpeter interact with two drummers, two violins, electric guitar and bass plus electronic processing. MORE

January 15, 2012


The Other Parade
Clean Feed CF 223 CD


10 Pieces

Gligg Records 009

Contemporary trombonists’ command of multiphonics as well as more conventional techniques has made their playing more versatile. But it’s still a rare trombonist who is confident enough to have his as the only horn in any sort of ensemble. Two who face the challenge admirably are American Ray Anderson, one-third of the 33-year-old BassDrumBone band and German Christof Thewes, part of numerous Continental combinations. The Schiffweiler-based brass man has given himself an even tougher assignment than Anderson. For while the Yank has long been partnered by bassist Mark Helias of New York and drummer Gerry Hemingway, who now lives in Luzerne, 10 Pieces is a CD of stark improv involving Thewes and bassist Jan Oestreich from Saarbrücken. Still, surprisingly or not, both CDs come off as equal, demonstrations of trombone triumphs. MORE

September 15, 2011

Ellery Eskelin & Gerry Hemingway

Inbetween Spaces
Auricle Records AUR-11

Mark Hanslip/Javier Carmona


Babel BBV 1192

Saxophone-percussion duos have become such an accepted part of improvised music that a CD featuring that configuration has almost become a rite of passage for the musicians involved. Still, as these discs attest, there remains interesting avenues to explore in this stripped-down format.

For the past quarter century veteran American drummer Gerry Hemingway has expressed himself in a variety of configurations from big bands to solo. Someone whose saxophone duo partners have included Ivo Perleman, John Butcher and Anthony Braxton, Inbetween Spaces confirms that he obviously still figures the concept is viable. The tenor saxophonist who confirms this with him is New York’s Ellery Eskelin, whose recording career is about a decade shorter, and is most often found in trio settings, including those under his own leadership. MORE

December 9, 2010

Anthony Braxton/Gerry Hemingway

Old Dogs (2007)
Mode Avant 9/12

Peter Brötzmann Chicago Tentet +1

3 Nights in Oslo

Smalltown Superjazz STSJ197CD

Sun Ra

The Heliocentric Worlds

ESP-Disk 4062

Rivière Composers’ Pool

Summer Works 2009

Emanem 5301

Something in the Air

By Ken Waxman

Boxed sets of recorded music have long been a holiday gift. But sophisticated music fans won’t settle for slapped together “best of” collections. Boxes such as these, collecting multiple CDs for specific reasons, should impress any aware listener. MORE

March 23, 2009

Earl Howard

New World 80670-2

Making the most of a concert situation at Germany’s Donaueschingen Musiktage 2006, American composer Earl Howard uses real-time processing plus 10 multi-programs on his synthesizer to complement and amplify – metaphorically and literally – sounds created by Georg Graewe’s piano, Gerry Hemingway’s drums and Ernst Reijseger’s cello.

This non-hierarchal texture-manipulation removes the barrier between composer and performer as well as combining background and foreground. Throughout the performance, for example, the pianist’s galloping soundboard echoes are matched by shimmering and ramping synthesizer buzzes, while in other spots a stately low-frequency keyboard line can have its origin in Graewe’s or Howard’s instrument. Rhythmic granulation of the drummer’s irregular flams and cymbal top resolutions by electronics or exposing sequences of spiccato slides and sweeps that may come from either four-strings-and-polished-wood or circuitry extends this strategy. MORE

November 30, 2008


The Beautiful Enabler
Clean Feed CF 114 CD

Somewhat of a departure for bassist Mark Dresser and drummer Gerry Hemingway, this co-op band with alto saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa features probably some of the most straight-ahead playing they’ve recorded since before they teamed up as the rhythm section of the well-regarded Anthony Braxton Quartet in the mid-1980s.

One could suggest that the presence of Mahanthappa, whose past work with bands lead by bassist Hubert Dupont or pianist Vijay Iyer has been more oriented towards the contemporary mainstream players created this situation. But one shouldn’t forget that Hemingway has done his share of straight-ahead work with the likes of pianists Fred Hersch and Michel Wintsch among others, as has Dresser. Gigs in drummer Greg Bendian’s bands, work with flautist Jane Ira Bloom and other less-than-experimental gigs are part of the bassist’s c.v. MORE

September 13, 2008

Maybe Monday

Intakt CD 132

Expanding the long-running Maybe Monday (MM) trio to seven musicians – most of whom manipulate electronics as well as acoustic instruments – adds an additional layer of polyphony to the proceedings, creating distinct and unique dimensions. Still, the five instant compositions here are only memorably realized because the septet members are canny enough to place waveform pulsation into an already established context.

Anchor for these tracks is the initial trio, which has been together since 1997. Voltage expression was organically introduced to MM before this CD, due to the electric guitar adaptations from Fred Frith plus the electronics linked to Miya Masaoka’s 25-string koto. Although sopranino and tenor saxophonist Larry Ochs is the only acoustic hold-out, he has demonstrated his familiarity with electronic interface in his past orchestral works and often as a veteran member of the ROVA saxophone quartet. MORE

December 26, 2005


The Whimbler
Clean Feed CF 040CD

Double Blues Crossing
Between The Lines BTLCHR 71202

Americana roots music has been around a lot longer than when the music business decided to give it a name about a decade ago. In reality you could probably stick into that category just about any sincere jazz, blues or country music made over the past 90 years.

Thus it shouldn’t be a surprise to realize that on parts of DOUBLE BLUES CROSSING – especially the opening six-part suite that gives the CD its name – percussionist Gerry Hemingway has written a piece that’s as rootsy as anything performed by country music pioneers the Carter Family or bluesman Sleepy John Estes. In performance it’s an updating of mountain music string band sounds – or close as you get when three-fifths of the band are Europeans. MORE

November 15, 2004


Leo Records CD LR 398

Quietly and with little fanfare German multi-reedist Frank Gratkowski has become one of the go-to guys if leaders need to add animation to their bands. Now the Cologne-based musician who has enlivened bands led by British drummer Tony Oxley, Dutch pianist Michiel Braam and America drummer Gerry Hemingway -- who returns the favor here -- has put together a quartet to play nine of his own compositions.

On this impressive, more than 65½-minute outing, all hands are on deck. That means besides Hemingway and Gratkowski, who plays alto saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet and contrabass clarinet here, the band is filled out by inventive Dutch trombonist MORE

July 12, 2004


Experiencing Tosca
Winter & Winter 910 093-2

The Current Underneath
Leo CD LR 379

Two approaches to the standard jazz piano trio end up with vastly different results with only one making a major statement.

On THE CURRENT UNDERNEATH, Swiss pianist Michel Wintsch puts aside the sentimental streak that undermined earlier efforts with his Euro-American WHO Trio to create nine slices of thoughtful improvised music. Japanese pianist Masabumi Kikuchi and his two famous American sidemen in Tethered Moon, seems to have picked up all the indolent romanticism cast aside by Wintsch however, making EXPERIENCING TOSCA, a torpid and somewhat lugubrious exercise, more notable for lockstep methodology and top-flight recording sound than a range of emotions. MORE

May 31, 2004


Suite for Helen F.
Boxholder BXH 038/039

Strength, stamina and chutzpah are the first three adjectives that come to mind when analyzing saxophonist Ivo Perelman’s performance on this two CD set.

Coming on like a contestant in one of those extreme sports competitions the Brazilian tenor man not only faces off against one bassist and drummer, but also another set at the same time. Similarly his version of a double trio doesn’t involve any slackers. Individually and together, bassists Dominic Duval and Mark Dresser and percussionists Gerry Hemingway and Jay Rosen have worked with nearly every experimental reedist of repute, including Anthony Braxton, John Butcher, Mark Whitecage, Joe McPhee, Oliver Lake and Frank Gratkowski -- to name just a few. Besides Duval, Hemingway and Rosen have recorded with the saxman before. MORE

April 19, 2004


Laughing Horse Records Lhr 1011

Lisa Sokolov has her nerve.

The New York-based singer, teacher and music therapist proves on this exceptional CD that’s she’s unafraid to tackle nearly any song. Backed by a crack rhythm team she runs through a dozen selections ranging from the most obscure originals to the most commonplace standards. In the majority of cases, she manages to create singular versions that stand on their own as improv art songs.

Almost as much an actor as a vocalist, Sokolov uses her expressive voice and mannerisms to make over such hackneyed and overdone standards as “For All We Know” and “Oh, What A Beautiful Morning”, exposing their inner workings. Taken heart-breakingly slow, backed by John DiMartino busy piano playing she emphasizes the underlying sentiments of the former more than its familiar lyrics. Then with her own spare piano accompaniment, she transforms the later into a deadly serious cry of triumph, helped immeasurably by scrupulously accented syllables and vocal melisma. MORE

November 17, 2003


Strong Force
Mutable Music 17511-2

STRONG FORCE is a true American mongrel.

A through-composed piece, written by someone very much on the New music side of things, it’s still given a distinct sense of spontaneity through the contributions of improvisers, whose sympathies usually lie on the jazz side of the fence. Commissioned by The Fromm Music Foundation at Harvard University, much of the music bubbles along thanks to the individual players’ skills, as well as its creation by Sunnyside, N.Y.-based composer Earl Howard who sits in on synthesizer. In fact, STRONG FORCE’s main weakness is definitely extra-musical, with some contributions distant or muffled because of the live recording situation at New York’s Merkin Hall. MORE

November 3, 2003


Spectral Reflections
Leo Records LR 374

Straddling the fine line between what used to be called the avant garde and so-called mainstream music, German reedist Frank Gratkowski lets his quartet shine on six of his own compositions.

Multifaceted, there are enough changes in mood, tempo and time here to satisfy most fanciers of the experimental, yet enough of a swinging pulse (cf. Wynton Marsalis rules) to satisfy the most hidebound neo-con.

Many know Gratkowski, for his work in German pianist Georg

Gräwe’s different groupings and for his membership in American drummer Gerry Hemingway’s new quintet -- Hemingway returns the favor here. Also at home in many formal and ad hoc situations, the alto saxophonist and clarinetist put together his own quartet to put a personal stamp on the music -- and he’s certainly done so on this outing. MORE

July 14, 2003


Clean Feed CF006 CD

As with any empirical formula, changing one part of a musical equation can result in a completely different outcome. Compare John Coltrane’s quartet with McCoy Tyner on piano to the one with Alice Coltrane on piano for instance. Or think of how different the Modern Jazz Quartet sounded with Connie Kay instead of Kenny Clarke on drums.

Portuguese total improv ensemble, Telectu, has done something like that on this three-CD set. Together for more than 20 years Telectu’s guiding duo -- pianist Jorge Lima Barreto and guitarist Vìtor Rua -- have over the years adapted variation of electronica, minimalism, musique concrète, art rock and lounge jazz to its improv foundation, collaborating with musicians such as experimental American guitarist Elliott Sharp and French clarinetist Louis Sclavis. Recently, despite side projects in theatre works and poetry, the band has become more acoustic, especially when Rua’s self-designed 18-string guitar is put into play. British soprano saxophonist Tom Chant has been the third Telectuan since 1990. MORE

June 16, 2003


New Albion NA 118

482 Music 482-1018

Adapting the sounds of traditional Japanese music to Western sensibilities has occupied Occidental musicians from the time contact was first made in the mid-19th century. Mixing electronics, computers and acoustic instruments has been another leitmotif of the mid-20th century.

That the musicians on these CDs attempt to meld both of these concepts is noteworthy enough; that they add a dollop of free improvisation to the other ingredients ratchets up the interest factor. MORE

September 16, 2002


Open Songs
Altrisuoni AS 108

RecRec Music CD 75 EFA 05179

Swiss pianist Michel Wintsch posses a streak of romanticism that’s a mile wide and just as deep. How else would you explain the inclusion on his trio session of tunes by chansonniers Jacques Brel, Gilbert Bécaud and other Continental sentimentalists?

Sure by the time he’s finished with a tune like Bécaud’s “Et Maintenant” -- which English-speakers know as “What Now My Love” -- he’s deconstructed it into a potent improv exercise. But many times at the beginning or middle of standards or his own lush compositions, he appears to be reigning in his emotions just before he stumbles into André Gagnon or Roger Williams territory. MORE

January 15, 2002


Fire Works
Umbrella 028

Zarek 05

Zarek 02

For 4 Ears CD 1242

Electro-acoustic instruments have massively modified the improv world over the past half-decade. While some musicians have stayed clear of synthesizers, turntables, PowerBooks and other sorts of electronic manipulation, others -- especially in Europe -- have adopted these gizmos wholeheartedly. We’re now at a point where with what and how an individual creates is becoming less important than the end result. MORE

October 8, 2001


Reunion Live
Intrepid Ear IE 002

Nearly 15 years after drummer Gerry Hemingway and baritone saxophonist David Mott recorded Outerbridge Crossing, one of the percussionist's most notable early quintet sessions, the two were reunited for a concert at the 1999 Guelph (Ontario) Jazz Festival. On hand was longtime Hemingway associate bassist Mark Dresser and together the three turned out this notable disc.

Fiendishly exciting in person, laser light exposes some weaknesses that were probably masked by live performance movements. Together and separately each man has moments of glory. But on "Deep Into The Unfathomable", the almost 42-minute tour de force that makes up much of the disc, there are a few dead spots, which mostly can be attributed to Dresser. MORE

May 15, 2001


Luminous Cycles
Between the lines btl 015/EFA 10185-2

James Emery leads a valiant fight, but in the end he's done in by the acoustic guitar curse. Ever since jazzers switched over to the electric model following Charlie Christian's tenure with Benny Goodman's band in 1939-1941, the acoustic model has been little more than the electric's poor cousin. Sure, versatile soloists like Charlie Byrd and Laurindo Almeida may have concentrated on it for renditions of Brazilian music and standards, but this conservative approach was in retrospect only impressive when compared to lite-jazz, New Age or fusion followers who brandish the instrument to convey their so-called sensitive sides. MORE

March 29, 2000


Road Movie (Between The Lines btl 002/EFA 10172-2)

Swiss composer/pianist Michel Wintsch writes for theatre, opera, radio and film as well as working as a jazzman. Thus it seems that this album -- which is a literal record of a performance in Berlin in 1998 -- owes as much to theatrical "program music" as it does to freer improvisation.

Commissioned by a German bank, this session, while certainly professional, and at times even affecting, often sounds more like the results of a grant application than a unified piece of music. Are the so-called "serious" flourishes in the string writing throughout and boffo rock-style finale there to show his backers just how much more versatile he is than the average jazz pianist, you wonder? Even the way the suite is structured shouts "showcase" rather than expression: There are 12 tunes here on a CD that runs less than 52 minutes, and eight of those are less than four minutes long. ROAD MOVIE is even described as "a movie soundtrack for 10 leading roles" in the notes, causing you to wonder about extra-musical considerations.