If music reflects life, the Gerry Hemingway Quartet’s first studio release, Devil’s Paradise,
mirrors the zestful, zany part, where you run around all night with your best back-alley buddies, doing mischievous things and exchanging intimate stories. A collection of seven Hemingway originals, plus “Gentle Ben” by Mark Helias, the disc displays the talents of four exceptional musicians: Ellery Eskelin on tenor saxophone, Ray Anderson on trombone, Mark Dresser on bass, and Hemingway on drums. After ample time on the road together and a live album, it’s about time the group released this 1999 studio recording.
Several of the tunes appear on previous live discs of various situations and line-ups. Even so, the collection fits together easily, and builds from the simple rock rhythms of “Devil’s Paradise,” through the frenzied, high-kicking beats of “Full Of” and the Caribbean flair of “Tom Skwella."
The two horns often play together creating vivid harmonies against Hemingway and Dresser’s hopscotch beats. Multiple moments convey mobile visuals. “If You Like” develops to showy, bombastic unison. With the theme repeating on the horns, and Hemingway’s flashy hi-hat, it’s a number for the Radio City Rockettes. The bass plays the main character in “Johnny’s Corner Song,” as Dresser swaggers in with a six-note theme like a drunk swilling a six-pack.
Combining Anderson’s thick, rubbery, muted trombone growls with lustrous, shimmering symbols and rich bass bowing, Hemingway creates a multi-dimensional introduction to the fluttery, easy-going “Toombow.” In fact, all of the drummer’s compositions entail irresistible multi-textured phrases, that with the high sax registers, throaty trombone and thick rhythm section become more cherished with each listen.
This review originally appeared in AllAboutJazz-New York
Track Listing: 1. Devils Paradise (Hemingway) - 7:21
2. If You Like (Hemingway) - 7:18
3. Johnny's Corner Song (Hemingway) - 6:12
4. Full Off (Hemingway) - 7:13
5. Back Again Some Time (Hemingway) - 7:45
6. Toombow (Hemingway) - 9:32
7. Gentle Ben (Helias) - 5:49
8. Tom Skwella (Hemingway) - 5:14
Personnel: Ray Anderson - Trombone;
Mark Dresser - Double Bass;
Ellery Eskelin - Tenor Sax;
Gerry Hemingway - Drums.