Gerry Hemingway: Songs (2009)
When drummer Gerry Hemingway decides to pursue a song-based project, the only predictable outcome is that it will be unpredictable. His approach to composition includes elements of rock, electronica, minimalism and Broadway intimacy, yet can't be deemed any of these things. As well as the music, Hemingway has also penned the words. His chosen voice is Lisa Sokolov, who skirts around most of the jazz clichés, without settling fully on any other shackled forms. Each song features echoes of fast-switching styles, but without becoming a pastiche.
Hemingway chooses to surround himself with several players normally associated with the hardcore improvising world, coaxing them into repetitions and askew funkings. It also sounds as though Hemingway has occasionally sampled their blurts, transforming them into rhythmic repeats that almost take on the role of turntable scratchings. So, tenor saxophonists John Butcher and Ellery Eskelin, trumpeter Herb Robertson and trombonist Wolter Wierbos shift from abstract embellishments to bluesy expressiveness at the drop of a mute. Hemingway also has James Emery (guitars), Kermit Driscoll (basses) and Thomas Lehn (analogue synthesizer) to structure the spine of the songs.
Sokolov makes an assured glide through the material, sounding casually beatnik as she delivers Hemingway's poetic couplets. The music is active, but not overly busy, featuring tight trumpet scrawls, guitar prangs and bass tube-squeezing. Hemingway makes a surprise move by featuring his own intoned vocals on the second track, "Anton," before Sokolov returns for the rest. Hemingway casts himself amidst a field of sparse electro-beats, making a midnight meander, with eerie sax comments from Butcher.
Hemingway's songs aren't rooted in any particular decade. They aren't burdened by any set style. They don't even feature so many catchy melodies. Nevertheless, there's something very compelling, individual and mysterious lurking within these upended ditties.
Track Listing: Succotash; Anton; In Your Arms; Up In You; Hall Of Mirrors; Cheap; Out Of The Trees; Thump It; Going Down; Rain; Emperor; Time To Go.
Personnel: Gerry Hemingway: drums/sampler/voice; Lisa Sokolov: vocals; James Emery: guitars; Kermit Driscoll: acoustic/electric basses; John Butcher, Ellery Eskelin: tenor saxophones; Thomas Lehn: analogue synthesiser; Herb Robertson: trumpet; Wolter Wierbos: trombone.