Double Blues Crossing is actually two records in one. The first is a set of five related tracks carrying the record's title, which together could easily be a soundtrack to a short movie of the story that is presented in the liner notes. The Buddy Luckett and Joe Cracklin named in the tracks are characters in the story of a mysterious death in the poor South told by Rosa Abigail to the narrator, who just might be Hemingway himself.
The music is very dramatic and creates images, as a good soundtrack should, of darkness, mystery, wet fields and black water. The music makes sparing use of Hemingway's electronic sampler, mixed with both musical and non-music sounds from the quintet of Frank Gratkowski (reeds), Wolter Wierbos (trombone), Amit Sen (cello), Kermit Driscoll (acoustic and electric bass) and Hemingway himself (drums, marimba). Somehow it manages to hint at the deep South and the Blues, without an overt sustained rhythm or exposed blue note.
"Don't Melt Away, Pts. 1 & 2" especially can be heard as some kind of bizarre New Orleans funeral march lead by the trombone, which fits the place, but it's played in anything but the correct style; and yet, somehow, it feels to be from that city, maybe from a cemetery. Then again, this might all be projection on my part.
The music can successfully be separated (admittedly with some effort) from the story and even from the track titles, leaving material which could be used for a modern ballet. The dancers would be filling in with movement the drama which is already present in the music.
The three remaining tracks, while not part of the official story, manage to stay in the mood, without ever screaming the blues or the South. "Rallier" is a kind of shout for trombone that wails over cool walking bass and subtle but propulsive drumming. "Night Town/Tent," the longest and most abstract track, is more atmospheric than anything else. "Slowly Rising" again somehow evokes the feel of the small town South with its simple string double stops, hopping rhythms and oscillating harmony.
Double Blues Crossing grabs the listener's attention and maintains its hold throughout by hinting at substance enshrouded by shadow. There are no real melodies, but collective sounds that shift and change, creating moods and impressions. In the end, it is a rewarding trip for anyone who dares drift down the river in the black of the night.
Double Blues Crossing: Buddy Luckett
Frank Gratowski: clarinet, bass clarinet, alto saxophone; Wolter Wierbos: trombone; Amit Sen: cello; Kermit Driscoll: acoustic and electric bass; Gerry Hemingway: drums, marimba, sampler.
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