246

Paul Hemmings: Letter from America

Andrey Henkin By

Sign in to view read count
Paul Hemmings: Letter from America
It is often necessary to do a cost-benefit analysis when including a "name" on a jazz recording. Will the added recognition be offset either by a lackluster performance that seems purely mercenary or a star shining that much brighter than those around them, creating unevenness?

One imagines that guitarist Paul Hemmings has made this analysis several times already over the course of his short career. His first album featured saxophonist Eric Alexander; his second was a frankly too-straight-to-be-successful live rendition of The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Capitol, 1967) and his third augments his trio with saxophone legend John Tchicai. But for Letter from America, Hemmings has produced balance in both working environment and choice of guest.

Tchicai has excelled in all situations in which he has been placed for his particular mix of talent and versatility. It may be an African background raised in Scandinavia or maybe post-bop skills directed by a free jazz mind, but he never seems out of place.

On Letter From America, Tchicai is his usual resourceful self in one of the stranger entries into his discography. Hemmings' album, as implied by the title, is an eclectic mélange of styles, ostensibly representing the cultures that exist between his native California and his adopted New York home. Reggae jostles elbows with heavy rock, modern doo-wop walks around bleak ECM landscapes, calypsos emerge from ballads. Hemmings' guitar changes accordingly with each state line crossed, ably supported by the malleable work of bassist Gaku Takanashi (on acoustic and electric of course) and drummer Adam Issadore.

It was at a CD release party at the Knitting Factory's Old Office in New York in February, 2008 that demonstrated how well Tchicai works with this band. What would at first seem an odd fit revealed that Tchicai's husky tenor sax can be equal parts Big Jay McNeely and Archie Shepp.

The show's first set presented the first few tracks of the album as is, slightly expanded but keeping some of the peripheral sounds of "Radio Free America" and "A Conversation in Central Park," as played through Hemmings' iPod. Takanashi made a more forceful impression live than he does on the album and Hemmings' solos placed him in a lineage that begins and ends with Larry Coryell, but Tchicai still refused to take over the proceedings as he so easily could. That changed only during a raucous version of Johnny Dyani's "Appear," that could have been on the album as yet another stylistic exploration.

Track Listing

Under A New Mexico Sky; Radio Free America; Venice Beach Boardwalk; The Battle Of New York City; A Conversation In Central Park; Lady Dynamite; The Pollock Galaxy; Ous Ous; Code (Re)d; Under A New Mexico Sky (Reprise).

Personnel

John Tchicai: tenor saxophone; Paul Hemmings: electric guitar, loops, effects & samples; Gaku Takanashi: upright and electric basses; Adam Issadore: drums, percussion).

Album information

Title: Letter from America | Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: Leading Tone Records

Post a comment about this album

Tags

View events near New York City
Jazz Near New York City
Events Guide | Venue Guide | Get App | More...

Shop Amazon

More

Read Free Hoops
Free Hoops
Sylvie Courvoisier Trio
Read A Walk in the Park
A Walk in the Park
Jerry Cook Quartet +
Read New Aurora
New Aurora
Michael Sarian
Read Unnavigable Tributaries
Unnavigable Tributaries
Vicente / Brice / Sanders
Read How To turn the Moon
How To turn the Moon
Angelica Sanchez & Marilyn Crispell
Read The Path
The Path
Chien Chien Lu

All About Jazz needs your support

Donate
All About Jazz & Jazz Near You were built to promote jazz music: both recorded and live events. We rely primarily on venues, festivals and musicians to promote their events through our platform. With club closures, shelter in place and an uncertain future, we've pivoted our platform to collect, promote and broadcast livestream concerts to support our jazz musician friends. This is a significant but neccesary effort that will help musicians now, and in the future. You can help offset the cost of this essential undertaking by making a donation today. In return, we'll deliver an ad-free experience (which includes hiding the bottom right video ad). Thank you.

Get more of a good thing

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories and includes your local jazz events calendar.