Over the past 25 years, the lineup of drummer/percussionist Gerry Hemingway's quintet might have changed, but his central organizing concepts have remained constant. Like a working dog, specifically a shepherd, he always seems to be organizing chaos and safeguarding melody. Well, that is, when he isn't inciting the tumult.
The percussionist's fame might have come by way of his membership in the prestigious Anthony Braxton Quartet of the 1980s and '90s. But his post-Braxton work in the WHO trio, BassDrumBone, his Quartets and Quintets, solo performance, and duos with the likes of Marilyn Crispell, Ivo Perelman, John Butcher, and has elevated Hemmingway's status to master musician.
Riptide opens with the light-treading "Sumna," with Hemingway working the brushes against Driscoll's acoustic pulse and the clarinet/tenor saxophone dance of Noriega and Eskelin. With McManus plucking tight ebullient patterns, the quintet announces that these blues are not to be drawn from an atrabilious well. Like the title track suggests, each piece flows continuously into the next, as if the music, although of differing temperatures and currents, is part of one ocean of sound. The fevered pitch of the title track swaps roles, with the two horns creating the pulse while Hemingway, McManus, and Driscoll tear off chunks of notes.
From this frenzied piece the disc sails into calmer and varied seas; from the gentle, almost folkloric gliding "At Anytime" to the funked0up "Meddle Music," the quintet seems to signal that musical genres are no longer an inhibitor to creation. The quintet takes a trip to the Caribbean on "Backabacka," and dreamland with "Holler Up," where McManus sets up the sweet dance of Noriega's bass clarinet and Eskelin's tenor saxophone gambol.
The overriding feel of Riptide is one of unabated joy.
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