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Dream team assemblages are fairly regular occurrences in New York City-baseed improvisatory music. With so much talent operating in such a relatively small territory, the odds of a favorite players teaming up remain strongly favorable. Such alchemy is apparent in abundance on Gerry Hemingway's new project for Clean Feed, one that builds on the standing foundation of its predecessor, Devil's Paradise, with a few perspicacious personnel changes.
Titled with whimsy, The Whimbler convenes a quartet with credentials to spare. The frontline of tenor saxophonist Ellery Eskelin and trumpeter Herb Robertson alone incites all sorts of scintillating creative music fantasies, not to mention the juggernaut formed by joining Hemingway and bassist Mark Helias as a rhythm section. This is a group staunchly oriented toward the drummer's jazz and groove-based proclivities. Helias even brings along his Squier electric to cultivate an appropriately ricocheting rubber ball tonality on tracks like heavily syncopated blues "The Current Underneath, which slots a surprise space for the leader's nimble marimba, and the title piece, another funky number that perambulates on a popping pogo stick beat. The closer "Kimkwella also depends on his fibrillating fingerings in the service of a tropical-tinged island theme.
All compositions come from Hemingway's pen and are chock-full of changeups and about-faces that demand active participation on the part of the players. Fortunately, the ensemble was able to commit the basics to collective memory on a series of concert gigs leading up to a pair of studio recording dates. Hemingway largely abstains from involving the more abstract elements of his style like bowed cymbals and scraped metal and focuses instead on crafting a tight conference of accessible voices that still leaves plenty of room for spontaneous revision and individual input. "Waitin jogs along on a rims-driven rhythm, soon augmented by the colorful splash of cymbals. Helias' bulbous fills also add a propulsive push in close collusion for the ramp up to sprinting finish.
Pieces like "Pumbum and "Curlycue carry the airy melodiousness of madrigals, horns floating breezily across porous terrain charted by bass and drums, but are just as likely to turn on a hairpin into hard-charging swing. Eskelin alternates from cutting honks to velvety flutters, calibrating cannily to the mood and needs of each piece. Robertson's brass proves just as versatile. His liquid mercury tone and quick-witted phrasing daubs and darts with just the right ratio of viscosity to bite. His exchange with Helias' arco strokes on "Rallier makes for an unexpectedly agreeable match.
Throughout this piece and others, Hemingway's sticks stamp shifting rhythms that subtlety toy with and subvert their expected trajectories alongside Helias' stalwart thrum. In his closing solo he exudes the directness and drive of a rock drummer, stoking the beat with cascading rolls. It's as if the relatively conventional, but still highly feracious and engaging structures of the compositions aren't quite capable of containing him.
Track Listing: Waitin; Rallier; The Current Underneath; Pumbum; The Whimbler; Spektiv; Curlycue; In the
Personnel: Gerry Hemingway: drums; Herb Roberston: trumpet; Ellery Eskelen: tenor saxophone; Mark
Helias: acoustic & electric bass. Recorded March 2 and June 17, 2004, Brooklyn, NY.
I love jazz because when I was a kid pop music was bland, plain, uneventful until one day I heard a tune on a juke box entitled Jump Red Jump By Tenor Saxophonist Red Prysock brother of Arthur Prysock
I love jazz because when I was a kid pop music was bland, plain, uneventful until one day I heard a tune on a juke box entitled Jump Red Jump By Tenor Saxophonist Red Prysock brother of Arthur Prysock. It was love at first sight . This was when Blues, Soul / Gospel Style Music was becoming popular amongst kids as well as hip adults and featured Ray Charles, Big Joe Turner and The Payola era DJ's such as Alan Freed. Not many people remember that Freed's Rock n Roll Band of the 1950's was The Count Basie Orchestra featuring the Guy Singer Tony Bennett (Anthony DiBenedetto) who grew up in Astoria, NYNY right next to my Home Town Jackson Heights NYNY.
I was first exposed to jazz when I heard Red Prysock, Sam The Man Taylor & groups like the Chord Cats recording of Shaboom! It made the Crew Cuts look LAME! Now Jazz, Blues, Soul, Gospel was pretty much joined at the hip back then and I learned that the tasteful Music was featured on The African American Radio Stations which led me to DJ's Like The Bruce, Jocko Henderson, Tommy Dr. Jive Smalls and eventually Symphony Sid Torin, China Valles and Len Pace. This all took place during my high school years and the following years in NYNY and South Florida. I actually flew to Copenhagen Denmark in 1961 to see Stan Getz, (One of my top 3 heroes in the Music Bird, Pres & Getz not necessarily in that order). Sadly Getz had already left town and snuck back into NYNY where he played Birdland (Undoubtedly without a cabaret card due to smack addiction.) No problem for me as I worked for Pan American Airways at the time and enjoyed a 90% Employee Discount.
I met Thelonious Monk, Stan Kenton, Warne Marsh, Lenny Tristano, Art Farmer, Benny Golson, Frank Foster, Dr. Lonnie Smith, among many others over the years.
The best show I ever attended was The Randall's Island Jazz Festival NYNY 1960. Monk & Edward Ellington Kennedy AKA Duke, starred among numerous others. I can not recall the entire Line Up but Monk brought along his Hat Collection which at the time contained I believe he told me 33 or 35 international Hats which he periodically changed often during his Solos. I have been unable to find that roster for that particular festival and since it was long ago I remember mostly Monk & Duke. Paul Gonsalvas played his legendary trademark twenty something chorus solo in between Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue which was outstanding.
The first jazz record I bought was Firstly, my Bro George was / is a Marine and he sent home his wax collection of LP's from Camp Pendleton CA before deploying to Okinawa in 1956 I think. Bird, Getz, Mulligan & Baker, Erroll Garner, Blakey's Jazz Messengers, Jazz at Newport 1956 and many more. I fell in love with Bird, Getz and Jeru & Chet for openers. Pres to my mind takes the all time Tenor Award and Budo, Piano etc.! However I digress Getz Long Island Sound and every other Getz record that I could find that was 1957 by then and I snuck in to Birdland for the First of many times before I was 18 ( Legal drinking age back then) It wasn't until just after my 18th Birthday that I was carded much to the bouncers chagrin as he recognized me as having being an established customer by then.
My advice to new listeners: Listen to the Music and keep it in the forefront not the background. A Local Band Leader whose name escapes me once said to me Jerry you can make time for the chicks later the Music is in the now and is more important than chicks ever will be. He was correct!
Next see live performances and introduce yourself to the Players most of whom will be respectful. Some, however, are unapproachable such as when I saw Miles so many times but his obvious disdain for certain fans was evident and he always walked off the stage after soloing. (Eddie Jefferson sang words to So What that so indicated this)!