Gerry Hemingway's second release on Clean Feed changes a couple of musical partners, but it keeps that critical vibe alive. Hemingway retains tenor saxophonist Ellery Eskelin from Devil's Paradise (2003) but replaces bassist Mark Dresser with Mark Helias and swaps out Ray Anderson's trombone for Herb Robertson's trumpet.
This new quartet replaces original voices with, well, more original voices. The distinctive sounds of each musician make The Whimbler an animated session. Ellery Eskelin has developed a cult following through his Hatology recordings with Jim Black and Andrea Parkins. Trumpeter Robertson keeps his free playing close to his funny bone, always playing with a light touch in bands led by artists from Tim Berne to Satoko Fujii.
Bassist Helias shared the duty with Hemingway (along with Ray Anderson) for many years in Bass-Drum-Bone. Here he plays both acoustic and electric bass. When he plugs in, the mood shifts toward pulsed power, as on the funky title track. Helias' bass throbs waves over Eskelin and Robertson's free flights.
The eleven-minute "Curlycue walks a bit more of an intimate path, the band checking harmonies and twisting the melody around an amicable resolution. All the tracks on The Whimbler were written by Hemingway, a former Anthony Braxton sideman. He keeps things grooving throughout. The airy "Kimkwella has the feel of Mardi Gras, and the bop-bop of "Rallier gets into a heavy "Night Train beat.
Fans of Hemingway's Devil's Paradise will find much to celebrate here.