Gerry Hemingway Quartet | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Gerry Hemingway Quartet

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GERRY HEMINGWAY QUARTET

In work as a composer and bandleader and as a drummer for figures as diverse as Anthony Braxton, Ray Anderson, and German pianist Georg GrŠwe, Gerry Hemingway has accumulated a body of work strong enough to knock down walls--the walls between composition and improvisation, pure sound and carefully articulated melody, foreground and background. Hemingway's primary vehicle is his quintet with bassist Mark Dresser (his rhythm partner in Braxton's quartet), cellist Ernst Reijseger (who worked with him in GrŠwe's trio), trombonist Wolter Wierbos, and reedist Michael Moore (who was preceded by rising star Don Byron). Charles Mingus is a huge influence on Hemingway, and although this group deliberately pulls back from the galvanizing, gospel-charged furor of Mingus's ensembles, the same multilinear aesthetic is at work in its freewheeling simultaneous soloing. One of its finest recordings, Down to the Wire (Hat Art, 1993), is actually a quartet album--Reijseger suffered a slipped disc just as the band was preparing to enter the studio. Hemingway liked the sound of that leaner configuration, and in 1997 he formed a smaller group to chase it with Dresser, trombonist Robin Eubanks, and tenor saxophonist Ellery Eskelin. As heard on last year's Johnny's Corner Song (Auricle), the new combo is certainly kin to the quintet, with a surfeit of brassy, contrapuntal improvisation and a hard-swinging energy, but Eskelin is edgier and more muscular than Moore, and Eubanks is more straightforward than Wierbos. Eubanks hasn't been working with the group lately, but in his place for the quartet's Chicago debut will be great trumpeter Paul Smoker, a brash individualist and keen melodist whose fat-toned smears and killer mute technique make him particularly qualified to sub for a trombonist. Saturday, 9 PM, HotHouse, 31 E. Balbo; 312-362-9707. PETER MARGASAK

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Ellen Fullman.

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