John Butcher & Gerry Hemingway | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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John Butcher & Gerry Hemingway


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On a number of recent recordings, British saxophonist John Butcher has shown a chameleonic ability to adapt his sound to any setting. His phrasing ranges from long, hypnotic lines to jagged bursts, and his vocabulary includes puckers, clicks, smooches, pops, and cries that were never intended to come out of a horn. On The Scenic Route (Emanem) his regular trio, with violinist Phil Durrant and guitarist John Russell, indulges in lengthy excursions without losing focus or cohesion, producing thick, abstract-expressionist swooshes of sound; on Light's View (Nuscope), Butcher and pianist Georg GrŠwe engage in a series of succinct duets that are far more architectural, their intersecting lines forming complex geometric patterns. And on Secret Measures (Wobbly Rail) he actually feeds his sound to Durrant, here on electronics, to be transformed, then takes further inspiration from what he comes up with. But most relevant to Butcher's upcoming gig is Music on Seven Occasions (Meniscus), which features a wide-ranging series of duo performances, including exchanges with percussionists Gino Robair and Michael Zerang. His partner at HotHouse will be Gerry Hemingway, the New York percussionist who played for years in Anthony Braxton's quartet. Unlike Butcher, Hemingway isn't exclusively a free improviser; his skill at composition is evident on the recent Chamber Works (Tzadik), and he leads a freebop band on the rewarding Waltzes, Two-Steps, & Other Matters of the Heart (GM). But on Tom & Gerry (Erstwhile), a new improvised duo recording with German synth master Thomas Lehn, he shows off his own lightning-quick reflexes and impressive extended technique--he can wring more sound from a cymbal than most drummers can get out of an entire kit. Wednesday, 8 PM, HotHouse, 31 E. Balbo; 312-362-9707.


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