Tag Archives: Kermit Driscoll

Improjazz review by Luc Bouquet

Squid´s Ear review by Florence Wetzl

Gerry Hemingway Quintet Riptide (CF 227)
A quintet with two horns and a rhythm section is a classic jazz lineup, and drummer Gerry Hemingway has long been enamored of this traditional form. In fact, for the past twenty-six years, Hemingway has reformatted his quintet several times, with earlier members including notable musicians such as clarinetist Don Byron, trombonist Ray Anderson, and bassists Mark Dresser and Ed Schuller. The latest incarnation of his quintet features Oscar Noriega on alto sax and clarinets, Ellery Eskelin on tenor sax, Terrence McManus on guitars, and Kermit Driscoll on acoustic bass and electric bass guitar. Their new release Riptide is a joyful CD full of beautiful music, nine multi-textured compositions by Hemingway that shine bright as the sun.

A few songs deserve special mention. The title track “Riptide” is extraordinary: the song starts off with wild, rollicking energy that does in fact sound like the sea, a clattering of shells in a swirl of liquid energy. It’s an interesting arrangement where the horns provide steady accents and the guitars stretch and dance over them. All the soloists cut loose, with the saxes bending and soaring on bold, shifting runs, and the guitar and bass unfurling deep discordant chords, urgent and wild and tidal.

“Meddle Music” is a fabulously funky tune. Again it’s an interesting arrangement, with McManus keeping a steady drone under the horn’s tight front line. After the initial melody, the song breaks into a kind of abstract funk, with Hemingway and Driscoll shifting the rhythm at will. For those who enjoy the power of the electric guitar, McManus’ solo is a powerhouse; he cuts loose and dives into discordance and feedback with complete freedom.

The CD’s special gem is the tune “Backabacka.” Liner note writer Brian Morton calls the music “heterodox kwela,” referring to the South African street music known for its skiffle-like beat. The song has a spritely melody and a light, playful swing, and all the musicians play their hearts out. It’s an immensely pleasing song that radiates pure joy; this is the one to play on a rainy day when your spirit needs a boost.

In addition to the excellent music, mention must be made of the insightful liner notes by Brian Morton, who is perhaps best known for his work on the Penguin Guide to Jazz series. Here Morton shows everyone how it’s done, weaving a charming narrative that helps the listener to listen and appreciate the music at hand.

Hemingway’s quintet is certainly capable of a multitude of moods and genres, and altogether Riptide is a rich, unusual CD, a treasure of sounds and rhythms and dancing lines. And Hemingway proves once again that tradition doesn’t necessarily mean stale, witness the fresh breath he infuses into this classic jazz lineup.

Tory Collins Best of 2011 List at All About Jazz

Compiling end of the year lists is never easy. Considering the quantity of recordings issued during a year, attempting to mention every noteworthy session would result in a list of epic proportions. These few albums are a cross-section of some of the best modern jazz released in 2011, highlighting sophisticated new developments in composition and improvisation—from coast to coast.

New Releases

Taylor Ho Bynum Sextet – Apparent Distance (Firehouse 12)
Kermit Driscoll – Reveille (Leo)
FAB Trio – History of Jazz in Reverse (TUM)
Vinny Golia Octet – Music for Baritone Saxophone (Nine Winds)
Rich Halley Quartet – Requiem For A Pit Viper (Pine Eagle)
Joel Harrison String Choir – The Music of Paul Motian (Sunnyside)
Gerry Hemingway Quintet – Riptide (Clean Feed)
Jason Kao Hwang Edge – Crossroads Unseen (Euonymus)
Darius Jones Trio – Big Gurl (Smell My Dream) (AUM Fidelity)
Nicole Mitchell – Awakening (Delmark)
Ivo Perelman Quartet – The Hour of the Star (Leo)
David S. Ware, et al. – Planetary Unknown (AUM Fidelity)

Paris Transatlantic review by Michael Rosenstein

Gerry Hemingway Quintet – RIPTIDE (CF 227)
From the mid 80s through the mid 90s, Gerry Hemingway put out a series of seminal recordings, melding the collective strategies he had developed as part of Anthony Braxton’s quartet with the sense of loose-limbed free swing honed with players like Ray Anderson, Mark Helias, George Lewis, Wadada Leo Smith, and other members of the burgeoning New Haven scene in the late 70s. Starting with the long out-of-print Outerbridge Crossing and on through a series of releases on Hat Art, Random Acoustics, and GM Recordings, Hemingway built a distinctive approach to small-group composition, making use of captivating metrical layering, snaking melodic threads, and plenty of room for collective improvisation. Core to that concept was a stable band with Michael Moore, Wolter Wierbos, Ernst Reijseger, and Mark Dresser. Since then, Hemingway’s pulled together various bands with musicians like Ellery Eskelin, Herb Robertson, Frank Gratkowski, and Mark Helias; while all have had their high-points, none have quite gelled like earlier recordings. With this newest ensemble, Hemingway has once again found that group alignment. Oscar Noriega (on alto sax, clarinet, and bass clarinet) is paired with Eskelin’s tenor, and Kermit Driscoll is on board playing acoustic and electric bass; but the big change is the inclusion of guitarist Terrence McManus, whose contributions move from gentle washes to spiky, overdriven skronk. The group attacks the leader’s themes, moving from lush voicings to angular counterpoint, collectively pushing an elastic approach to the pieces’ harmonic and rhythmic structures. There’s a song-like quality to Hemingway’s writing and that often comes to the fore, as on “Gitar”, which uses percolating cross-rhythms across a backbeat to support the reed players’ arcing lines, until things open up for a driving guitar solo full of cutting distortion. There’s also a marked nod to kwela groove throughout, on “At Anytime”, “Holler Up”, and “Backabacka”. The recording is meticulously paced, the pieces seguing into each other in suite-like fashion, with a perfect balance between collective improvisations and thoughtfully-wrought solos. Let’s hope Hemingway can keep this crew together for a while.

Gapplegate Music review by Grego Edwards

Gerry Hemingway Quintet – Riptide (CF 227)
Gerry Hemingway has been deftly mixing it up on drums with some of the most accomplished new jazz artists for years. He has a new album out with his quintet, Riptide (Clean Feed 227), and it shows how he is a jazz composer and bandleader of note as well. First, the quintet itself: along with Gerry on drums are a formidable two-reed tandem of Oscar Noriega and Ellery Eskelin, the electric guitar smarts of Terrence McManus, and the acoustic and electric bass of Kermit Driscoll.

It’s a date filled with good improvisations, sometimes collective with horns and guitar taking the front line, sometimes individual. The compositions are excellent frameworks for the band, devoid of cliche. There is some space in the music for Kermit and Gerry’s good feel playing to come through as well.

If you want some idea what the music sounds like. . . it has the long in-and-out group oriented development of DeJohnette’s classic New Direction days and some of Tim Berne’s ensembles at their best. The 13 minute “Gitar” and its segue into “At Aytime” is a good place to hear the fully stretched and limber group going at it for a long loose straight-time midtempo feel that turns to swingtime towards the end. This is just an example of the ensemble’s strengths: they listen to one another and compliment what is going on while articulating the compositional elements along the way. There’s a spacey balland and by the time you get to “Meddle Music” things are into a free rock groove that has some nicely out McManus guitar work. “Backabacka” combines free ska with minimalistic repetition in quite interesting ways.

Well that’s enough of the highlights to give you an idea. Strong music in the in-and-out zone, fully contemporary, that’s Riptide for you. There’s enough electricity from McManus’ guitar and Kermit’s bass guitar in some segments to break up the acoustic qualities that predominate and set them off.

It is a fascinating and fun ride. Gerry Hemingway comes through as a bandleader and the band comes through as a band. What more? Hear this one, most definitely.

All About Jazz Italy review by Luca Canini

Gerry Hemingway – Riptide (CF 227)
Valutazione: 4 stelle
Ventiquattro anni di vita, nove dischi all’attivo, diciotto musicisti coinvolti nel progetto: da Michael Moore a Don Byron, da Mark Dresser a Walter Wierbos, passando per Ray Anderson, Frank Gratkowski, Ernst Reijseger e Palle Danielsson. Ne ha fatta di strada il quintetto di Gerry Hemingway dal 1987, anno in cui Outerbridge Crossing, uscito per la Sound Aspects, segnò l’esordio discografico dell’allora neonata formazione.

Ne ha fatta di strada e ne ha scritte di pagine indimenticabili nel grande libro del jazz contemporaneo, tracciando una parabola artistica all’insegna della pluralità di soluzioni e della varietà di esiti, eppure sorretta da un’innegabile coerenza, da un senso logico dello sviluppo che fa di ogni capitolo della storia della band un ulteriore passo in avanti lungo il medesimo percorso di ricerca.

Riptide, pubblicato dalla Clean Feed, riparte da dove il precedente Double Blues Crossing, edito dalla Between the Lines nel 2005, si era fermato. E lo fa proponendo un paio di novità sostanziose per quel che riguarda la line-up. Fuori il trombone e il violoncello, che fin dalla prima delle cinque edizioni della band erano sempre stati presenti, dentro i clarinetti di Oscar Noriega e le chitarre del fido Terrence McManus, scoperto di recente grazie all’ottimo Below the Surface of. Inutile rimarcare che dal punto di vista timbrico gli avvicendamenti pesano: i clarinetti felpati di Noriega si insinuano furbescamente nelle trame della musica, alleggerendo il peso specifico del sound, mentre le chitarre, e l’effettistica, di McManus garantiscono una tavolozza di colori più che mai variopinta.

E però la coerenza di cui si parlava qualche riga sopra non viene messa in discussione. Il filo rosso che lega Riptide al passato c’è ed emerge dal consueto gusto per gli intrecci, dalla passione sfrenata per i contrappunti, da quel senso tutto hemingwayano del ritmo e della pulsazione come concetti relativi, elastici. L’iniziale “Summa” è illuminante in tal senso: al di sopra del beat elegantissimo del batterista si intersecano gli altri quattro strumenti, con il sax di Eskelin che, battuta dopo battuta, emerge e prende il sopravvento. Il gioco di incastri è discreto e carezzevole, ma provando a ripetere l’ascolto concentrandosi su una sola voce per volta, ci si accorge di quanto complicato sia lo sviluppo del brano. Stesso discorso per la nevrotica “Riptide,” che vive dell’opposizione tra due linee: quella zigzagante e incalzante enunciata dai fiati, e quella marziale scandita dalla chitarra, con le spalle coperte dal basso elettrico e dalla batteria.

Ripescati e riletti “Gitar” e “Holler Up”: il primo da Waltzes, Two-Steps & Other Matters of Head del ’99, il secondo da Demon Chaser del ’93. Particolarmente pimpante e riuscita “Backabacka,” composizione che, a proposito di continuità, ci ricorda la passione mai sopita di Hemingway per il kwela sudafricano; passione che emerge più velata e suadente che mai in “At Anytime,” mentre “Chicken Blood” e “Meddle Music” ci suggeriscono che, in fondo, siamo sempre a New York.

Burning Ambulance review by Phil Freeman

Two CDs Featuring Ellery Eskelin
Saxophonist Ellery Eskelin‘s been around forever and has made about six thousand albums, many as part of a trio with keyboardist Andrea Parkins and drummer Jim Black, though he’s worked with lots of other Downtown New York folks (Joey Baron, Marc Ribot, Bobby Previte) and tons of other people—too many to list here, frankly. These two albums are very different from each other, yet his voice cuts through at all times, recognizable and welcome. He’s got some fuzziness around the edges of his notes, allowing him to get romantic when he wants to, but he can blow up a post-Ayler storm when he feels like it, too.

Gerry Hemingway Quintet – Riptide (CF 227)
The Gerry Hemingway Quintet features a two-horn front line (Eskelin on tenor, and Oscar Noriega on alto sax, clarinet, and/or bass clarinet), electric guitarist Terrence McManus, and bassist Kermit Driscoll switching between upright and electric, plus Hemingway in the back, hammering away. He’s a forceful drummer, opening Riptide‘s title track with a slowly building avalanche that would make most grindcore players flex their wrists in wincing sympathy, and caroming the band off the walls throughout the rest of the track with a clattering barrage of snare and stomping kick, as Eskelin blats and skronks his way through a solo that would have had ‘em pounding the bar at the old Knitting Factory. On “Gitar,” Hemingway plays fuzzy harmonica, and the reed players join him, letting notes slowly ooze from the bells of their instruments as Driscoll bows ominous, cello-like lines. It’s a nicely atmospheric piece, a break from some of the more active music being played throughout the majority of Riptide. Overall, this is a Downtown-friendly album – it doesn’t swing particularly hard, and some of the melodies tootle along in a klezmer-ish fashion, but there’s groove, too, and Hemingway and Driscoll are a rhythm team, not just two dudes who happen to be playing in the same room at the same time. Best of all, it’s got an emphatic insistence that’s more than welcome in the current era of horn players whose solos never seem to resolve – they just drift to a halt.

Harris Eisenstadt – September Trio (CF 229)
Eskelin shows his romantic side on another drummer-led disc, Harris Eisenstadt‘s September Trio, where the two men are joined by pianist Angelica Sanchez. It’s a moody disc of slow-burning ballads, titled “September 1″ through “September 7.” There are a few eruptions—on the fourth and sixth tracks, the band begins to fragment the music into jagged abstraction, and they get quite loud on the two-minute “September 7″—but generally speaking, it’s a subdued session, befitting the month it’s named after. Eisenstadt is a much less assertive player than Hemingway, working with brushes a lot, and Sanchez never tries to drive the music in one direction or another, preferring to ornament and filigree rather than going all in with the left hand.

Either one of these CDs would make an excellent “blind” listen—you don’t have to be a devotee of Eskelin, Hemingway, Eisenstadt, or anyone else featured to enjoy this music. I’m certainly not; I was totally ignorant of most of these players when I popped each disc in the player, and I came away extremely impressed. You also don’t have to be a fan of unremitting abstraction—there’s plenty of hard, swinging jazz here, stuff that’ll be immediately recognizable as such even to a listener whose idea of jazz is half-formed, mostly by 1960s TV themes. And each album works on its own; the presence of Eskelin is the only thing that links them. So check out one, or both. They’re both really good.