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Gerry Hemingway: Songs

If all the tracks on Songs continued in the vein of “Anton,” Gerry Hemingway’s excursion into songwriting would represent a major transition for the instrumentalist. It features the drummer and former associate of Anthony Braxton, Marilyn Crispell and his own many groups trading an explosive percussive effect for a metronomic strict tempo and a set of poetic lyrics inspired by the 12-tone composer Anton Webern’s death and recited in a garbled deadpan. Harmonically as static as its rhythm, “Anton” gets occasional sparks from John Butcher’s tenor saxophone growls and the drones and crashes of Hemingway’s sampler. Bassist Kermit Driscoll holds down the groove with Hemingway. The whole piece sounds intriguing, especially when compared with the rest of the drummer’s wild track record.

Hemingway, however, keeps his trap shut on the other 11 tracks, bringing in Lisa Sokolov (a vet of William Parker’s Little Huey Creative Music Orchestra) to voice his lyrics. Driscoll and, with one exception, guitarist James Emery play on the whole album, with saxophonists Butcher and Ellery Eskelin, trumpeter Herb Robertson, trombonist Wolter Wierbos and keyboardist Thomas Lehn each appearing in various band combinations throughout.

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