Gerry Hemingway Quintet: Waltzes, Two-Steps, and Other Matters of the Heart

Very similar to Max Roach, George Russell, Jack DeJohnette and Bobby Previte, Gerry Hemingway is a jazz drummer who displays an exemplary level of compositional acumen. On this latest album, he aptly balances improvisational guile with superb script, resulting in a haunting collection of freewheeling third-stream songs.

Hemingway’s writing sometimes echoes that of cornetist and composer Lawrence “Butch” Morris and composer Gunther Schuller, in that they often progress in an extended suite-like manner. Compositions like the secretive “Gilar” and the jovial “Gospel Waltz” feature Hemingway’s patented shadowy melodies and whimsical rhythmic figures. With the intriguing frontline of reedsman Michael Moore and trombonist Wolter Wierbos, and the rhythm section grounded by Hemingway, bassist Mark Dresser and cellist Ernst Reijseger, the quintet crafts spacious soundscapes that are at once earthy and ethereal.

Hemingway seems less concerned with pounding out explosive drum solos than encouraging subtle collective interplay, and he has a light sense of swing that doesn’t intrude on the riveting solos from his cohorts. When he does solo, it usually involves more textural manipulation as on the intros to “XI” and “Ari.” Although the record hardly contains infectious melodies and rhythms that will immediately incite your feet to tapping, Waltzes, Two-Steps, & Other Matters of the Heart boasts enough musical tricks to keep you interested.