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 Anytime" is a good place to hear the fully stretched and limber group going at it for a long loose straight-time mid-tempo 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.