Few drummers can sustain keen interest throughout an entire solo performance. Gerry Hemingway is one of those few. Though Hemingway is best known for some impressive long-term associations (most notably the Anthony Braxton Quartet with Marilyn Crispell and Mark Dresser and BassDrumBone with Ray Anderson and Mark Helias), his own quintet–with trombonist Wolter Wierbos, cellist Ernst Reijseger, reedist Michael Moore, and bassist Dresser–has quietly become one of the most rewarding jazz combos around. There’s little this astonishingly flexible percussionist can’t do. He composes rich melodies, drives his group with a sure hand, and offers simpatico support to nearly every situation. Hemingway can swing, but he’s more interested in exploring the spaces between regular rhythms, leaping from complex polyrhythms to gorgeous textural evocations. It’s this riveting use of timbre, color, and tone that marks his solo work. On 1988’s excellent Tubworks (Sound Aspects) Hemingway’s microscopic investigations achieve a rare blend of cerebral vigor and harmonic beauty. “Four Studies for Single Instruments” finds him wringing a spectacular range of sounds from a snare drum, hi-hat, bass drum, and cymbal. Using sticks, brushes, and his hands–as with the like-minded Fritz Hauser–he focuses on the intricate play of color and light in instruments normally used for keeping time. By rubbing the blunt end of a drumstick across a cymbal he creates a lush symphony of ringing drones, eerie moans, and crashing crescendos. By slapping a bass drum he taps out remarkably lyrical patterns. Quite simply, Gerry Hemingway has helped reinvent the role of the percussionist. His debut solo performance in Chicago coincides with the upcoming release of a pair of solo CDs for the German Random Acoustics label. Wednesday, 9 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 276-3600. Peter Margasak
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Gert de Ruyter.