WHO Trio – Less is More (CF 135)
Gerry Hemingway Quintet – Demon Chaser
Much seems to have gone down in the decade since Michel Wintsch, Gerry Hemingway and Banz Oester released Identity on Leo. That was a solid piano jazz record with hints of the quietude that was, apparently, to come. For their new release, they succeed in finding a new parcel in that melodic minimalism that has Miles Davis, Philip Glass and The Necks as its borders. The title Less is More may be a bit of a clich�, but in this case it couldn’t be truer.
The pieces (most group compositions, with two credited to Oester) work in repetition and momentum to build their dynamic, leaving enough space that every accent becomes dramatic. Oester’s bass is, necessarily and wonderfully, a solid foundation. Wintsch endlessly recreates melodies, managing quick ideas within slow progressions. Such an expanse gives Hemingway an enormous field in which to play. He is always inventive, but here he sounds as if he’s been instructed to play a solo as slow as he could. The elements come together in an odd, enormously pleasing way, with a sort of placid restlessness.
Hemingway has long been a welcome accomplice in the Amsterdam scene. The concert rendered to record on the recently reissued Demon Chaser dates back to 1993, Hemingway employing names familiar within that city’s Instant Composer’s Pool (American ex-pat saxophonist Michael Moore, trombonist Wolter Wierbos and cellist Ernst Reijseger) for the outing, bringing in bassist Mark Dresser for the other side of the rhythm section. Five of the pieces were penned by Hemingway and are played with a celebratory energy by the band. The sixth, a broad sweep of a take on “Night in Tunisia,” perhaps gives indication of the scope and assuredness with which the group plays. The theme is barely hinted at for the first half of the piece’s 12 minutes, the horns circling without striking. For the second half, they only get a little closer to the original and yet it’s always there. That feeling of collective certainty is felt just as strongly on Hemingway’s pieces, even if the themes aren’t known ahead of time to the listener. Perhaps that is something that always makes the New Dutch Swing work: as long as all the players are thinking of the same song, they don’t really have to play it. Hemingway clearly knows how to use that strength to his advantage.