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Shooters and Bowlers by John Butcher and Gerry Hemingway

The performances on this CD are simply music to my ears. This is not a case of my merely stating the obvious; I am using this cliché to underscore both how refreshing I find it musically and how another listener might easily dismiss its contents as noise. Butcher and Hemingway are free improvisers of the highest order and their collaboration is unique and wonderful.

Hemingway and Butcher have similar backgrounds in the avant-garde. The percussionist’s CV includes work with such artists as Anthony Braxton, John Zorn, Anthony Davis and Leo Smith, jazz artists whose compositions frequently push at the barrier between jazz and what is more commonly accepted as "Art" music. The London -based saxophonist Butcher cut his improvisational teeth playing the music of Stockhausen and has worked with the likes of Evan Parker and Derek Bailey, the latter a former Hemingway collaborator as well.

Bearing all this in mind, it comes as no surprise that a piece like "Caged Clambroth" recalls the early percussion compositions of John Cage (perhaps the title is intended as a pun?) or that Hemingway’s vibraphone playing on "The Lightning Strike" seems inspired by Cage’s "Suite for Toy Piano." Both players display a healthy, light-hearted sense of humor on this cut and on the almost child-like "Hay" despite the fact that they are working in a format one tends to associate with the sturm und drang of John Coltrane and Rashid Ali or Peter Brotzman.

The duo is capable of intense and serious statements as well, as demonstrated on the epic jam "Shift" and by Butcher’s smoldering playing on the album’s finale "Jackpot." This is dense, imaginative music that rewards every listen with a new discovery. Every listen, that is, made with open ears and mind.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: John Butcher and Gerry Hemingway
  • CD Title: Shooters and Bowlers
  • Genre: Free Jazz / Avante Garde
  • Year Released: 2001
  • Record Label: Red Toucan Records
  • Musicians: John Butcher (tenor and soprano saxophones), Gerry Hemmingway (drums percussion, vibraphone, harmonica, midi-triggered sampler)
  • Rating: Five Stars
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