Sound Checks

Gerry Hemingway
Sunday, April 18; First Unitarian Church

By definition, the New Music Circle always directs its attention toward the fringes. Often the focus is on contemporary composers working in electronic and/or multimedia contexts, but at least once every season, NMC features music in a jazz context, and the most interesting NMC concert in this vein will arrive this week in the form of percussionist Gerry Hemingway's quartet.

Hemingway has been working and recording on the national jazz scene for the past 25 years. He's performed with jazz musicians Oliver Lake, Ray Anderson and Reggie Workman and has led his own quintet for the last decade. In addition to his jazz credits, Hemingway hasn't been afraid to test himself in other contexts: He's worked with Derek Bailey, composers Anthony Davis and Anthony Braxton, and ex-Velvet Underground member John Cale.

Over the past two years, Hemingway has concentrated much of his energy working in a quartet setting, and his current ensemble is rather remarkable: bassist Mark Dresser, trumpeter Paul Smoker and saxophonist Ellery Eskelin. Dresser has worked with Braxton's quartet for a decade and has also worked with both John Zorn (mainly on his soundtrack music) and Laurie Anderson (he played on her Strange Angels). Smoker is known for his eclectic trumpet style, which embraces influences as diverse as Don Cherry and Louis Armstrong. And Eskelin has added his fiery sax sound to performances with Joanne Brackeen, Joe Lovano, Eugene Chadbourne and Jack McDuff. (You may have heard him last year on NPR's Fresh Air talking about the music of his father, composer/lyricist-for-hire Rodd Keith.) Check them out at First Unitarian Church, Waterman and Kingshighway in the Central West End. (TP)

Wynton Marsalis
Tuesday, April 20; Powell Symphony Hall

One of America's most acclaimed musicians, Duke Ellington, was born 100 years ago this month, and this centennial year features a host of tributes. April 20 at Powell Hall, the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, under the direction of Wynton Marsalis, will present what may be one of the most interesting showcases of Duke's music this year: America in Rhythm and Tune mixes such familiar Ellington standards as "Take the A Train" and "Cottontail" with lesser-known works, including excerpts from the underrated Far East Suite.

Marsalis seems the perfect choice to present an overview of Ellington's music. With recent extended compositions such as "Blood on the Fields," "In This House, On This Morning" and "Citi Movement (Griot New York)," Marsalis is clearly mining the Ellington tradition. And the combination of Marsalis' nonpareil trumpet playing with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra provides a great vehicle to communicate the rhythmic elegance, blues nuances and sophisticated swing of Ellington's sound. Reviews of recent concerts on the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra's Ellington tour have been uniformly excellent. If you're already familiar with the Ellington legacy, this concert promises to be an engaging look at the complex genius known simply as Duke. If you only know Ellington from a few familiar standards, here's a chance to appreciate the depth and brilliance of one of America's finest musicians. (TP)

Contributors: Matthew Hilburn, April Park, Terry Perkins, Randall Roberts

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