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Hear This - By - May 17, 2000 - SF Weekly
SF Weekly

Hear This

Rovaté III with Gerry Hemingway
Gerry Hemingway first came to the attention of creative improv fans as a member of the Anthony Braxton Quartet on his 1985 tour, and he's played off and on with Braxton ever since. His sparse, crisp technique has influenced a generation of drummers who've abandoned straight rhythms in favor of less conventional approaches to percussion, transforming the drum (as Mingus and, more recently, innovators like Peter Kowald have done for the bass) into a viable lead instrument in an improv-oriented band. Taking a cue from friend and mentor Wadada Leo Smith — an important early member of Chicago's AACM and current lead trumpet and co-creator of the impressive Yo Miles! project with Henry Kaiser — Hemingway early on began to focus on developing his own musical vocabulary, a way of expressing himself in the wholly original and powerfully emotional style he'd encountered in Smith.

By scraping and rubbing his cymbals and drums — even using bows and electronics if need be — Hemingway's worked out methods of creating stunning harmonics and “clusters of pitches” reminiscent of a pianist hitting major chords. Along with his many important solo works, he's collaborated with bassist Marilyn Crispell, pianist Georg Graüe, and saxophonist Mats Gustaffson. His last visit to the Bay Area was over a year ago at the now-defunct Beanbenders, and there's no better place to see him than as the featured guest at this year's Rovaté festival, where he'll play solo as well as with the esteemed Rova Saxophone Quartet.

The two-night affair also premieres new compositions by members of Rova, with special guests such as guitarist John Schott, electronic musician Tim Perkis, kotoist Miya Masaoka, and former Kronos Quartet member Jean Jeanrenaud, all performing in different configurations with Rova.