Other Music, Tom Pratt
With 'free improvisation' well beyond its third decade, the practitioners of such have to take particular care to keep the music fresh and alive. German synth player Thomas Lehn and American percussionist Gerry Hemingway, on this amazing 2-CD set of improvised duets, do just that. The incredible, rarely-documented Lehn provides intensely physical spatterings of near Mego-style electronic noise tweakery. With a relentless stream of ideas, intuitive sense of interaction and uncanny control of sound, Lehn is unquestionably one of the very best of a new and frighteningly innovative generation of electroacoustic improvisors. Hemingway, best known as the drummer for Anthony Braxton's standard quartet, compliments Lehn with his varied arsenal, which ranges from drum-set bombast to a more Eddie Prevost-esque 'landscape' percussion. Together, these two have created one of the most successful and invigorating recordings to hit my ears in a while.
The Wire, Julian Cowley
This project started out as a quartet with bassist Barry Guy and saxophonist Mats Gustafsson, put together for a German tour. However, financial constraints cut them back to the Tom & Gerry duo, recorded here in Dčsseldorf, Wuppertal and Bielefeld in 1997. As a pianist, Cologne based Lehn has performed extensively in jazz and classical contexts, but in this alliance he manipulates an analogue synthesizer. His interest in the still untapped potential of this ostensibly obsolete instrument has been documented through his work with trombonist Gčnter Christmann, Konk Pack and Keith Rowe's Mimeo.
Hemingway's reputation as a forceful and articulate drummer was established on sessions with Anthony Braxton and Marilyn Crispell. Electronics and electroacoustic elements have also been integrated into his solo work. So the Tom and Gerry duo is a consolidation more than a departure. On this occasion Hemingway apparently played acoustically, but the results rarely sound so clearcut. At time, he generates quasi-electronic timbres by bowing his cymbals, or rapidly vibrating the surface of a drum.
Lehn's abstract contributions are redolent of Stockhausen's classic electronic work. His instrument issues splatters, squeaks, splurges, pops and crackles. Miraculously, it all hangs together and assumes form. Hemingway, of course, plays a crucial role, chugging and shuffling the music along, as well as ranging more freely around his kit. Avoiding the obvious, this duo doesn't offer up its pleasures too readily. One to return to.
All Music Guide, François Couture
Tom & Gerry introduced German virtuoso synthesizer player Thomas Lehn to the non-European improv fans, his previous recordings being available only on small German labels in limited pressings. Lehn's chirps, dweeps and blips originating from a VCS-3 surprised many listeners, thanks to the man's quickness, listening level and sense of the odd. And what better way to be introduced to the North-American continent than by recording with drummer Gerry Hemingway. First of all, let it be said that Tom & Gerry has nothing to do with cartoon music, apart from the title's pun. This 2-CD set has been put together from Lehn's recordings of the duo's German tour in late May-early June 1997. Each musician gets lots of room to shine (Hemingway's solo at the beginning of "W7" is as good as it gets) and the whole album has been edited in order to maintain a high energy level throughout. Disc 1 ends the same way it started, with bowed cymbals, communicating a sense of completeness, but on disc 2 the listener discovers more aspects of the duo's palette (like on "D5.4" where Lehn uses a more violent attack). Tom & Gerry is a valuable album as much for the performances it documents as for the amount of thought that has been put into the editing process.
Cadence, Robert Iannapollo
For the past twenty years or so, drummer/percussionist Gerry Hemingway has shown himself to be a willing participant in any creative situation. His discography contains all sorts of unusual collaborations. But Tom & Gerry, done in collaboration with German synthesizer player Thomas Lehn is among the most unusual.
Lehn hails from Cologne and his equipment consists only of analogue synthesizers. Cologne was the center for Stockhausen's early electronic experiments so one wonders if Lehn's attraction to these now largely unused instruments stems from some early unconscious environmental experience. Was electronic music always in the air (or water) in Cologne when he was younger? Whatever the motivation, Lehn's command of these notoriously difficult instruments is impressive (even more so in concert). The thirteen tracks on this double disc are edited highlights of a tour but they all have the feel of complete entities.
There's a true communication between Lehn and Hemingway. Consequently, the group dynamic is constantly shifting. Given the instrumentation, one would expect the rhythmic and percussive impetus to come from Hemingway and the sonic elements to come from Lehn. That is not always the case. At times, Hemingway will bow his cymbals or scrape his drums, eliciting electronic sounds, and Lehn will respond with a sharp percussive attack. Both musicians take care of the textural elements of the music. Tom & Gerry is a true contemporary duet that nods to the past while being very much a part of the present (and perhaps even the future.)