(released December 1, 1999)
Thomas Lehn: analogue synthesizer
Gerry Hemingway: drums, percussion
Disc 1 recorded at Neureformierte Kirche, Wuppertal on 1 June 1997; tracks 1 and 5 of disc 2 were recorded on 3 June 1997 at Bunker Ullmenwall, Bielefeld; tracks 2, 3, 4 and 6 of disc 2 were recorded on 30 May 1997 at Cafe Tagtraum, Duesseldorf.
In June of 1997 Thomas Lehn and Gerry Hemingway came together for a duo tour in Germany that had originally been planned as a quartet with Mats Gustafsson and Barry Guy. But the budget was meager and salvaging the tour seemed the best option and so the tour went on as a duo. Thomas recorded all of the concerts and the extensive recordings were recently compiled into this double CD, which was painstakingly edited, sequenced and mastered to provide the best possible showcase for this superb music. The recordings have proved so compelling that the duo has decided to tour once again, this time in the United States in March 2000.
Thomas Lehn, who hails from Cologne, plays the analogue synthesizer on this project, which is his primary instrument, although he also plays the piano. As a synthesizer player he's been omnipresent in the European improv scene since the early '90's, but only recently has begun to be documented on disc, and even then, most of the recordings are on small, hard-to-find European labels, typically in very limited quantities. This project gives a wider audience a chance to hear the man who Jim O'Rourke has described as "the world's greatest synth player" (The Wire, 1/98).
Gerry Hemingway needs no introduction to anyone with any interest in the current state of free improv. He's led or co-led more than twenty records, most notably five by his superb quintet, featuring Michael Moore, Walter Wierbos, Mark Dresser, and Ernst Reijseger, whose final recording, "Waltzes, Two-Steps and Other Matters of the Heart" (GM Recordings), was just released. also, his ambitious chamber music compositions were recently documented on "Chamber Works" (Tzadik), also just released. He's been involved in too many projects to name all of them, but it should be noted that he was an integral member of what's considered by many to be Anthony Braxton's premier working band, the quartet of Braxton, Hemingway, Marilyn Crispell, and Mark Dresser. Tom & Gerry is a rare chance to hear Hemingway in a largely electroacoustic setting.
"Lehn can be heard on the recent MIMEO disc but gets lost among the project's cluttered, too-many-chefs all-star lineup. Now, on the strength of this epic double CD, Lehn joins the likes of Fennesz, Otomo, and Wachsmann as one of the world's premier electroacoustic improvisers, while Hemingway more than holds his own as the foil for Lehn's staggering splatter-attack of synthesized sound. Lehn is easily the most energizing force improv has seen in ages." - Gil Gershman
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 DŸsseldorf, 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 GŸnter 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.)