John Butcher & Gerry Hemingway

from the stage of HallWalls, Buffalo, NY (Susan O'Connor) April 17, 2005


Web page about the duo:
Thomas Lehn Home Page:

Buffalo Pearl

John Butcher
tenor & soprano saxophones
Gerry Hemingway
drums, percussion, voice, sampler

1. Light Queen
2. Head Nickel
3. McGeist
4. No Illusion
5. The Good Neighbor

All works by John Butcher & Gerry Hemingway
Recorded in performance at Soundlab, in Buffalo, NY on April 17, 2005
Concert presented by: Hallwalls and Resurrection Music
Allen Farmello recorded the multitrack.
Mixed, edited produced by Gerry Hemingway and John Butcher.
Mastered by Gerry Hemingway.
Performance Photo (from Buffalo/HallWalls) by Susan O'Connor
Cover Design Artwork - Gerry Hemingway

Special Thanks to HallWalls, David Kennedy, Steven Baczkowski,
Allen Farmello, and Ken Waxman for the wheels


Touching Extremes May 9, 2010

"JB on tenor and soprano sax, GH – besides drums and percussion – also using voice and sampler. The album was released in 2008, and it’s mostly excellent. In “Light Queen”, the dialogue is distinguished by an abundance of breathing room, revealing an enthusiastic aspiration to the reciprocal understanding of what the partner is expressing in order to complement the creative splinters in the best possible way. Butcher remains in the percussive side of the palette for the largest portion of the improvisation which, in general, is soft and sharp, incisively logical throughout. “Head Nickel” is a technically superior binge (pardon the definition), the saxophone as the vehicle for a strapping reverie, while “McGeist” explores the insides of the improvisational nucleus both in terms of timbre and dynamics, aggregating and disassembling parts in the space of thirty seconds. The musicians, here like everywhere else, seem to descend from the main genus of probing discordance (which is what renders the music quite piquant, thanks in part to Hemingway’s use of amusingly goofy electronic sounds). Successive sections are definable as sparingly tranquil, when not plain lyrical (if one can call Butcher’s multi-pitch intrepidness so). “No Illusion” is a mini-symphony of abraded metal and multiphonic torment that doesn’t offer a single point of orientation. The conclusive “The Good Neighbor” lets the drummer shine in no-ordinary-rhythm-if-you-pay-me uncontrollability as his actual neighbor overwhelms us with a special kind of philanthropic aggression characterized by a gazillion of all kinds of notes; it would take a week to brush them off the ground after the sparkles have ended." Massimo Ricci

All About Jazz Februry 13, 2009

There are some combinations in jazz that are simply magic, including the duos of Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli; Stan Getz and Kenny Barron; and Peter Brotzmann and Han Bennink. Add to that list the teaming of John Butcher and Gerry Hemingway. Though not a new pairing—the saxophonist and drummer became acquainted in 1993 and released Shooters & Bowlers on Red Toucan in 2001— Buffalo Pearl is extremely compelling.
Both players are involved in projects too numerous to list, but what is significant is they are both well-known solo players. Perhaps Butcher, a former physicist, is best-known for his solitary work, extending the saxophone's sound through the invention of new techniques and electronics.
Buffalo Pearl was taken from a live 2005 performance in Buffalo, New York, and while the respectful crowd is never heard, the players project a radiant energy that maintains itself throughout.
Of the disc's five pieces, only "Head Nickel" goes for the obvious tenor versus drums blastoff. This power workout bridges the more subtle touches that the two masters bring to their live show. An evening hearing Brotzmann blowing waves of energy is always a treat, but within the context of listening to a recording, this is the superior experience.
The combination if Butcher's extended saxophone techniques and Hemingway's tactile expression—be it on drums, adding a bit of sampling, voice, or brushes—keeps things stimulating throughout. As Butcher flutters through "The Good Neighbor," Hemingway drives the drums at a breakneck pace and with an electronic pop and sizzle boiling. The pair relies on the faithful technique of tension and release, and noise and silence; all with an overarching transparency of purpose and clarity of sound. Mark Corroto

The Free Jazz Blog January 25, 2009

The key element is tension. Some moments are beautiful, others are really painful to the ear, but there's no moment of indifference, no moment of boredom, no predictability, only tension, stretching notes, stretching the sound possibilities of the instruments, stretching them so far you think they could snap at any moment, yet it doesn't, the tension remains, and new elements arise, surprisingly, out of the same sounds, but different. Two masters of their instrument, interacting fiercely and with sparks flying around. For those with open ears. Stef

All About Jazz March 2, 2009

The pairing of John Butcher and drummer Gerry Hemingway dates back at least to 2000, when they recorded the duo album Shooters and Bowlers (Red Toucan 2001) on both sides of the Atlantic. It was followed by Hemingway's Songs (Between the Lines 2002), on which Butcher contributed to three tracks of the drummer's song-based album. The two have also toured together several times; Buffalo Pearl is their second duo album, dating from an April 2005 live performance in, yes, Buffalo New York.
Hemingway not only plays drums but also adds voice and electronics. Initially it is his drumming that grabs attention, not the least because it injects considerable momentum into the music. Butcher can often adopt a deliberate, measured approach to playing, sustaining some notes for long periods. It is one of the many pleasures of hearing him solo. But when spurred by Hemingway's driving percussion as on "Head Nickel," he can reveal a different face, rapidly articulating passages, matching the drums stride-for-stride, adding considerable energy to this live setting. However, it is not Hemingway who always sets the pace; there is give-and-take here, sometimes one leading, sometimes the other. The music reflects the length of time that the two have spent playing together; they know each other and sound at home in each other's company.
Towards the conclusion of "Light Queen," the two engage in an impressionistic exchange. With Hemingway deploying subtle use of electronics and understated scraping, it belies the impression that the album will be solely percussion-driven, and introduces a greater emphasis on texture and subtlety. Regardless of the aspect of Butcher and Hemingway's pasts from which this album is approached, there is music here that is satisfying and surprising. John Eyles

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