With many groups, this album might have simply marked a pausing point, a time of retrospection, an opportunity to review some old tunes. After all, Hemingway has recorded all but two of the compositions on it before. That, though, would be missing the point: This rare (at least for Hemingway) studio recording burns from the get-go, with nobody looking back. Similar in personnel to the almost as effective Johnny's Corner Song, except for the substitution of trombonist Ray Anderson for Robin Eubanks, Devils Paradise is about as good as it gets, with inventive compositions, fabulous solos, and very tight interplay. The horns are in superb form, and Ray Anderson, without sacrificing his highly distinctive sound, is better than ever, his tone clear, his articulation precise, and his improvisations more focused. His solo on "Gentle Ben" is one of his best on disc. While Anderson's presence is worth the price of the CD, there are also consistently compelling contributions from Ellery Eskelin, who continues to dazzle with his original approach. None of which is intended to minimize the importance of the dynamo rhythmic duo of Hemingway and bassist Mark Dresser, who, as alumni of some of Anthony Braxton's best small groups, electrically charge the horns. This quartet toured the United States in 1998 and 1999, and by the time they were ready to record, they were prepared. This ranks with some of Hemingway's best, which considering his recorded output, says something.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Steve Loewy