When Hat first released Gerry Hemingway's Demon Chaser , critical acclaim for the date was instant and widespread. The album was out of print for over a decade before being reissued in 2009. Recorded during a 1993 performance in Wuppertal-Elberfeld, Germany, the program consists of five Hemingway compositions and an utterly transformed reading of Dizzy Gillespie's “A Night in Tunisia.” The band of American and European musicians are all from the new vanguard: Michael Moore on alto saxophone, clarinet, and bass clarinet; Wolter Wierbos on trombone; bassist Mark Dresser; cellist Ernst Reijseger; and Hemingway on drums and steel drums. The entire recording is striking: the interplay between musicians is not only intuitive, but utterly kinetic, all of it traced back to the three-piece rhythm section. Hemingway does not draw attention to himself -- except as a composer and arranger -- but to the layering of sounds in rhythmic proportion to the front line. This is evident in “Slamadam,” where the ensemble freely improvises before bass and cello establish a timbral shift and they all take off in a knotty, driving, melodic direction with Hemingway charging from the back, hinting at shifts in time and dynamics. The Gillespie tune walks an elegant line between exciting new jazz and bop -- Reijseger and Dresser contrapuntally establish a framework where Moore and Wierbos can lay the front line right on top of free improvisation, and Hemingway pushes the margin until they become inseparable. The title track is astonishing for the tonal variations created by the use of snare, tom-tom, and the rubato playing of Reijseger that offers a palette for Dresser to nudge the front line into engaging harmonically with some fiery counterpoint. On "Holler Up," both Wierbos and Moore swing hard as Reijseger sets a rhythmic pace and ushers in timbral changes in sequences. Ultimately, however, Demon Chaser is where Hemingway established himself as an amazing composer and arranger. He wrote all this material for the band, yet the ensemble plays his compositions as if they were written collectively. The energy, joy, and empathic listening as layers upon layers of sound reveal and transform themselves in their engaged dialogue -- even at its outside -- make it accessible to almost any jazz fan. Demon Chaser still sounds as if it were recorded last night; offering genuine surprise and delight with each listen.
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek