Tree Ear

tree ear

Tree Ear

Gerry Hemingway - drums | Manuel Troller- guitar| Sebastian Strinning - tenor saxophone/bass clarinet

This collective trio has released its first recording on November 10, 2017 entitled "Witches Butter". The new release is in a gatefold LP (WE HAVE IT !!!) and CD format and from Clean Feed Records (CF438) as well as from here.

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Tree Ear Witches Butter

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Reviewed in New York City Jazz Record by Stuart Broomer, November 2017 issue


Percussionist Gerry Hemingway has covered tremendous musical ground in his career, from the Anthony Braxton Quartet, through his own distinguished groups and the BassDrumBone trio to wide-ranging duos with saxophonists John Butcher and Ellery Eskelin, synthesizer player Thomas Lehn, guitarist Terrence McManus, pianist Marilyn Crispell and Korean komungo virtuoso Jin Hi Kim. Tree Ear, a collective trio formed in 2013, introduces two stellar Swiss musicians 30 years Hemingway’s junior, Sebastian Strinning on tenor saxophone and bass clarinet and guitarist Manuel Troller.

Tree Ear is devoted to collective improvisation and clearly open to multiple directions. There’s a definite aesthetic of risk operative here. It manifests itself playfully in the Wild-West-saloon-poker-game photo shoot for the cover and conditions the band name and the track titles. Tree Ear and “Witches Butter” are fungi, edible apparently; most titles are drawn from poker parlance, though “Kill Button” and “Drag Light” might be shared with racing. “Range of Hands” starts the proceedings with a sudden tremolo suggesting a Bernard Herrmann score but which opts for continuous sustained sounds from tenor and guitar with Hemingway building tension from within. The understated “Third Man Walking” emphasizes the moody lower register of bass clarinet and the almost telepathic subtlety of Troller and Hemingway, all three gradually expanding the piece by adding different dimensions and materials.

If the initial pieces suggest levels of discretion worthy of AMM or Jimmy Giuffre, the title track unleashes a firestorm of screaming tenor, insistent distorted guitar and driving drums, locating the trio in an altogether different orbit. Improvisation, like mushrooms and poker,involves discretion as well and the members of Tree Ear are masters of restraint. As good as the early episodes of the program are, they pale before what’s up the group’s proverbial and collective sleeves, finally unleashing their reserves of intensity and invention in the mysterious click dialogue of “Kill Button” and dense, driving “Reraise”, its power-tool guitar electronics contributing to energy music of the first order.

JazzdeGama - Jul 31, 2018 By Raul da Gama

Tradition, it would appear to the musicians of Witches Butter, is a wonderful reality. Just as important is not withstanding that the inner dynamic of tradition is always to innovate, is prison. This is what seems to drive the restless music of reeds and winds specialist Sebastian Strinning, guitarist Manuel Troller and, of course, the drummer-wizard-in-chief Gerry Hemingway on their maiden voyage, Tree Ear. The uniquely powerful and beautiful, and defiantly provocative repertoire on this album has been chiselled from the bedrock of Jazz and free-improvised music together with the Austro-German music in the epic, Wagnerian tradition. But while that might suggest a pastiche of archetypal contemporary models, the musicians actually force the listener to reconsider what tradition really is, song after song.

The musicians of Witches Butter position themselves in creative conflict with each other as they tear down contemporary protocols about how trio music is made between horns, strings and percussion, reconvening time and again to initiate unique and interesting discussions about how three-way contrapuntal conversations might work. By actively throwing aboard melodic, structural, harmonic and rhythmic books that have become expressively blunted through overuse, the musicians build from what might – or might not – be left. This instinctive radicalism that exists between Mr Hemingway, Mr Strinning and Mr Troller has made not only the musicianship of these three bedfellows, but also this music a source of endless wonderment, even if it might stray into controversy from time to time. Yet if what might seem like absurdist gestures of a bowed guitar and the sensual moaning of the tenor saxophone on “Range of Hands” it is just as dramatic as the sublime and agitatedly ticking motor rhythms from tongue-ing the reed and the authentic beauty of the music that this leads to.

Definitions of molten music are central to the music of this disc as are suggestions of elemental wind, thunder – especially in the subtle engaging of the bass drum with the surreptitious entry of the bass clarinet on “Third Man Walking”. Things get busier and more frenetic, urgent and – naturally – more exciting as the music progresses, reaching a feverish pitch for all three musicians on “Witches Butter”, understandably so as this where the musicians make their richest and most active pitch for the music of this disc. This track is a masterpiece of a map of modernist improvised music complete with cracked rhythms, a screeching, moaning strings and a scratchy, honking and growling horn all of which heralds the kind of existential angst that is both a depressing and elevating depiction of modern human conversation which, in turn, highlights the kind and levels of social and political discourse that characterises the society to which the musicians come from as well as are locked in eternal conflict with. Tree Ear is easily one of the best contemporary recordings – one to absolutely die for…

Jazz’N’More 02/18, Empfehlung - Pirmin Bossart ****

Auf dem Plattencover sind sie Gambler, die Poker spielen. Auf der Bühne agieren sie nicht minder konzentriert und setzen sich dem Risiko aus. Sebastian Strinning, Manuel Troller und Gerry Hemingway haben als Tree Ear mit "Witches Butter" ihr Debut-album eingespielt.

Krrrrring - mit dem ersten Sound ist sofort eine Präsenz da. Eine Schwingung. Klänge glimmen, hallen, surren. Schon sind Rhythmen im Raum, das feine Soundgewebe wird ein Garn mit rauen Fasern. Gitarre tickt, Schlagzeug klöppelt, Saxophon bläst zarte Melodie ... Strinning, Troller und Hemingway haben grosse Ohren, nur Dogmen haben sie nicht. Alles an Geflüster, Explosion oder stilistischen Ausbuchtungen ist erlaubt, solange es der Musik dient. Neben einem kollektiven Gespür für das Zusammenwirken von Rhythmus, Melodie, Sound, klanglichen Kontrasten und dynamischem Flow haben Tree Ear ein spezielles Sensorium für Dramaturgie, für "the 'story-making' of our sonic tales", wie es Hemingway formuliert ... so scheint "Witches Butter" zu jeder Zeit von innen her durchdacht, zumindest von einer gemeinsamen Intention geleitet zu sein - vielleicht sagt man dem "intelligente Impro". Sebastian Strinning: "Ich habe in diesem Trio mehr als in anderen Impro-Bands das Gefühl, dass wir versuchen, die Musik im Moment zu komponieren." ... Ohne hin auf dieser "instant composing"- Linie sind Gerry Hemingway und Manuel Troller. Die beiden wurden 2012 von Strinning, der damals noch studierte, im Rahmen eines Workshops an der Jazz-Hochschule Luzern eingeladen, im Trio zu spielen. "Wir haben dann alle zwei Wochen geprobt und am Ende dieser Periode ein erstes Konzert gegeben ... Tree Ear ist ein hoffnungsvolles Beispiel, wie verschiedene Generationen von Musikern miteinander kommunizieren können. Strinning ist ein Saxophonist mit einer zupackenden Energie. Schon bald nach seinem Master-Abschluss trat er als Solist auf und veröffentlichte ein Solo Album ("Kerrin") ... Gerry Hemingway, der seit 2009 als Dozent an der Hochschule Luzern-Musik wirkt, war zehn Jahre mit der Band von Anthony Braxton on the road. unterhält seit 40 Jahren mit Mark Helias und Ray Anderson BassDrumBone und arbeitet auch mit visuellen und Performance-Künstlerinnen zusammen. "Man spürt seine Erfahrung, die Sensibilität für Details", sagt Strinning. Überhaupt fühle man sich in diesem Trio getragen. "Ich kann hier entdecken, dass gerade in den feinen und ruhigen Passagen eine grosse Sprengkraft liegt."

(Same review in English....)

On the record cover, they are gamblers who play poker. On stage, they do not act less concentrated and risk themselves. Sebastian Strinning, Manuel Troller and Gerry Hemingway recorded their debut album as "Tree Ear" with "Witches Butter".

Krrrrring - with the first sound there is an immediate presence. A vibration. Sounds are glowing, humming, whirring. There are already rhythms in the room, the fine sound fabric becomes a yarn with rough fibers. Guitar is ticking, drums are playing, saxophone is blowing a soft melody ... Strinning, Troller and Hemingway have big ears, but they do not have any dogmas. Any whispers, explosions or stylistic bulges are allowed as long as it serves the music. In addition to a collective sense of the interplay of rhythm, melody, sound, tonal contrasts and dynamic flow, Tree Ear has a special sense of sensory dramaturgy, "the 'story-making' of our sonic tales" as Hemingway puts it ... so "Witches Butter" always seems to be thought out from the inside, at least guided by a common intention - perhaps one says an "intelligent impro". Sebastian Strinning: "In this trio, more than in other improv bands, I have the feeling that we are trying to compose the music at the moment." ... anyway on this "instant composing" line are Gerry Hemingway and Manuel Troller. The two were invited in 2012 by Strinning, who was still studying, as part of a workshop at the Jazz University of Lucerne to play in a trio. "We then rehearsed every two weeks and gave a first concert at the end of this period ... Tree Ear is a hopeful example of how different generations of musicians can communicate with each other." Strinning is a saxophonist with a gripping energy who soon after his master graduated as a soloist and released a solo album ("Kerrin") ... Gerry Hemingway, who has been teaching at the Lucerne Music School since 2009, has been with Anthony Braxton on the road for ten years Working for 40 years with Mark Helias and Ray Anderson BassDrumBone, he also works with visual and performance artists. "You can feel his experience, his sensitivity to details," says Strinning, "you feel like you're in this trio." I can discover here that even in the fine and quiet passages there is a great explosive power."

Description of Tree Ear

Tree Ear offers the international community an inspired crystallization and synthesis of their musical thinking in the powerful debut CD/LP "Witches Butter”. As the cover and the titles reveal the stakes and the willingness to take risks are high and consequently the results for us to hear are compelling and breathtaking. Hemingway, Troller and Strinning recognize the value and importance of being fluent in non-idiomatic as well as idiomatic musical vocabularies, all of which play a role in the content of what you hear presented in this exciting new release.

Hemingway is familiar to many Clean Feed listeners from his prolific manifestations as a composer, percussionist and improvisor. He is restless in his desire to explore new territories of artistic creation and with that continually forging new relations in his expanding artistic community. He as well believes in and maintains long and rich musical relationships over many years such as BassDrumBone which celebrates it’s 40th anniversary in 2017. 

Strinning is a richly influenced synthesis of many musical inquiries - he continually finds new possibilities in current and sometimes long standing musical traditions. The composite richness of his musical offering can be heard in his solo recording “Kerrin" on Wide Ear records. He inevitably communicates through his reed work, his deep passion and fluency in the multi-faceted traditions of jazz via collaborations with Fredrik Longkvist, Hans Koch and Urs Leimgruber.

Troller is a remarkably versatile and singular guitarist with profound skills as an improvisor, sound artist, and with huge ears that can deftly master the split second negotiations of instantaneous collective interplay and invention. He is currently most known for his part of the uncomprimising jazzcore band Schnellertollermeier, which is often characterized by the way psychedelic harmonies are crossed with incisively executed punk noise. 

Hemingway, Troller and Strinning put their bet on the table that this recording offers the possibility for the future of music. Are you in?


Concert reviews:

Mullbau Lucerne, Jan 17, 2016

Tree Ear Mullbau 17-1-2016
Dynamism, chaos and a lot of sensitivity!
Manuel Troller, Sebastian Strinning and Gerry Hemingway
Tree Ear in the Mullbau January 17, 2016
Christian Löffel (041 Kultur Magazine)

I'm listening very carefully. Few voices of the guests in the room, the instruments are still resting, only in the front row, a pencil scurries light as a feather through the air and over the paper and holds the still deserted situation on stage. A few minutes later I hear a fine grinding of broom and snare and airy noises from the saxophone and then slowly I lose the acoustic trace of the pencil strokes. Werner Meier is a versatile visual artist from Lucerne and has been painting and drawing jazz musicians for many years. Tonight are Manuel Troller, Sebastian Strinning and Gerry Hemingway - together Tree Ear! The concert begins calmly and calmly with a saxophone passage led by Sebastian Strinning - then the band is already in the midst of musical interplay and I am in the interplay of emotions. Their virtuoso handling of playing techniques and the redistribution of roles leads after about 20 minutes in an unexpectedly hectic and very loud tangle of zeternden sounds of all instruments, which threatens to burst the room, but then shattered at once - the shards are carried away by Strinning again gentle Sounds and the illustrative-percussive gestures of Gerry Hemingway on drums.

Only Troller plays electrically strengthened. He uses his effects and playing styles very pointedly and differentiated, harmonious but also often percussive with the sound. Through the wide range of sounds that he elicits guitar and equipment, he creates an interesting counterpart to certain rhythmic and illustrative structures of the drumming game. Likewise, his sometimes light, woven sounds offer many clues to melodic interaction with Strinning. The play between the guitar and the saxophone is very discursive - when both musicians pass the same notes, floating dances arise, subtly supported by Hemingway.

In addition to his four-part drums, he has a side table full of orchestras and rackets with him - a picture similar to that of Werner Meier, who has a small table covered with painting utensils in front of him. Hemingway gently introduces the trio into climbs and creates a rhythm between liberated tonalities and supposedly uniform patterns that he playfully intersperses with pauses, shortens or varies. The dialogue with Manuel Troller works very well - rhythmic constants are passed discreetly from hand to hand.

Most modestly, Strinning performs the evening, using only tenor sax and bass clarinet. He fuses his instruments, makes wind sound and plays long, melodic arcs, which he breaks chromatically from time to time, freeing up the space for pure musical unpredictability and his powerful virtuosity. The three musicians never irritate their stylistic devices too long, there are no disturbing repetitions of elements and one senses a trio's character designed and carried by all musicians. (Werner Meier lets his pencil and brush dance during the two sets and creates an exciting picture of the trio, which he does not seem to have finished yet, so he encourages the musicians to play an encore, which happened and was done Image.)

On the pulse with noise
By Pirmin Bossart
Mullbau, January 10, 2014 - 041 Kulturmagazine

Tree Ear January 10 2014

The audience listens. Cymbals siren, the bass clarinet swings into a light melody, the guitarist sits bent over and beats monochrome rhythms. A trio invents his music. Sebastian Strinning, Manuel Troller and Gerry Hemingway generate their soundtrack of the moment in the Mullbau. The filigree intensity keeps you awake.

Nice atmosphere in the Mullbau. The good improvisation room in the Lindenstrasse district is fully occupied. You would think it would be a headliner. Well then: In improvised music basically every constellation is a headliner, because the Big Bang is always in the air. On the stage are saxophonist and bass clarinetist Sebastian Strinning, guitarist Manuel Troller and drummer Gerry Hemingway. Her improvisation - one track before and after the break and one encore - is a soundstream between noise, electronically induced soundscapes, percussive patterns and free eruptions. The encore summarizes everything and brings the elements of melodic sequences, pulse, Freakout and lyrical overtones almost like an impro-song to the point. The first and the second set show different energy levels. The first part seems more focused, punchy, bedded in a dry sound. Short sequences of motifs are exchanged with lightning speed and ignite a tension that was once evoked by the Free Funk. But when Sebastian Strinning lets out his horns, the ghosts of Free Jazz bang in their ears. Very heavy shit. But unlike at that time, these outbreaks are set here sparingly. They appear as deliverance blows after long periods of murmuring in strictly circled spaces that still retain their vagaries. Striking is the serene tenacity with which the musicians savor the monotones until the contours of a new territory appear.

The second set has its longer-winded parts, which tend to circle before they peel each other off. There are also the grandiose passages in which the musicians suddenly grow together again without groping signals and move on to the next level. That's a long way from the usual jazz. A percussive basic structure pervades the two sets. And not a single guitar solo, ha! Troller uses his instrument as a sound machine, whose strings he taps rhythmically with his fingers, recharges with sharp riffs, infiltrated with electronic space and sometimes brings to the drone with a filigree fingerpicking. It sounds like a space western fantasy before it crackles, hooking the trio and breaking a new blast of pulse and ostinato figures. The great enabler is Gerry Hemingway, who promotes the music in all degrees of density, exchanges it, gives space to others. His great experience is always noticeable: the way in which he gives thrust, the irregular discharges, this organically swirled pulse, which always stays in place, but also unfolds its effect on the back burner in tonal subtleties. Once again, you realize how fantastic it is for local musicians to be able to play with the American. Hemingway has taken contemporary jazz to the extreme with the Anthony Braxton Quartet and BassDrumBone, among others, and continues to be involved in various constellations in contemporary sound production in Lucerne alongside his teaching activities in the jazz department. The trio was solemnly and long applauded. Sometimes improvised music is like a jolting relaxation. She soothes and keeps awake. We say: Up in the garbage. Every concert is a magic bag.

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