While working at a musical instrument shop Hemmings was introduced to acclaimed avante guard saxophonist John Tchicai whose contributions to John Coltrane's landmark Ascension album assured his position at the forefront of free jazz. While studying improvisational technique with Tchicai, Hemmings was invited to join the tenor man's Sound and Poetry Source. He played with the ensemble for three years, contributing original compositions and arrangements in addition to performing regularly at concerts andfestivals. During this time, Hemmings also studied more conventional approaches to arranging, improvisation, and composition under the tutelage of Ray Brown and Smith Dobson.
Upon graduating from the University of California, Hemmings headed for New York with the aim of furthering his musical career. After a brief period of study at the Ithaca Conservatory of Music, he recorded and toured with veteran jazz drummer George Reed with whom he would establish a lasting relationship.
Following a three-month gig on board Carnival Cruise Lines' MS Fantasy, Hemmings settled in New York City where he is presently a faculty member at the Third Street Music School Settlement. In addition to freelancing with various groups, he also fronts The Paul Hemmings Trio, with regular performances at clubs, non-profit events, and corporate parties around the city. His recent album, In & Out, on Leading Tone Records, features Eric Alexander on tenor saxophone.