The Jon Hemmersam/Dom Minasi Quartet opens immediately with a statement about its jazz style: the tune "Sprint" announces that the musician's intentions are to walk (or in this case, run) along the razor's edge between conventional and free jazz, leaning one way and then the other, but never capitulating wholly to the expectations of either. Take "Sprint," slow it down a bit, and play it in a more conventional swing style and you'd have a fairly conventional neo-bop tune. But Hemmersam and Minasi play it so fast that it doesn't swing even though bassist Ken Filiano and drummer Kresten Osgood are laying down a solid bed of be-bop rhythm. The effect is a juxtaposition of styles, what one might almost call "free bop."
And so this unusual record goes, one tune almost settling comfortably in a free jazz zone where the search for a discernible melody or rhythmic structure is fruitless even though the musicians are clearly listening and responding to each other (e.g. "Sound Check"); followed by something more orthodox, such as the two lovely Bossa Novas ("Gentle" and "Latina Mio") featuring 12-string and Spanish guitars. The effect is to keep you on your toes, never quite sure if the quartet is going to settle into a familiar groove or wander off into unstructured interplay. The tune "Inside Out" is symbolic of the whole recording; as composer Minasi writes in the liner notes, "I had been experimenting more and more with outside playing which was getting me fired a lot. I decided to try another approach. I'll play a little 'inside' and a little 'out.' Inside Out became one of my first original songs leaning in that direction."
The eclectic music is matched by the eclectic composition of the band: Hemmersam and drummer Osgood hail from Denmark, while Minasi and bassist Filiano are New Yorkers.
The Jon Hemmersam/Dom Minasi Quartet is a challenging jazz record, pushing some unconventional flavors and spices at the straight-ahead jazz fan, yet also beckoning the free-jazz purist to sample from more traditional fare. Regardless of your preference, everything here is tastefully done.