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19. Jun. 2017

Long Time Pals: BassDrumBone

Ray Anderson (1952), Mark Helias (1950), and Gerry Hemingway (1955)


BassDrumBone, photography by Gerry Hemmingway

If we’re talking long time pals, then BassDrumBone has to be at the top of the list.

There’s an emotional connection with these three musicians that has existed in my life since sometime in the 70’s when I first encountered their music in part through their individual connections with musicians such as Anthony Braxton, Wadada Leo Smith, Anthony Davis, Ed Blackwell, Barry Altshul, and Dewey Redman among others. Being close in age with all three of them it follows that I’ve followed their careers and music quite closely through these four decades.


Oahspe cover

Each of these musicians is a master of his instrument – virtuosos that happen to be fine composers and bandleaders on their own terms and in their own right. A gold standard cooperative trio that’s stood the test of time for 40 years and is still going strong today, they continue to present focused mature adventurous music with the same freshness that has been the hallmark of their sound since the beginning. And at the beginning they were known as “Oahspe” – their debut album was recorded in 1978 for Gerry’s Auricle records – on vinyl of course. I remember ordering 10 copies for my record shop (Black Swan) back in the day – that’s an album that still holds an honoured slot in my record collection.


BassDrumBone, 1984, by Ken van Sickle

Follow ups that I have in my collection include a trio date under Ray’s name Right Down Your Alley on Soul Note in 1984, You Be on Minor Music recorded in 1985 (under their individual names), another Soul Note Wooferloo recorded in 1987 (under BassDrumBone) and an album recorded at the BimHuis in Amsterdam to commemorate their 25th anniversary March of Dimes (under BassDrumBone and released on Data). Their latest is The Long Road a double album released for their 40th that includes guests Joe Lovano and Jason Moran on some tracks. All of these albums are fantastic and there are at least a couple more that I don’t have. Hmm.


March of Dimes, cover by Han B.

The trio first played at the Festival in 1987 – that was a long time ago – it was during our 2nd du Maurier fest (also included Rova, Ran Blake and Houston Person), Quest, John Zorn, Muhal Richard Abrams / Dave Holland, Vinny Golia). That festival was not only memorable it was a steep learning curve for some young green horn presenters – oh ya – wild times and some of those stories are still parked in the memory bank. It’s been wonderful having these guys provide some of the soundtrack for my adult life; I’ve been blessed to know each of these guys as friends – Gerry the longest (since the 70’s), Ray and Mark since the 80’s and there have been many memorable hangs with Mark in NYC over the years.

All to say – BassDrumBone will burn the house down on July 2 at the Ironworks – the set is at 9:30pm and the midnight show features Gerry in an ad hoc trio with guitarist Tony Wilson and saxophonist John Gross. See you there!

If you’ve read this far – please watch this clip – it tells the BassDrumBone STORY!

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    commented 2017-09-13 04:44:26 -0700
    That’s simply wonderful when Jazz performers collaborate with one another especially at TD Vancouver International we cannot take our eyes away this is stunning Jazz Festival of a big scale. Professional artists can make rhythm, harmony and melody sound in a new way. Collaboration is always great when you work with professionals you won’t dissappoint