Merging different sub-genre of NYC's rich jazz and creative music scene, drummer Tomas Fujiwara's trio with Brandon Seabrook on guitar and Ralph Alessi on trumpet furtively builds into a free jazz album of contrasting dynamics and superb playing.
Fujiwara, Tomas Trio
Label: Relative Pitch
Released in: USA
"The album fades in from nothing with the gradual increase in volume of the pulse of an electronic sound from the guitar, which is carefully joined by the brushing of cymbals and what appears to be the extended technique of vocalising through the trumpet. This is Tomas Fujiwara's trio of himself (composer/drums), Brandon Seabrook (guitar) and Ralph Alessi (trumpet).
Having been recorded live the compositions are free flowing and continuous in sound throughout, with one piece blending into another either through the pieces being merged together through performance, and the possible use of sympathetic editing with Fujiwara's drums often providing the link. Fujiwara's drums generate a scattering of sound and the skittering rhythms create great interplay between the guitar and the trumpet. Brandon Seabrook is very deft at carefully using effects to colour the guitar's sound on the one hand and on the other to provide more electronic sounding material, which adds to the contrast in the overall structure of the pieces. At other times Seabrook can be found providing Ralph Alessi's trumpet with a melodic sparring partner or harmonic support.
Whilst much of the music is complex with quick interchanges and imitation between the instruments the music is also allowed to breath with other sections providing a good foil for the busier textures. Another strength of the album is the contrast between the moments which are much more open and free and those which contain much more solid harmonic musical devices such as chord sequences and repeated riffs. These elements seem to be introduced at very timely points which really help with the continuum of the music and not only makes for exciting listening but increases the intrigue as the music continues to develop.
Stand-out tracks such as A Table's Stern featuring variations based on a theme by the saxophonist Benny Golson where the music is completely deconstructed and then also referenced with more traditional quotations, and The Comb which starts in a much more reflective manner and contains a catchy guitar ostinato with changing bass notes. It's no coincidence that both of these pieces are also the two longest, not only letting the music stretch out but also allowing it to settle on an idea and exploring it more thoroughly.
This is a live set of interesting pieces played by a very solid trio that have a real sense of togetherness and musical understanding whilst being able to improvise independently from one another. Variable Bets is an album that grows in time, as there is much to enjoy on each subsequent listen."-Chris Haines, FreeJazz Blog
• Show Bio for Tomas Fujiwara
"Born in Boston in 1977, Brooklyn-based drummer Tomas Fujiwara emerged during the early to mid-2000s as a valued sideman before forming his own quintet, Tomas Fujiwara & the Hook Up, which gathered accolades for blending influences such as Wayne Shorter, Taleb Kweli, and Me'Shell Ndegéocello with the experimental and unpredictable spirit of the 21st century Brooklyn creative jazz scene. After studying for eight years with drummer and educator Alan Dawson in the Boston area, Fujiwara moved to New York at the age of 17. His first performing experiences included a five-year stint beginning around the turn of the millennium with the off-Broadway show Stomp, but he also began appearing as a sideman on jazz recordings (e.g., Three Souls by the Adam Rafferty Trio in 2003) and moving in exploratory, adventurous directions.
Fujiwara developed a particularly strong collaborative relationship with New Haven, Connecticut-based cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum, whose own avant-leaning ensembles have featured a number of top Brooklyn improvising musicians. Fujiwara first appeared with Bynum on two 2007 recordings, The Middle Picture by the Taylor Ho Bynum Sextet (Firehouse 12) and True Events by the Taylor Ho Bynum/Tomas Fujiwara Duo (482 Music). During the following years, the drummer appeared on the Bynum Sextet albums Asphalt Flowers Forking Paths (hatOLOGY, 2009), Apparent Distance (Firehouse 12, 2011), and Navigation (Possibility Abstracts X & XI) (Firehouse 12, 2013), and the Bynum/Fujiwara Duo album Stepwise (Nottwo, 2010). Fujiwara is also a member of Positive Catastrophe, a ten-piece outfit co-led by Bynum and percussionist Abraham Gomez-Delgado and inspired by Sun Ra and Latin jazz; the group has released two albums on Cuneiform, Garabatos Volume One (2009) and Dibrujo, Dibrujo, Dibrujo... (2012).
Another musician with whom Fujiwara has often worked, guitarist Mary Halvorson, also often travels in the same creative orbit as Taylor Ho Bynum; like Fujiwara, Halvorson is a member of the Bynum Sextet, and along with Bynum and violist Jessica Pavone, the drummer and guitarist formed the collective quartet the Thirteenth Assembly, which has recorded two albums for the Important Records label, 2009's (un)sentimental and 2011's Station Direct. Fujiwara, Halvorson, and Bynum also appeared as members of the Chicago-New York nonet Living by Lanterns, whose New Myth/Old Science album -- based on fragments of music recorded by Sun Ra in 1961 -- appeared on Cuneiform in 2012. In 2014 Cuneiform released another album featuring Fujiwara and Halvorson, the eponymous debut of Thumbscrew, a collaborative trio also including veteran bassist Michael Formanek.
Fujiwara first assembled his Hook Up quintet in 2008, later describing the bandmembers as "some of the most important musicians in my life" -- and given all of Fujiwara and Halvorson's recorded appearances together in various settings, it was no surprise that the guitarist was in the lineup. Also featuring tenor saxophonist Brian Settles, trumpeter Jonathan Finlayson, and bassist Danton Boller, Tomas Fujiwara & the Hook Up released their debut album, Actionspeak, on 482 Music in 2010. Featuring Trevor Dunn on bass in place of Boller, the group's sophomore album, The Air Is Different, arrived (also on 482 Music) in 2012.
The many other projects in which Fujiwara has played as a collaborator or sideman include the Steve Lacy tribute band Ideal Bread, the eight-piece "bhangra funk dhol 'n' brass" outfit Red Baraat, and saxophonist/clarinetist Matt Bauder's acoustic jazz quintet. "-All Music (http://www.allmusic.com/artist/tomas-fujiwara-mn0000909926/biography)
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• Show Bio for Brandon Seabrook
"Described by Spin Magazine as "An apocalyptic, supersonic general of the banjo..." Brandon Seabrook has made a name for himself in the New York avant-garde music scene as an explosive guitar and banjo performer, relentlessly committed to immediacy and precision.
Seabrook honed his terror-inducing riffage skills at the New England Conservatory in Boston. He has since performed extensively in North and South America, Mexico and Europe, as a solo artist, bandleader and collaborator. He has been summoned by the likes of Anthony Braxton, Elliot Sharp and Joey Arias for his unpredictably spiked approach to improvisation and impeccable caterwauling. He has been profiled in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Magnet Magazine, Fretboard Journal, NPR and The Wire.
Seabrook Power Plant, the nuclear trio donned "a manic clusterfuck of merciless banjo torture" by the Village Voice, is Brandon's brainchild, blending the brutal energy of punk-rock with the intricate execution of through-composed avant jazz. The band has released two albums to much critical acclaim. Time Out New York praised the band's eponymous debut as "not only one of the most baffling experimental releases of the year... also one of the best."
Brandon is an accomplished solo artist, named Best Guitarist in New York City by the Village Voice 2012. In 2014, New Atlantis Records released his first solo album titled Sylphid Vitalizers. Noisey called the album a "dissonant guitar army...(with) mind-blowing prog-rock complexities - all at mind-numbing breakneck speed."
Brandon is currently working on two new albums with his noise-prog trio, Needle Driver and a new sextet featuring immoral, percussive compositions under the name Die Trommel Fatale. This recent work is a poly-rhythmic exploration of the dark side of the drum, layering cello, bass, electronics, voice and guitar against dichotomous drummers."-Brandon Seabrook Website (http://www.brandonseabrook.com/bio/)
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NY Downtown & Jazz/Improv
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Label: Relative Pitch
Catalog ID: RPR-1028
Squidco Product Code: 19629
Recorded live at Barb¸s in Brooklyn, NY on September 11th, 2013 by Jonathon Goldberger.
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1. Mr. Or In Pivot 8:57
2. Insomniac's Delight 7:32
3. November I Wept 5:46
4. The Comb 10:00
5. Harp Ran Blond 4:50
6. A Table's Stem (Variations On A Theme By Benny Golson) 13:48
7. Lord Sumo 2:08
8. Nudge Storms 5:06