The Squid's Ear Magazine


Thumbscrew (Fujiwara / Halvorson / Formanek): Never Is Enough [VINYL + DOWNLOAD] (Cuneiform)

Recorded at the same time and influenced by the recording of their 2020 album The Anthony Braxton Project, the NY Thumbscrew trio of Tomas Fujiwara on drums, Mary Halvorson on guitar, and Michael Formanek on double bass & electric bass present 9 original compositions, three pieces from each of the musicians, of melodically inclined forward thinking, creative jazz.
 

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product information:

Personnel:



Tomas Fujiwara-drums

Mary Halvorson-guitar

Michael Formanek-double bass, electric bass


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UPC: 045775047812

Label: Cuneiform
Catalog ID: Rune 478 LP
Squidco Product Code: 30077

Format: LP
Condition: New
Released: 2021
Country: USA
Packaging: Digipack
Recorded at Mr. Smalls Studio, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on September 8th, 9th, 10th and 11th, 2019, by Nate Campisi.

Descriptions, Reviews, &c.

"Currently one of the most exciting and active groups in boundary-pushing jazz, is the collective trio Thumbscrew, who release their sixth album in seven years with Never Is Enough. Constantly taking the simple, 'guitar trio' line-up into new territories, their music is a masterclass of musical interplay and focused forward momentum.

Late in the summer of 2019 Thumbscrew hunkered down at City of Asylum, the Pittsburgh arts organization that has served as a creative hotbed for the trio via a series of residencies. The immediate plan was for them to rehearse and record a disparate program of Anthony Braxton compositions they'd gleaned from his Tri-Centric Foundation archives, pieces released last year on The Anthony Braxton Project, an album celebrating his 75th birthday.

At the same time, the triumvirate brought in a batch of original compositions that they also spent time refining and recording, resulting in Never Is Enough. While not intentional, The Anthony Braxton Project and Never Is Enough do seem to speak eloquently (if cryptically) to each other.

"Braxton's presence was very strong in this period, spending time with his music, reading some of the composition notes" Formanek says. "I think and hope the influence was there. It was definitely in our minds. I don't know if there's a direct influence, but definitely inspiration."

Each member contributed three pieces to the project, and the album opens with Fujiwara's amiable "Camp Easy," a gently loping piece that starts with a pastoral improvised passage that anticipates the spacious counterpoint between Formanek's thoughtfully surefooted bass and Halvorson's slippery lines. Fujiwara's "Through an Open Window" features a very different kind of movement, with episodic motifs that fit together like a jigsaw puzzle. Inspired by a hotel view in Sarajevo, the piece suggests a layered panorama, "a cityscape skyline, rain falling, mountains, a lot of visual inspiration with people, clouds, and cars subtly moving and shifting," Fujiwara says.

With a rock 'n' roll edge, Halvorson's "Sequel to Sadness" maintains the coiled energy of a panther stalking prey, with strategic pauses and a centerpiece drum solo that builds delicious tension. She also contributes the album's most unabashed ballad, a supplely lyrical tune inspired by standards she's been working on. And Fractured Sanity expands from a telegraphic guitar riff into quicksilver conversation with all three players offering agitated commentary.

Formanek's title track introduces a whole new array of shades to Thumbscrew's already brimming palette. After decades of almost entirely avoiding the instrument on recordings, he created a squally, atmospheric piece that gives him plenty of space for his non-idiomatic electric bass work. "I conceived 'Never Is Enough' as a piece I was going to record on the electric bass, but could play on either one," he says. The ambiguous title riffs on a classic New Yorker cartoon ("How about never - is never good for you?") but speaks more to "the ever present feeling of being held captive by the insanity of the last four years of...whatever this has been."

Opening with a brief lockstep theme, Formanek's "Emojis Have Consequences" gives each player a distinct part, with their evolving two-against-one interactions weaving a quietly volatile matrix. The album's closer, "Scam Likely," is another palette- expanding by Formanek, with a long abstract duo passage featuring his ambient, electronically altered and synthesized electric bass calls set against Fujiwara's beautifully textured trap work. Halvorson's arrival adds pulsars and star-bursts to the celestial soundscape, which coalesces like a galaxy being born. Which makes sense considering the music took shape in the midst of Thumbscrew's deep dive into Braxton's vast and varied oeuvre.

"We weren't separating them out when we were rehearsing and recording," Halvorson says. "It was just going through this music, and one tune might be Braxton, and one might be an original. The thing I get from both is an intense sense of focus."

The focus each player brings to Thumbscrew and the dense web of experience they share is part of what makes the ensemble so extraordinary."-Cuneiform Records

Also available on CD.

Artist Biographies

"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)
2/21/2024

Have a better biography or biography source? Please Contact Us so that we can update this biography.

"One of improvised music's most in-demand guitarists, Mary Halvorson has been active in New York since 2002, following jazz studies at Wesleyan University and the New School. Critics have called her "a singular talent" (Lloyd Sachs, JazzTimes), "NYC's least-predictable improviser" (Howard Mandel, City Arts), "one of the most exciting and original guitarists in jazz-or otherwise" (Steve Dollar, Wall Street Journal), and "one of today's most formidable bandleaders" (Francis Davis, Village Voice). The Philadelphia City Paper's Shaun Brady adds, "Halvorson has been steadily reshaping the sound of jazz guitar in recent years with her elastic, sometimes-fluid, sometimes-shredding, wholly unique style."

After three years of study with visionary composer and saxophonist Anthony Braxton, Ms. Halvorson became an active member of several of his bands, including his trio, septet and 12+1tet. To date, she appears on six of Mr. Braxton's recordings. Ms. Halvorson has also performed alongside iconic guitarist Marc Ribot, in his bands Sun Ship and The Young Philadelphians, and with the bassist Trevor Dunn in his Trio-Convulsant. Over the past decade she has worked with such diverse bandleaders as Tim Berne, Taylor Ho Bynum, Tomas Fujiwara, Ingrid Laubrock, Myra Melford, Jason Moran, Joe Morris, Tom Rainey and Mike Reed.

As a bandleader and composer, one of Ms. Halvorson's primary outlets is her longstanding trio, featuring bassist John Hébert and drummer Ches Smith. Since their 2008 debut album, Dragon's Head, the band has been recognized as a rising star jazz band by Downbeat Magazine for five consecutive years. Ms. Halvorson's quintet, which adds trumpeter Jonathan Finlayson and alto saxophonist Jon Irabagon to the trio, has released two critically acclaimed albums on the Firehouse 12 label: Saturn Sings and Bending Bridges. Most recently she has added two additional band members-tenor saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock and trombonist Jacob Garchik-to form a septet, featured on her 2013 release Illusionary Sea. Ms. Halvorson also co-leads a longstanding chamber-jazz duo with violist Jessica Pavone, the avant-rock band People and the collective ensembles Thumbscrew and Secret Keeper."

-Mary Halvorson Website (http://www.maryhalvorson.com/bio/)
2/21/2024

Have a better biography or biography source? Please Contact Us so that we can update this biography.

"One marker of bassist Michael Formanek's creativity and versatility is the range of distinguished musicians of several generations he's worked with. While still a teenager in the 1970s he toured with drummer Tony Williams and saxophonist Joe Henderson; starting in the '80s he played long stints with Stan Getz, Gerry Mulligan, Fred Hersch and Freddie Hubbard. (As a callback to those days, Formanek recorded with hardbop pianist Freddie Redd in 2013). The bassist has played a pivotal role on New York's creative jazz scene going back to the '90s when he notably led his own quintet and played in Tim Berne's barnstorming quartet Bloodcount. Nowadays Formanek's in the co-op Thumbscrew with Brooklyn guitarist Mary Halvorson and drummer Tomas Fujiwara.

Formanek is also a composer and leader of various bands. His principal recording and international touring vehicle is his acclaimed quartet with Tim Berne on alto saxophone, Craig Taborn on piano and Gerald Cleaver on drums, which records for ECM; 2010's The Rub and Spare Change and 2012's Small Places both earned coveted five-star raves in Down Beat. Formanek writes, and the quartet plays, compositions of great rhythmic sophistication that unfold in a natural sounding way - challenging music the players make sound like lyrical free expression. His occasional groups include the 18-piece all-star Ensemble Kolossus, roping in many New York improvisers he works with. Ensemble Kolossus recorded their first CD of all Formanek originals for the prestigious ECM label in December of 2014. The CD, The Distance was released in February 2016 and in addition to numerous other accolades also received a five-star review in Downbeat!

Formanek's other recordings as leader include Wide Open Spaces and Extended Animation for quintet and Low Profile and Nature of the Beast for seven players (all on Enja), and the solo album Am I Bothering You? (Screwgun). Mirage (Clean Feed) is by the occasional improvising trio of Formanek, tenor saxophonist Ellery Eskelin and pedal steel guitarist Susan Alcorn. Thumbscrew's 2014 debut is on Cuneiform Records. Michael Formanek has also made dozens of recordings as sideman, for among others Dave Ballou, Tim Berne, Jane Ira Bloom, Dave Burrell, Harold Danko, Marty Ehrlich, Tomas Fujiwara, Gary Thomas and Jack Walrath.

As composer of works for ensembles from duo to mixed jazz and classical orchestra, Michael Formanek has received institutional support from Chamber Music America, the Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation, the Peabody Conservatory, the Maryland State Arts Council and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. As an educator, Formanek teaches bass and other jazz courses, and leads the Jazz Ensemble at Baltimore's Peabody Conservatory."

-Michael Formanek Website (http://www.amibotheringyou.com/bio.html)
2/21/2024

Have a better biography or biography source? Please Contact Us so that we can update this biography.


Track Listing:



SIDE A



1. Camp Easy 6:41

2. Sequel To Sadness 6:14

3. Never Is Enough 6:54

SIDE B



1. Through An Open Window 5:33

2. Heartdrop 4:47

3. Emojis Have Consequences 5:55

SIDE C



1. Fractured Sanity 5:43

2. Unsung Procession 6:25

3. Scam Likely 8:36

SIDE D



1. Scarlet Ribbons (for her hair) 4:25

2. Cruel Heartless Bastards 8:02

3. Words That Rhyme With Spangle 6:18

4. East of the Sun 3:45

Related Categories of Interest:


Vinyl Recordings
Improvised Music
Jazz
Free Improvisation
NY Downtown & Metropolitan Jazz/Improv
Trio Recordings
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Cuneiform.


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