Actionspeak, by drummer Tomas Fujiwara & The Hook Up, operates as an updated take on Miles Davis' 1960s quintet idea. As a working band, the combination of Fujiwara with bassist Danton Boller, trumpeter Jonathan Finlayson, guitarist Mary Halvorson and saxophonist Brian Settles presents musical entertainment, more than intellectual device, while advancing the ideology of jazz as a viable commodity. This is new music and very easy to love.
Like Miles Davis, Fujiwara is building upon what has come before, but touching on a freshness of sound and perspective. Citing inspiration from Wayne Shorter, rapper AZ, MeShell NdegeOcello, and author Haruki Murakami, Fujiwara's compositions may have been recorded in a studio, but they beg to be presented live.
The groovy funk of the balladic "Should I Do" is a jumping off point for Finlayson and Settles to cross hornsstuttering lines that skip, slide, and undulate over the beat. From somewhere, Halvorson's guitar steps into Fujiwara's changed pace, picking simple notes as the emotions shift. This band is adept at influencing emotion with shifts of tempo and style. The repeating notes of "Folly Cove" sound much like a basketball losing energy as it bounces to a halt. After stating the theme via solo instrumentation, the music progresses at the same pace, but with the full quintet voicing the pulse. Halvorson's guitar effects skew the works; her unique sound prevalent throughout. On the post-bop "The Hunt," the guitarist alters the tuning of her guitar to curve and distort the sound's image while the band delivers a heavyweight groove. The music is attractively weird and oddly danceable, if only in your head.
Fujiwara's compositions compete with the players for attention. His other ballad, "Questions," is poignant and hauntingly beautiful, allowing for translucent soloing by each player, with Finlayson distinguishing himself with uncontaminated purity. The burner here is "Opal," a short track that begs for an expansion of its energy into a longer blowing device.
An impressive debut as leader but, more than that, this is a sturdy working quintet that progresses the music but not at the cost of listenership.
The Hunt; Should I Do; Folly Cove; The Throes; Questions; Opal;
Soundtrack to Romance.
Danton Boller: bass; Jonathan Finlayson: trumpet; Tomas Fujiwara:
drums; Mary Halvorson: guitar; Brian Settles; tenor saxophone.
All About Jazz has been a pillar of jazz since 1995, championing it as an art form and, more importantly, supporting the musicians who create it. Our enduring commitment has made "AAJ" one of the most culturally important websites of its kind, read by hundreds of thousands of fans, musicians and industry figures every month.
WE NEED YOUR HELP
To expand our coverage even further and develop new means to foster jazz discovery and connectivity we need your help. You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky ads plus provide access to future articles for a full year. This winning combination will vastly improve your AAJ experience and allow us to vigorously build on the pioneering work we first started in 1995. So enjoy an ad-free AAJ experience and help us remain a positive beacon for jazz by making a donation today.