22

Tomas Fujiwara & The Hook Up: The Air Is Different

Robert Bush By

Sign in to view read count
Boston-born and Brooklyn-based drummer Tomas Fujiwara has been stirring things up in the New York City creative music scene for some time now, working with a wide variety of players including cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum and guitarist Mary Halvorson.

His working ensemble, Tomas Fujiwara & The Hook Up, features Halvorson—one of the brightest voices in the new-music continuum to emerge in years—along with muscular bassist Trevor Dunn, tenor saxophonist Brian Settles and trumpeter Jonathan Finlayson.

Fujiwara is an excellent drummer, with an ultra-layered approach to ride cymbal dynamics, but it's his composing that is front and center on this recording. The Air Is Different is loaded with haunting melodies, quirky rhythms and protean solos.

Opening with Halvorson's clean-toned essay, "Lineage" transforms into a guitar ostinato when the horns enter. There is a definite nod to Wayne Shorter's oeuvre in the way Fujiwara voices his melodic ideas. Finlayson lets loose with a pithy invention as Halvorson and Fujiwara almost explode underneath with slashing, bubbling guitar and percussive storm clouds. When Settles begins, it's just him and the drummer, who teases the saxophonist's acid-toned warbling with cycles of mallet-driven rolls.

Halvorson's nervous jangles set the tone for "Double Lake, Defined." She takes the first solo, a distortion-laced spot full of excitement, handing the baton to Settles, whose grainy multiphonics and wide vibrato lead to Finlayson's Freddie Hubbard-meets-Don Cherry antics. All of this is driven by Fujiwara's pulsing hi-hat and insistent tom-toms.

"Cosmopolitan (Rediscovery)," features skronk guitar over drawn horn textures, arco bass and the leader's cartoon-like, skittering drums. Suddenly the gears shift dramatically into probing ballad mode, with all of the gorgeous contours of a Kenny Wheeler composition. Settles races warm-toned scales up the neck and Finlayson joins for a brief duel before the melody emerges to tie it all together.

The trumpeter's tart, clarion call blasts introduce "Smoke-Breathing Lights" a cappella until the huge, throaty bass enjoins. Dunn proceeds with a loose-limbed, powerful solo that travels the divide between iconic bassists Jimmy Garrison and Dave Holland. As Dunn begins to outline the form, Fujiwara propels with intricate ride cymbal articulations and Halvorson takes off with a remarkable exploration of single-note storytelling, punctuated with strands of dissonant clusters.

An asymmetrical line, doubled by guitar and saxophone, sets up "Postcards." Finlayson enters, staking out a new direction, supported by bass strumming and Fujiwara's off-kilter percolations. The piece shifts from nervous free-jazz into several moods before settling into an anthem-like cycle, fostering a brawny tenor solo followed by a fulsome trumpet episode.

Fujiwara takes his lone drum solo of the disc—firing off roiling toms and cymbal washes, and sounding almost architectural in conception. Afterwards, a beautiful melody emerges, and builds slowly, like waves crashing into the shore, completing the journey.

The Air Is Different is wildly creative music that never veers into inaccessibility. If you're wondering where jazz might be headed in the new millennium, it's a good place to start.

Track Listing: Lineage; Double Lake, Defined; For Ours; Cosmopolitan (Rediscovery); Smoke-Breathing Lights; Postcards.

Personnel: Tomas Fujiwara: drums; Jonathan Finlayson: trumpet; Brian Settles: tenor saxophone; Mary Halvorson: guitar; Trevor Dunn: bass.

Title: The Air Is Different | Year Released: 2012 | Record Label: 482 Music


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Estonian Suite: Live In Tallinn CD/LP/Track Review Estonian Suite: Live In Tallinn
by Bruce Lindsay
Published: November 18, 2017
Read Queen City Blues CD/LP/Track Review Queen City Blues
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: November 18, 2017
Read Latin Lover CD/LP/Track Review Latin Lover
by Rob Rosenblum
Published: November 18, 2017
Read Reclamation CD/LP/Track Review Reclamation
by Glenn Astarita
Published: November 18, 2017
Read The Princess CD/LP/Track Review The Princess
by Mark Corroto
Published: November 18, 2017
Read Provenance CD/LP/Track Review Provenance
by Karl Ackermann
Published: November 17, 2017
Read "I'll Tell You Later In December" CD/LP/Track Review I'll Tell You Later In December
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: November 4, 2017
Read "Tribute to Bobby" CD/LP/Track Review Tribute to Bobby
by Roger Farbey
Published: October 5, 2017
Read "Richie Cole Plays Ballads & Love Songs" CD/LP/Track Review Richie Cole Plays Ballads & Love Songs
by Jim Trageser
Published: November 25, 2016
Read "Known-Unknown" CD/LP/Track Review Known-Unknown
by Bruce Lindsay
Published: January 22, 2017
Read "The Frequency Modulators Orchestra, Vol. 1" CD/LP/Track Review The Frequency Modulators Orchestra, Vol. 1
by Jim Olin
Published: October 17, 2017
Read "The Roc" CD/LP/Track Review The Roc
by Roger Farbey
Published: January 28, 2017

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.

Please support out sponsor