Thumbscrew: Theirs

Mark Corroto By

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The trio Thumbscrew is releasing simultaneously two recordings from a single session, Theirs and Ours. The first is an album of cover songs and the latter originals by the band. While these reductionist tags might describe the music in its fundamental aspects, these two recordings are the product of one intricate process and trio language.

The three musicians that form Thumbscrew, guitarist Mary Halvorson, bassist Michael Formanek, and drummer Tomas Fujiwara, also collaborate in various other projects, including Halvorson's Code Girl (with Ambrose Akinmusire and Amirtha Kidambi), Formanek's 18-piece Ensemble Kolossus, and Fujiwara's quintet The Hook Up. These two releases follow Convallaria (Cuneiform, 2016) and their 2014 self-titled debut.  

The process and language can be thought of as part of the evolutionary story of jazz. While evolutionary biology unfolds over millions of years, jazz sprung from the diverse cauldron of New Orleans and metamorphosed from parade units to swing bands, bebop, cool jazz, hard-bop, post-bop and free jazz in a brief century. Thumbscrew may be the next phase in this process.

Their sound is that of three individual voices united in a task. Again with the reductionist language, but like Louis Armstrong's pejorative description of Bebop as "Chinese Music," the next generation of homo sapiens probably wasn't quite welcome at the Neanderthal camp fire. These three will be. The proof is in their covers of jazz standards like Benny Golson's "Stablemates" and Jimmy Rowles' "The Peacocks," and less well known (in the jazz world) artists like Argentinian composer Julio De Caro's "Buen Amigo" and the Brazilian Jacob Do Bandolim's "Benzinho." Each piece is almost played straight. Almost. Herbie Nichols' "House Party Starting" is identifiable, yet colored by Halvorson's ever present pitch altering foot pedal and Fujiwara's polychromatic touch. He, like Formanek, can keep time while articulating his own narrative. "East Of The Sun" is delivered as if the trio were mussing a hairdo. A kernel of the standard can be found in the parboil of music. But this is not rebel music. Revolution is not the purpose. Theirs might just be a primer for Thumbscrew's Ours or maybe vice versa, depending on where you start.  

Track Listing

Stablemates; Benzinho; House Party Starting; The Peacocks; East of the Sun; Scarlet Ribbons; (For Her Hair); Buen Amigo; Dance Cadaverous; Effi.


Mary Halvorson: guitar; Michael Formanek: double bass; Tomas Fujiwara: drums.

Album information

Title: Theirs | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: Cuneiform Records


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