Home » Jazz Articles » Thumbscrew: Thumbscrew

5

Album Review

Thumbscrew: Thumbscrew

By

Sign in to view read count
Thumbscrew: Thumbscrew
Thumbscrew is the self-titled debut of a two-year-old trio featuring guitarist Mary Halvorson, bassist Michael Formanek and drummer Tomas Fujiwara. As leading members of the next generation, Halvorson and Fujiwara have honed their finely-tuned rapport in numerous ensembles over the years, including cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum's flagship sextet, where they first met Formanek, who subbed for the group briefly in 2011.

Formanek's storied career dates back to the '80s, when he worked as a sideman for such luminaries as Stan Getz, Joe Henderson and Freddie Hubbard. The bassist's longstanding relationship with saxophonist Tim Berne in the ensuing decades established Formanek as a key member of the then nascent Downtown NYC scene. Formanek's recent efforts for ECM Records have received well-deserved acclaim, significantly raising his profile in the mainstream jazz press, which subsequently imparts an air of authority to his role here as seasoned veteran. His commanding tone, bold melodic extrapolations and oblique but steadfast phrasing provides the trio with a reliable foundation for even their most outré excursions.

Although freewheeling improvisational detours abound, the project is primarily composition driven, with each member contributing an equal number of pieces. Complimentary in their aesthetic approach, each work was specifically conceived for this lineup, instilling stylistic cohesiveness to the proceedings. Therefore, one can easily identify Fujiwara's muscular anthem "Cheap Knock Off" as a sly nod to Formanek's angular writing. Behind the trap set, Fujiwara typically eschews percussive pyrotechnics, conveying forward momentum to complex time signatures through tastefully modulated accents and interpolations—a nuanced technique that parallels his compositional subtlety, further revealed by the endlessly shifting tempo changes of "Goddess Sparkle."

Despite mirroring the instrumentation of Halvorson's own trio, Thumbscrew explores similar thematic territory with a greater dynamic range and a concerted focus on collective improvisation. A magnanimous collaborator, Halvorson's urbane compositions tend to favor the rhythm section's supple interactions in this intimate setting, as demonstrated by the conversational exchanges of "Fluid Hills In Pink." Left to her own devices however, Halvorson soars unconstrained, especially on Formanek's thorny tunes, which allow the guitarist ample freedom. On the bassist's "Buzzard's Breath" and "Still...Doesn't Swing," Halvorson unleashes riveting cadences that gracefully build from sinuous arpeggios to metallic clusters, climaxing with a torrent of psychedelic tremolos on the latter number.

Balancing sophisticated writing with adroit improvisational interplay, Thumbscrew is a captivating document of the harmonious chemistry shared by three master musicians. Following in the footsteps of recent releases from vanguard artists like Living By Lanterns, Rob Mazurek and Jason Robinson, Cuneiform Records continues to issue some of the most compelling modern jazz of our time.

Track Listing

Cheap Knock Off; iThumbscrew; Fluid Hills In Pink; Nothing Doing; Goddess Sparkle; Buzzard's Breath; Still...Doesn't Swing; Falling Too Far; Line To Create Madness.

Personnel

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

Album information

Title: Thumbscrew | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Cuneiform Records

Post a comment about this album


FOR THE LOVE OF JAZZ
Get the Jazz Near You newsletter 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.

Tags

More

The Source
Kenny Barron
Espérame en el Cielo
Gilbert Castellanos
Permeance
Wade Matthews / Abdul Moimême

Popular

Exude
Francesca Han & Ralph Alessi
Baker's Dozen
The Muffins
Blues & Bach: The Music Of John Lewis
Enrico Pieranunzi Trio & Orchestra
The Border
Douwe Eisenga

Get more of a good thing!

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories, our special offers, and includes upcoming jazz events near you.