All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review

Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...

5

Thumbscrew: Thumbscrew

Troy Collins By

Sign in to view read count
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.

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

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

CD/LP/Track Review
Live Reviews
CD/LP/Track Review
Read more articles
Thumbscrew

Thumbscrew

Cuneiform Records
2014

buy

Related Articles

Read Mønk CD/LP/Track Review
Mønk
by Chris May
Published: September 20, 2018
Read The Music of Gary Lindsay / Are We Still Dreaming CD/LP/Track Review
The Music of Gary Lindsay / Are We Still Dreaming
by Jack Bowers
Published: September 20, 2018
Read Hidden Details CD/LP/Track Review
Hidden Details
by John Kelman
Published: September 20, 2018
Read Selective Coverage CD/LP/Track Review
Selective Coverage
by Jim Olin
Published: September 20, 2018
Read Fat Daddy CD/LP/Track Review
Fat Daddy
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: September 19, 2018
Read Short Stories CD/LP/Track Review
Short Stories
by Gareth Thompson
Published: September 19, 2018
Read "Spiderwebmandala" CD/LP/Track Review Spiderwebmandala
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: August 12, 2018
Read "Shadow Work" CD/LP/Track Review Shadow Work
by Phil Barnes
Published: November 22, 2017
Read "Beginnings" CD/LP/Track Review Beginnings
by David A. Orthmann
Published: September 25, 2017
Read "Perception" CD/LP/Track Review Perception
by Jerome Wilson
Published: July 15, 2018
Read "Planktonic Finales" CD/LP/Track Review Planktonic Finales
by John Sharpe
Published: November 2, 2017
Read "Inspiration" CD/LP/Track Review Inspiration
by Roger Farbey
Published: June 8, 2018