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Tomas Fujiwara: Triple Double

Dan Bilawsky By

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The ninety seconds of scattershot guitar nicks that introduce "Diving For Quarters" can be seen as something of a trial by noodling. If you make it through that rough and prickly patch mentally intact, you're in for a treat. Asymmetrical grooving in fifteen, puckered brass glances, winding horn melodies, and stormy ensemble assaults all follow as the song runs its course. It's music that sounds as unpredictable as it does inevitable. That's just the magic of drummer Tomas Fujiwara's work.

This group can be sliced and diced a number of different ways. You have three matching instrument pairs, with Fujiwara and Gerald Cleaver on drums, Brandon Seabrook and Mary Halvorson on guitars, and Ralph Alessi and Taylor Ho Bynum on trumpet and cornet, respectively; you have two probing trios merging into a single existence, as Fujiwara's group with Alessi and Seabrook comes to share space with his band that includes Halvorson and Bynum; and, of course, you have one wild sextet made up of six singular individuals at play. These are all fun combinatorial facts to ponder, but they don't alter or obscure the essential truth here: you can run the basic numbers any way you like, but the music remains of greater significance than the math on Triple Double.

The aforementioned album opener provides a strong sense of the way this band of bands operates. Over the course of nearly eleven minutes there, Fujiwara plays with variations and permutations. Sometimes it's all about the full weight of the ensemble, as thrusters and bluster win out. But just as often, there are breakaway showcases for different combinations of players. There's an aspect of rigor at work in many patches and with certain adopted roles, but the element of chance is never removed from the frame. That's how all of this works, in a nutshell at least.

There's something fascinatingly focused to be found in the development of the miniature statements here—the manner in which Seabrook's guitar and Cleaver's brushes tentatively explore the surroundings and settle for the unsettled on "Hurry Home B/G," the way the choppy churn of "Pocket Pass" coheres into a unified theme, and the open-eared flow of ideas that evolves between Halvorson and Fujiwara on the wonderfully eerie "Hurry Home M/T"—but the longer works prove more intriguing. "For Alan," which opens and closes with recorded snippets of a young and reluctant Fujiwara receiving some grains of wisdom on the importance of improvisation and structure from legendary drum pedagogue Alan Dawson, slowly and steadily builds into a tower of rhythm and independence that speaks to the leader's skills in constructing a long-form percussive arc; "Love And Protest" rumbles and sways, juxtaposing a threnody and some probing soloists against a tense percussive churn; and "To Hours" shifts from squirrelly proclamations and tumultuous territory to rock solid, riff-backed explorations in five. It's daring music that leaves no doubt as to the veracity surrounding Fujiwara's place in the pantheon of left-leaning explorers leading the charge today.

Track Listing: Diving For Quarters; Blueberry Eyes; Hurry Home B/G; Pocket Pass; For Alan; Lover And Protest; Decisive Shadow; Hurry Home M/T; Toasting The Mart; To Hours.

Personnel: Tomas Fujiwara: drums; Gerald Cleaver: drums; Mary Halvorson: guitar; Brandon Seabrook: guitar; Ralph Alessi: trumpet; Taylor Ho Bynum: cornet.

Title: Triple Double | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Firehouse 12 Records


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