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Tomas Fujiwara: Triple Double

John Sharpe By

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Drummer Tomas Fujiwara's dynamite new outfit Triple Double deploys the cream of the NYC scene in three instrumental pairings, a mini musical Noah's Ark if you will. Marching ahead are the trumpet and cornet of Ralph Alessi and Taylor Ho Bynum respectively, flanked by the twin guitars of Mary Halvorson and Brandon Seabrook, with Fujiwara bringing up the rear in the company of fellow sticksman Gerald Cleaver. In doing so Fujiwara draws on the seasoned team responsible for the excellent Variable Bets (Relative Pitch, 2014), as well as longer term partners Bynum and Halvorson, bandmates in countless shenanigans including the cooperatives Illegal Crowns and Thirteenth Assembly.

If the caliber of protagonists isn't enough to get the juices running, then the uses to which Fujiwara puts them surely is. Across ten cuts, the volatile twists of the leader's adventurous charts offer rich opportunities to explore the combinations inherent in the novel line up. That's obvious straight from the off as the sparring guitars introduce the whoozy slow drag of "Diving For Quarters." Each is a radically unconventional stylist whose personality transcends the FX pedals. Absorbing their contributions, one minute furiously driving, the next willfully anarchic, is one of the great pleasures of the disc.

But it's far from the only one. The contrasting tactics of the two brassmen also make for riveting listening. Alessi is the more emotionally direct of the two. He can be quietly impassioned, as on the opener, but then dolefully prickly elsewhere, like the Spanish-tinged thrum of "Lover And Protest." Bynum tends more towards the extremes, whether high pressure exhalations or corkscrewing wah wah, and his shout outs and rhythmic stutter are a highlight of the rocky skronk of "Blueberry Eyes." Nowhere are the differing approaches clearer than on the punchy "Pocket Pass" where a rotating sequence of solos evokes the baton being passed on in a relay race.

The drummers complement without overtly seeming to keep out of each other's way. That's most apparent on "For Alan," an improvised duet where they pepper a continuous rumbling simmer with accented interjections. Fujiwara bookends the piece with tapes of his youthful lessons with the dedicatee, renowned teacher Alan Dawson, which may retain their charm or become wearing for listeners, depending on their tolerance of the spoken word. But Fujiwara has clearly taken to heart Dawson's injunction to play according to what you hear and feel. And he's gathered around him a cast who do that in spades, nourishing both the mind and the body.

If there's a complaint it's that some of the tracks seem unduly compressed, with two fading out even though there's more sparks in the fire. But perhaps that's just a call for an early follow up to an outstanding debut.

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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