Theirs

Theirs by Thumbscrew.
Bandcamp Link: Theirs

Again, Thumbscrew is Michael Formanek, Bass; Tomas Fujiwara, Drums; Mary Halvorson, guitar.

Thumbscrew released two albums on the same day earlier this year, one called “Ours” and one called “Theirs”. It wasn’t until I came to listen to “Theirs” today that I realized why they were named such. “Ours” is all original tunes by the band. “Theirs” is all tunes by other composers.

I hesitate to call these “standards” as the songs are, as they say, “Deep Cuts” from composers like Bennie Golson, Herbie Nichols, Wayne Shorter, Stanley Cowell, and Misha Mengleberg.

They are all mostly ballads.

After the inventive playing and compositions on “Ours”, I find the more conservative tack of “Theirs” a tad disappointing.

The melodies are handled by the guitar player Halvorson, occasional solos are given to bass player Formanek, and the drummer mostly sticks to brushes.

It’s not that it is a bad record, it just feels kind of predictable. Which is odd for a group of musicians as talented and interesting as these are. But, maybe being “predictable” for these musicians is being “unpredictable”? I guess, ultimately, I’d say, if you liked the sound and interactions on “Ours”, but found it a bit too eclectic for your tastes, maybe “Theirs” is the album for you.

#Thumbscrew #Theirs #TodaysCommuteSoundtrack #MaryHalvorson #TomasFujiwara #MichaelFormanek

Ours

Ours by Thumbscrew.
Bandcamp Link: Ours

Thumbscrew is Michael Formanek, Bass; Tomas Fujiwara, drums; Mary Halvorson, guitar.

Formanek is probably best known for his work in the sphere of Tim Berne and from his own ensembles. Fujiwara and Halvorson have spent time in the circles of Anthony Braxton’s recent ensembles.

Halvorson’s work is often prickly and angular, trad jazz folks complain it doesn’t “swing” or “rock”. She plays with largely dry tone on a big hollow body that is almost as tall as she is. Her main thing seems to be balancing between electric sound of the amplified guitar, the acoustic sound of the plucked guitar strings, and discreet use of a looper/delay.

Formanek is a very melodic and flexible bass player, despite his involvement in Berne’s often full contact ensembles. I feel it is his often bowed sound that is the heart of this ensemble.

Fujiwara, I would describe as a lithe and nimble drummer, one second he is playing swing time, the next he is tick-tacking along as if he were playing percussion in an orchestra, the next he is dragging the surprising sounds out if his kit, and the next he is playing a rock beat.

Anyway, for musicians who have spent a lot of time playing “difficult” music and who play in an ensemble called “thumbscrew”, this is a very accessible and pleasant album. Even lyrical in places! No one will mistake it for a Jim Hall or John McLaughlin trio, but there is a lot of variety here and a surprising amount of swinging and rocking.

It seems like the ensemble is very democratic, with three songs composed by each member. Certainly, everyone is pulling their weight. My favorite tunes are probably “Smoketree”, “Cruel Heartless Bastards”, and “Words That Rhyme With Spangle (angle bangle dangle jangle mangel mangle strangle tangle wangle wrangle)”. I even picked one tune from each member without knowing beforehand who had written them!

They are all at the top of their game.

#Thumbscrew #Ours #TodaysCommuteSoundtrack #MichaelFormanek #TomasFujiwara #MaryHalvorson

2017-11-03 Paimon: The Book of the Angels Volume 32

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Paimon: The Book of Angels Volume 32. Mary Halvorson Quartet plays Masada Book Two.

Label Link: Paimon

Oddly, this is a fairly traditional Jazz album by Mary Halvorson, Miles Okazaki, Drew Gress, and Tomas Fujiwara. Two guitars, Bass, and Drums, respectively. For the most part both Halvorson and Okazaki keep their guitar tone fairly dry, limiting digital effects to the odd flourish.

Well, I suppose, “Fairly Traditional Modal Jazz in a Klezmer style”, would be a more accurate way to describe this album.

The impressive thing is the way the two guitarists double each other at intervals, playing the melodies with harmonies, rather than the traditional lead and rhythm guitar type arrangement. A nice bass solo from Gress and some impressive cymbal work from Fujiwara round out the album.

Thoroughly enjoyable.

#TodaysCommuteSoundtrack #MaryHalvorson #Paimon #Tzadik #MaryHalvorsonQuartet #TomasFujiwara #DrewGress #milesokazaki