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Tomas Fujiwara: Cinematic Structures

Where narrative form and abstraction intertwine

Tomas Fujiwara & The Hook Up at Vision Festival 2013 in Brooklyn: Mary Halvorson, Brian Settles, Michael Formanek, Jonathan Finlayson and Fujiwara (from left)

When drummer Tomas Fujiwara composed “The Comb,” a free-floating polyrhythmic dirge from After All Is Said (482), his arresting third album with the Hook Up, he channeled the story of his Iranian step-grandfather’s final days and execution under the Shah, encapsulated in a tool found in every barbershop. Taking a cue from Wayne Shorter, Fujiwara often composes soundtracks to cinematic scenes, but he prefers to obfuscate the underlying narrative and allow the listener to fill in the visual imagery.

“It was a free flow of thoughts and emotions, creating these different sections and then seeing how they fit together, but not being too heavy-handed in doing that,” says the 38-year-old drummer, seated at his apartment in Brooklyn’s Fort Greene neighborhood. “It’s almost like how one thought pops into our brain and another thought pops into our brain, and if you lay them out on paper it might not make sense, but that’s how our minds and emotions work. They just kind of flow.” This strategy informs both Fujiwara’s percussion style and his approach to the album’s series of tone haiku, blending a foundation of technical facility with an economy of language and a taste for experimentation. For Tomas Fujiwara (the “s” in Tomas is silent), opacity creates more interpretive possibilities than limitations.

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