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Thumbscrew: Ours/Theirs (Cuneiform)

Review of two albums—one of originals and one of covers—by the avant-garde trio

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Cover of Thumbscrew album Ours
Cover of Thumbscrew album Ours
Cover of Thumbscrew album <I>Theirs</I>
Cover of Thumbscrew album Theirs

This gimmick has been trotted out before—an album of originals and an album of covers, released by the same artist on the same day—but rarely has it been executed so satisfyingly. Ours and Theirs, from the avant-improv trio Thumbscrew, feel like two halves of a whole.

Mary Halvorson is emerging as the most potent and innovative of today’s jazz guitarists, and bassist Michael Formanek and drummer Tomas Fujiwara have provided the platform for some of her best work. Though her sound is unmistakable, full of unanticipated harmonies and bent notes, this is a three-headed band. Groupthink outranks soloing. That goes as much for their reverential, languid take on Jimmy Rowles’ “The Peacocks” as it does for Formanek’s hard-rocking “Cruel Heartless Bastards.”

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