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Tomas Fujiwara & the Hook Up: The Air is Different

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It’s not surprising nowadays to hear a modern jazz composer combine several divergent movements into one piece, turning a corner with little or no transition. Drummer Tomas Fujiwara fits this composer profile. But what makes the Hook Up’s sophomore release really engaging relates to the way Fujiwara concludes his tunes abruptly, right when the band sounds like it’s starting to settle into something. In doing so, he makes the listener stop to reflect on what just happened, and how strong it sounded.

Fujiwara’s pool of inspirations is deep and diverse, starting with rapper Talib Kweli and continuing through Fela Kuti and the overtones of a Buddhist bell-bowl from his grandfather’s temple in Japan. The way he incorporates these influences into the music makes all the difference. In “Lineage,” Mary Halvorson’s guitar evokes the droning bell-bowl in a repetitive two-note lick beneath Brian Settles’ (tenor saxophone) and Jonathan Finlayson’s (trumpet) long tones. The edgy 10/8 theme of “Double Lake, Defined” was inspired by Kweli’s voice, tone and lyrics. “Postcards,” a three-part piece dedicated to the leader’s mother, begins with a section sparked by numerology that sounds like a waltz and like Thelonious Monk’s “Misterioso”-just a tad loopier. Next comes a section written on the drums, which informed both the rhythm and the melody. After the album’s only real drum solo, the quintet locks into a 4/4 stomp that Fujiwara wrote on piano. And before the Hook Up can wear out its welcome, the album concludes-but not before it leaves you feeling satiated.

Originally Published