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Tomas Fujiwara: Triple Double (Firehouse 12)

Review of album from adventurous drummer

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Cover of Tomas Fujiwara album Triple Double
Tomas Fujiwara album Triple Double

Tomas Fujiwara’s sextet is named Triple Double for a couple of reasons. It is composed of three instrumental pairings: guitarists Mary Halvorson and Brandon Seabrook, horns Ralph Alessi (trumpet) and Taylor Ho Bynum (cornet) and the drumming duo of Fujiwara and Gerald Cleaver. Then there is the fact that the Tomas Fujiwara Trio includes Seabrook and Alessi, and he has played so often with Halvorson and Bynum together in larger ensembles (including Illegal Crowns and the Thirteenth Assembly) and in each other’s bands that their trio interaction happens organically.

While all six musicians travel in similar circles and are stylistically disposed toward consonance more than contrast, their collective talent and Fujiwara’s innovative leadership make for a tonic of unpredictability. The leadoff track, “Diving for Quarters,” highlights the pairs—the guitars on their own for the first 90 seconds, horns jousting in the middle, drum beats holding sway at the end—while “Blueberry Eyes” and “Pocket Pass” strut the brutish flair of a heavy rock ensemble flirting with outside jazz. Two guitar-drum duets, both entitled “Hurry Home,” portray the nuanced differences inherent on the disc. The Seabrook-Cleaver “B/G” version is more delicate, utilizing effects and brushes, while the Halvorson-Fujiwara “M/T” version deploys echoes and beats to derive a similarly ominous overtone.

There is a sweet spot in the middle of Triple Double that begins with “For Alan,” in which Fujiwara replays tape of the still-relevant instruction provided by his teacher, Alan Dawson, back when he was 10. In a duo performance with Cleaver, he blends the audio with his current, Andrew Cyrille-like floating rolls and combinations that are the dividends of Dawson’s lessons. That’s followed by “Love and Protest,” a heaving maelstrom pockmarked by a variety of vivid solos and an ongoing bass undertow that is remarkable in a band without a bassist. Then “Decisive Shadow” conjures a totally different vibe, quirky and more carefree, with a spatial density that is less ocean and more jigsaw puzzle. A triple scoop of great music.

Preview, buy or download songs from the album Triple Double by Tomas Fujiwara on iTunes.


Originally Published