Saturday, June 23, 2018

Thumbscrew: Theirs & Ours

Mary Halvorson (guitar)
Michael Formanek (bass)
Tomas Fujiwara (drums)
Theirs & Ours (Cuneiform Records; 2018)

I have to be honest, I didn't expect this "supergroup" of Halvorson, Formanek, and Fujiwara--known as Thumbscrew, to last. Mainly because they rotate through so many of their own projects. But, they have been very prolific since their first outing in 2014. Now with their most recent companion releases Theirs and Ours the trio continues to stretch the improvised equations further with enormous success.

Ours is confident out of the gate with Formanek expanding his already intricate and fluid bass melodies followed by Halvorson's expressive and personal tones on "One Day" and "Unconditional." But one of my favourites is the almost rock-infused "Cruel Heartless Bastards" which changes pace from the start. Fujiwara and Fromanek shift modes with Halvorson, disrupting and cutting edges throughout. It felt like I was listening to Throwing Muses or Belly. 

Theirs features interpretations of some well known and not so well known jazz pieces such as Benny Golson's "Stablemates" where the trio showers the listener (or at least this one) with a rolling and vibrant version led by Fujiwara and Halvorson. While short, "Stablemates" floats perfectly into the Brazilian rhythms of Jacob Do Bandolim's "Benzinho," a lovely bounce that shows what fun the trio has had throughout this outing. Thumbscrew closes out Theirs with the beautiful Misha Mengelberg ballad "Weer is een dag voorbij" that perfectly encapsulates a creative and delicate journey with an arrangement that stays true but always shines with their original imprint.

While both Theirs and Ours feature very distinct themes, both releases are superbly delivered and highlight the monstrous talents of three excellent improvising pros on the scene today. Highly recommended!

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Sunna Gunnlaugs: Cielito Lindo

Sunna Gunnlaugs
Cielito Lindo (SunnySky Records, 2015)
Sunna Gunnlaugs (piano)
Þorgrímur Jónsson (bass)
Scott McLemore (drums)

Another beautiful stroke from the very understated Icelandic pianist. I have been an immense fan for a few years now. Cielito Lindo is a steady, rhythmic and colourful session that stays with you few hours after each listen.

"Cielito Lindo," sets the adventurous tone as the group further explores Spanish rthyhms throughout each of its recent releases. "Dry Cycle," is another evidence of Gunnlaugs playful nature but with exact precisions and contemplative construction from both Jonsson and McLemore. It's probably one of my favorite Gunnalaugs pieces across all of her records.

"Icelandic Blues" and "Summertime" are both tight and different prospectives for Gunnaluags trio. "Icelandic Blues" showcases the trios swift ability move from intricate blues, gospel tinge to slight frenetic improvisation and back again. Sublime. While "Summertime" is a different animal altogether. An almost experimental deconstruction of the Gershwin standard. This is where Jonsson and McLemore shine and Gunnlaugs shows (for me at least) that she is reaching Keith Jarrett highest in her performances.

Cielito Lindo is another powerful and emotional piece of work in the cannon of Sunna Gunnlaugs material. I am hoping as her music becomes more important overseas that more US listener realize that there is another important musician on the scene.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Dre Hocevar: Coding Of Evidentiality

Dre Hocevar Trio
Coding of Evidentiality (Clean Feed; 2015)
Dre Hocevar (drums)
Bram De Looze (piano)
Sm Pluta (electronics)
Lester St.Louis (cello)

A sublime and cerebral Clean Feed debut from Slovenian born drummer/composer Dre Hocevar. Coding of Evidentiality travels a steady path of intricate notation that both calming and insightful. 

Hocevar allows his fellow bandmates to stretch and improvise within his compositions. Opening with "Form Of The Future Thought" which focuses in St. Louis and De Looze's swirling, melodic interplay. Hocevar wraps those elements in with a cross section of rhythmic patterns that eventually move the piece to high level cacophony that still remains beautiful and telling.

Experimentation takes hold on "Critical Discourse Analysis" with Pluta's electronic manipulation added by De Looze and subtle shifting notes from Hocevar and St. Louis provide a wonderful balancing acting of modern and traditional themes managed for new outlook that may not have been seen since the latter days of Esbjorn Svensson Trio.

I really loved the closing piece, "Second Portrait Of The Exemplary" with its multiple interchanges between the musicians all intertwined with Hocevar's quick brush/cymbal coordination. It's hauntingly beautiful and raucous till its conclusion.

Coding Of Evidentiality is a record that will make you think and entertain the senses. A shinning element of style that will be one of the best records you'll experience this year. Highly Recommended.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Asa Trio: Craning

Asa Trio
Craning (Sunny Sky; 2014)
Agnar Már Magnússon (organ)
Andrés Thor (guitar)
Scott McLemore (drums)

A more mature Asa Trio emerged last year with the release of Craning. A wonderful and well developed fourth album (first with full original material) from the young Icelandic trio. 

Craning melds and magnifies each members strengths that many have seen in their solo projects. This a beautiful record from the romantic folkish opener "Something To Make You Change Your Mind," which is soft and crowd pleasing. This extends to the gospel-tinged "Green Door" in which Magnusson's organ lays a steady pallate of emotions that envelops the listener. 

The great thing that has always excited me about Asa Trio is that while this is might sometimes be referred to as an organ trio (if you want to describe it that way), they actually are a much more like a one conhesive unit than that. Thor and McLemore both shine throughout individually on latter portion of session which turn quite reviting and funky ("On Pluto" and "What Was I Thinking").

Craning is a superb debut of original material from what is now a veteran trio. I have written their praises for a few years now. And this is just another sign of their continued growth both individually and as group. Highly recommend. And should have been part of my best of 2014 if I every put that list together like I promised.