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!