Thumbscrew — Thumbscrew
(Cuneiform Rune 365, 2014, CD)
by Jon Davis, Published 2014-09-19
No, Thumbscrew isn't a gloomy death metal band intent on torturing listeners with the musical equivalent of their namesake. It's an avant-jazz trio consisting of Mary Halvorson (guitar), Michael Formanek (double bass), and Tomas Fujiwara (drums). The group is conceived as a composers' collective, so each of the players is represented by three pieces, but none of them seem very buttoned-down as compositions, allowing a lot of room for the musicians to express themselves. Just by the nature of the instrument, the guitar is going to be most prominent in any trio, and Halvorson's playing is quite distinctive. Most guitarists spend a lot of time and effort getting just the right tone, trying different guitars, strings, amps, and effects devices to present their particular vision of how they want to sound. Halvorson, in contrast, presents a very stark and dry sound much of the time, with little in the way of reverb or sustain, the only effects in evidence being occasional relatively mild distortion and a pitch-shifting pedal that causes her notes to jump around. The overall impression is rather like a classic jazz guitarist gone avant-garde, or maybe like Derek Bailey in a less free mood than usual. Fujiwara ventures seamlessly between swinging jazzy rhythms and freeform parts that always maintain momentum. Formanek complements the tunes perfectly, providing both low end and impressive forays into the higher register. Tonally, the tunes are adventurous, full of interesting twists and turns, even catchy at times without getting predictable; the playing is rehearsed but not constrained, and never delves into self-indulgent technique displays. This guitar trio is about as far from a shredding fusion band as you can get, and a welcome change of pace.
Eurock Documentary Seeks Funding – We've been fans and fellow travelers with Archie Patterson and his Eurock project on the journey to discover great music. After many years of promoting and trying to spread the word,a new phase is beginning: a documentary film. Things like this don't just happen, and money does not magically appear to make it happen, so it's up to the fans to get it done. » Read more
Marty Balin RIP – One of the architects of the 60s psychedelic sound of San Francisco has died at the age of 76. Marty Balin was a singer, songwriter, and guitarist who was one of the founders of Jefferson Airplane. After the split of the original Airplane, Balin went on to form the highly successful Jefferson Starship. » Read more
Krautrock Documentary Seeks Funding – The next installment of the Progressive Warriors documentary series will focus on the vast body of music that falls under the banner of "krautrock." As most of our readers will know, previous films have tackled RIO and the Canterbury scene, as well as what we might call "mainstream" prog rock. » Read more
Tomasz Stańko RIP – Tomasz Stańko, one of the greats of Eastern European jazz, has died at the age of 76. Stańko's career started in Krzysztof Komeda's quintet, where he contributed trumpet from 1963-1967, when he formed his own group. He worked extensively with Edward Vesala, Don Cherry, Zbigniew Seifert, Chico Freeman, Howard Johnson, Cecil Taylor, and many others. Many of his recordings have been released by ECM, an association that began in the mid-70s. » Read more