Friday, June 11, 2021

Thumbscrew - Never Is Enough (Cuneiform Records, 2021)

Thumbscrew consists of Tomas Fujiwara on drums, Mary Halvorson on guitar and Michael Formanek on electric and acoustic bass. This album is made up of original compositions they recorded at the same time their album of Anthony Braxton compositions was recorded in Pittsburgh in 2019. The music is more organic and flexible than the the very complex Braxton material and allows them to continue the unique trajectory begun in 2014. The opener "Camp Easy" takes a more relaxed approach and manner for them, adding touch of melancholy to the proceedings, leading into "Sequel to Sadness" which has a march feel at times, getting heavy with very cool guitar effects and big chords. Fujiwara contributes an excellent drum solo, quite exciting as Formanek's bass joins in and the fun keeps going. "Never is Enough" features Halvorson playing mysterious guitar which echoes and ripples across light cymbals before a breakout into wild trio improvisation. Thick bass and skittish drums introduce "Through an Open Window," creating an intricate trio mesh, led by laser-like guitar effects developing a compelling collective performance. "Heartdrop" has gentle guitar chords and electronics and a beautiful bass solo with brushes and guitar framing, then an affable guitar lead. "Emojis Have Consequences" uses a choppier beat, with everybody in line for the theme and another fine bass solo with subtle playing all around. Mary Halvorson's guitar always does the unexpected keeps things interesting, and there is also an epic drum solo; with percussive sounds rolling everywhere. Urgent and nervous music tumbles over watery guitar as bass and drums stir up a tempest on "Fractured Sanity." With choppy chords then bass feature so classy and controlled, "Unsung Procession" uses delicate guitar playing, creating a quiet ballad, leaving space, using mallets, while the closer "Scam Likely" launches spare and abstract free shards of guitar around the disjointed drums. Thumbscrew is one of the best groups on the modern jazz scene today, each member is a band leader in their own right and has a unique approach to their instrument which clicks with each others. The compositions on this album are witty and memorable, and both the cooperative and solo playing is top notch. Never Is Enough - amazon.com

Send comments to Tim.