Thumbscrew – album review

Thumbscrew
Thumbscrew
(CUNEIFORM)

Thumbscrew, more than an album title, is an adventurous trio of improvising artists: guitarist Mary Halvorson, drummer Tomas Fujiwara and bassist Michael Formanek. They deliver provocative, yet not off-putting new jazz. Each musician wrote three songs, with Fujiwara’s off-kilter bluesy “Cheap Knock Off” opening the album, leaving plenty of room for a ferocious bass solo. Formanek’s title track is next, with intertwining guitar and bass driven by subtly busy drumwork. “Fluid Hills in Pink” is Halvorson’s noirish composition, during which she alternately strums and picks provocatively. “Goddess Sparkle” somehow combines free music and knotty interplay into a cohesive whole.  Throughout, Halvorson’s more abstract approach to her instrument finds grounding in Formanek’s rich bass and Fujiwara’s often danceable polyrhythms. Overall, the album’s approach might be summed up by the tongue-in-cheek name of Formanek’s piece “Still … Doesn’t Swing,” although it frequently does despite itself. — Martin Z. Kasdan, Jr.

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