Mary Halvorson, Michael Formanek, and Tomas Fujiwara are veterans of the New York creative jazz scene. This sort of “avant-supergroup” recording happens frequently enough that the results need to be very interesting to garner significant attention. But it should not be surprising that this trio’s output meets that threshold.
This, their debut album, features writing credits split equally between the three. However, their compositional approaches are so complimentary and integrated that there are no abrupt stylistic changes from track to track. As expected, Formanek provides rubbery acoustic bass, Halvorson her clean and prickly guitar lines, and Fujiwara his insightful and angular drumming. While each participant is well-known for their improvisational skill, Thumbscrew was meant to let their writing shine.
And shine it does. The opening track, Cheap Knock Off, features riffing from Formanek and Fujiwara. Then Halvorson joins in with a spiky, electric lead, progresses to strummed chords, followed by her trademark noisy aggression. Fujiwara is so tight that he is easy to overlook, despite his busyness. After a few passes through Thumbscrew, I feel like I could listen to an album of just his drumming.
The more I listen to this offering, the more I like it. A spirited release.