AMN Reviews: Tomas Fujiwara & The Hook Up – After All is Said (2015; 482 Music)

AfterAllIsSaidCoverNew York based drummer Tomas Fujiwara has been slowly building a reputation for excellence. Whether in one of his many collaborative works, such as those with Anthony Braxton, Matana Roberts, Mary Halvorson, and Taylor-Ho Bynum, or as a leader, such as here, Fujiwara has been involved in surprisingly large number of stand-out recordings in the creative jazz scene over the last ten years. His drumming is both dexterous and muscular, but contains a subtlety that can be easy to overlook.

Fujiwara’s co-conspirators in The Hook Up consist of Halvorson on guitar, Michael Formanek on bass, Brian Settles on tenor sax and flute, as well as Jonathan Finlayson on trumpet. This group is not merely a showcase for its leader. Instead, Fujiwara’s compositions involve the collective as a whole, with each musician taking on prominent roles, often simultaneously.

Immediately setting After All is Said apart from the group’s previous recordings is Brian Settles incorporating flute into the mix. To that point, the album opens with Lastly, featuring Settles blowing over an angular rhythm driven by Formanek and Fujiwara, as well as subdued speed picking from Halvorson. Unlike the rhythmic attack of Eric Dolphy or the classically-inspired James Newton, Settles’ approach to the flute is pointed and atmospheric, and contrasts well with Halvorson’s often herky-jerky guitar style.

When not on flute, Settles provides horn interplay with Finlayson, usually over twisted accompaniment from Halvorson. Fujiwara stays busy, laying down dense textures. Formanek, to no one’s surprise, shines on both bowed bass and picked, playing leads as well as backing parts. Braxton’s influence shines brightly in Fujiwara’s writing – After All is Said clearly recites jazz, but with tight, complex writing, staggered rhythms, and superb execution. A very strong release.

Read related reviews:
Tomas Fujiwara Trio – Variable Bets (2014; Relative Pitch Records)
Halvorson / Formanek / Fujiwara – Thumbscrew (Cuneiform Records)

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