AMN Reviews: Tomas Fujiwara – Triple Double (2017; Firehouse 12 Records)

There is something about jazz double trios – the opportunity for rhythmic intricacy can make these recordings dense and exciting listens. Drummer Fujiwara is no stranger to the lineup, as he also participated in the aptly titled The Double Trio from Stephen Haynes and Taylor Ho Bynum in 2008. Triple Double, which will be released on October 20, features half of that album’s lineup with Bynum and Mary Halvorson joining Fujiwara on cornet and guitar respectively, as well as Ralph Alessi on trumpet, Brandon Seabrook on guitar, and Gerald Cleaver rounding the group out on drums. The dual-guitar attack of Halvorson and Seabrook has appeared before – on Jacob Garchik’s Ye Olde, as well as live duet performances and (perhaps in a more subdued fashion) with Anthony Braxton. Here, Seabrook’s speed picking and riffing complement Halvorson’s clean, yet twangy offerings. Clearly, the possibilities for such a group are virtually boundless.

On Diving for Quarters, the opening track, the two guitarists kick things off with a twisted, percussive duet before rest of the group joins in for a deliberately-paced outside theme. Bynum and Alessi alternatively wail and employ extended techniques, providing a melody buried deep with their own accents and those of the rest of the group. Fujiwara and Cleaver are an interesting combination, with both playing as if he were the only drummer. Rather than exchanging rhythm and lead roles, the two simultaneously provide their own rhythms with ample fills and improvised structures generating walls of percussion. To that point, they end Diving for Quarters with a duet that is challenging to follow, a little overwhelming, yet satisfying.

Blueberry Eyes follows with opaque layers of rhythm and noise on top of disparate and disjointed melodies. Subsets of four or five members combine and fall apart. But when all six come together, a barely organized chaos ensues. Pocket Pass features some crazed guitar histrionics from Halvorson and Seabrook, and a deceptively catchy lead from Bynum and Alessi. Love and Protest provides a brilliant non-stop racket in which is seems as if no one plays what is expected for the track’s entire seven and a half minutes. Decisive Shadow entails power chords and horn staccatos that would make Nick Didkovsky’s Dr. Nerve wince.

Much more could be written about Triple Double. Fujiwara and company go beyond the “sum of their parts” cliche. The group is in full attack mode early on, letting up only for note-bending interludes. With a heavy emphasis on guitar effects and atmospherics, as well as busy drumming, they build a dense tension that is rarely released. The result is so percussive that I can still feel the reverberations in my chest after the album is over. Can’t imagine what this would be like live. Highly recommended.