AMN Reviews: Tomas Fujiwara’s Triple Double – March (2022; Firehouse 12 Records)

The double trio is an interesting arrangement in jazz, with six musicians forming two district trios yet having the ability to diverge into separate units or converge into a sextet. This is the second release from drummer Tomas Fujiwara’s lineup of that nature, recorded in late 2019 but not released until this month. On it, he is joined by Gerald Cleaver (also on drums), Mary Halvorson and Brandon Seabrook (guitars), Ralph Alessi (trumpet), and Taylor Ho Bynum (cornet), a group of musicians that had previously played together in a variety of subsets.

The music is squarely in the New-York-style creative jazz bucket. Admittedly, this rough category is not terribly descriptive given the wide range of styles and textures that such a loose grouping can involve. March features jazz-inflected themes, avant-rock breaks, and a delicate balance between composition and open-ended improv. In particular, the use of two drummers adds a rhythmic busyness to each of the pieces, even as the other players float in and out of the mix.

For instance, the relatively subdued Life Only Gets More begins with Bynum and Halvorson accompanying Fujiwara and Cleaver, until they are subtly joined by Seabrook. In the end, Seabrook returns to Bynum’s theme (as the latter has dropped out), while both drummers duel in a fashion that prevents the piece from becoming too ballad-like. In contrast, Wave Shake and Angle Bounce is more all-out, with speed picking, twisted notes, and jagged chording from both guitarists as well as chaotic runs from the horn players. It is nothing short of an exhilarating and information-dense blast centered around a labyrinthine main theme. The album ends with a 17-minute duet between Fujiwara and Cleaver, as melodic as it is rhythmic.

In sum, March offers up a compelling set of tracks for any fan of the aforementioned musicians and is another stellar entry in Fujiwara’s oeuvre.