"If Cream and Nirvana had played instrumental jazz...they might have sounded something like Thumbscrew... [who] forge a sound that is both heavy and melodic, qualities shared by those iconic power trios....it's the taught rhythmic and harmonic interplay...that makes the album's 55 minutes unrelentingly gripping through passages both quiet and lilting and insanely fast and furious" – The Absolute Sound
"...the bonds are already strong."
Thumbscrew, a band consisting of three well-established leaders on the new jazz/new music scene, make inviting music full of wonder and discovery. With their eponymous debut album, they document the group's commitment to new music created specifically for this ensemble.
While Michael Formanek (double bass), Tomas Fujiwara (drums) and Mary Halvorson (guitar) are all known for their prodigious capabilities as improvisers, Thumbscrew is more of a composer’s vehicle. While many cooperative bands draw on material recycled from other projects, "One of the things we said at the beginning is let’s just write music for Thumbscrew and it will only be Thumbscrew music," says Formanek. "It really is a three-composer trio, and all of our tunes have our basic aesthetics attached. But we want everybody to have input. Nobody’s afraid to make a decision. It’s one of the first co-ops I’ve been in where everyone’s really willing to take control at any given moment."
With each musician contributing three tunes, the album encompasses an array of textures and strategies, while maintaining a consistently open and transparent sound. Generating tremendous intensity without necessarily increasingly volume or density, Thumbscrew buzzes and crackles, burns and croons. The group is both open and composerly. Part of what makes the band’s music so engaging is that they draw widely and deeply from any number of sonic sources.
Part of the trio’s strength flows from the deep interconnecting bonds they’ve forged. Halvorson and Fujiwara first started playing together in cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum’s Sextet. They also work together in the collective quartet Reverse Blue with Chris Speed and Eivind Opsvik, and Mike Reed’s fascinating Sun Ra-inspired ensemble Living By Lanterns.
They first worked with Formanek when he subbed in Bynum’s band in 2011, and the chemistry between the three was so readily apparent they immediately started looking into performance opportunities as a trio. This fine, distinctive effort is the result of 2 years of planning, rehearsing and gigging.
Thumbscrew press release
Subscribe to Cuneiform's newsletter!