Thumbscrew: Mary Halvorson, Michael Formanek & Tomas Fujiwara
Photo by Amy Touchette. Guitarist/composer Mary Halvorson has been called “NYC’s least-predictable improviser”(Howard Mandel, City Arts), “the most forward-thinking guitarist working right now” (Lars Gotrich,
NPR.org) and “one of today’s most formidable bandleaders” (Francis Davis, Village Voice). Ms. Halvorson is best known for her longstanding trio, featuring bassist John Hébert and drummer Ches Smith, her solo guitar project, Meltframe, and most recently her latest quintet project, Code Girl with Ambrose Akinmusire, Amirtha Kidambi, Michael Formanek and Tomas Fujiwara. She has several other projects as a bandleader including a quintet, septet and octet. Collaborative projects include a chamber-jazz duo with violist Jessica Pavone, the avant-rock band People and the collective ensembles Thumbscrew (with Michael Formanek and Tomas Fujiwara) and Secret Keeper (with Stephan Crump). Ms. Halvorson is also an active member of bands led by Anthony Braxton, Taylor Ho Bynum, Trevor Dunn, Tomas Fujiwara, Ingrid Laubrock, Joe Morris, Tom Rainey, Mike Reed and Marc Ribot, among others.
One marker of bassist Michael Formanek’s creativity and versatility is the range of distinguished musicians of several generations he’s worked with. While still a teenager in the 1970s he toured with drummer Tony Williams and saxophonist Joe Henderson; starting in the 80s he played long stints with Stan Getz, Gerry Mulligan, Fred Hersch and Freddie Hubbard. The bassist has played a pivotal role on New York’s creative jazz scene going back to the ’90s when he notably led his own quintet and played in Tim Berne’s barnstorming quartet Bloodcount. Nowadays Formanek’s in the co-op Thumbscrew with Brooklyn guitarist Mary Halvorson and drummer Tomas Fujiwara. Formanek is also a composer and leader of various bands. His principal recording and international touring vehicle is his acclaimed quartet with Tim Berne on alto saxophone, Craig Taborn on piano and Gerald Cleaver on drums, which records for ECM; 2010’s The Rub and Spare Change and 2012’s Small Places both earned coveted five-star raves in Down Beat. Formanek writes, and the quartet plays, compositions of great rhythmic sophistication that unfold in a natural sounding way – challenging music the players make sound like lyrical free expression. His occasional groups include the 18-piece all-star Ensemble Kolossus, roping in many New York improvisers he works with. Ensemble Kolossus recorded their first CD of all
Formanek originals, The Distance, for the prestigious ECM label that was released in February of 2016, and received a Five Star review in Downbeat.
Tomas Fujiwara is a Brooklyn-based drummer and composer. Described as “a ubiquitous presence in the New York scene…an artist whose urbane writing is equal to his impressively nuanced drumming” (Troy Collins, Point of Departure), Tomas is an active player in some of the most exciting music of the current generation, with his bands Triple Double (with Gerald Cleaver, Mary Halvorson, Brandon Seabrook, Ralph Alessi, and Taylor Ho Bynum), Tomas Fujiwara & The Hook Up (with Jonathan Finlayson, Brian Settles, Halvorson, and Michael Formanek) and The Tomas Fujiwara Trio (with Alessi and Seabrook); his collaborative duo with cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum; the collective trio Thumbscrew (with Halvorson and Formanek); and a diversity of creative sideman work with forward thinking peers like Tomeka Reid and Matana Roberts. In The New York Times, Nate Chinen writes, “Drummer Tomas Fujiwara works with rhythm as a pliable substance, solidbut ever shifting. His style is forward-driving but rarely blunt or aggressive, and never random. He has a way of spreading out the center of a pulse while setting up a rigorous scaffolding of restraint…A conception of the drum set as a full-canvas instrument, almost orchestral in its scope.”