THUMBSCREW
Mary Halvorson / Michael Formanek / Tomas Fujiwara

“Made up of three highly distinctive voices in the world of jazz and avant-garde music, Thumbscrew should probably collapse under the weight of its own star power but Tomas Fujiwara (drums), Mary Halvorson (electric guitar) and Michael Formanek (acoustic bass) are just too aware of the potential of this supertrio to let that happen.”
Something Else!

"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."
DownBeat
 

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.


OURS



RUNE 439

Thumbscrew demonstrates their unique collective musical vision in contrasting but complementary ways on two exciting new CDs. Ours and Theirs are the first to be released on a newly revamped Cuneiform Records, just returning from a hiatus. Comprised of longtime collaborators Michael Formanek, Tomas Fujiwara, and Mary Halvorson, Thumbscrew is a true collaborative effort with all three members contributing at an equal rate both in terms of composition and improvisation.

Born out of a residency at Pittsburgh’s City of Asylum where Thumbscrew created their striking second album Convallaria, Ours and Theirs showcase Thumbscrew in two different contexts performing all originals on Ours and all covers on Theirs. Both albums present a meticulous and intuitive original sound that could only be crafted during focused and intensive time as a collective in a place like City of Asylum. “When we arrived at City of Asylum for our second residency in June 2017, we immediately said, ’we’re home!’” says Fujiwara, “The feelings we get when being at City of Asylum, around the people that make it such a unique place doing great work...All of this contributes to a creative process that’s open and inclusive and experimental.”

Tomas, Michael, and Mary are no strangers to each other’s work, having performed in a multitude of projects together, including Michael Formanek’s Ensemble Kolossus, Tomas Fujiwara and the Hook Up’s After All is Said, and most recently, in Mary Halvorson’s critically-acclaimed Code Girl.

Ours, as its namesake suggests, is an album of original compositions with Fujiwara, Formanek and Halvorson contributing three works apiece. Opening with Halvorson’s striking “Snarling Joys,” Ours begins with delicate (and ever so slightly warped) ensemble figures that very naturally develop into an urgent and tense thrill-ride of a track, with a brilliant bass solo from Formanek. Fujiwara’s “Saturn Way” shows the ensemble bouncing off of each other’s rhythmic framework with Fujiwara anchoring the group through a pummeling rolling tom figure that slowly descends into a spacious and attentive group improvisation. Later, on Formanek’s punk-thru-the-wormhole style “Cruel Heartless Bastards” the ensemble shifts metric pulse in total lockstep on the turn of a dime while a teasing 4/4 figure creates a sense of gravity for the entire composition. Halvorson takes the track to the stratosphere with a dizzying guitar pedal laden solo after the group snakes their way through Formanek’s labyrinth.

On the contrast between the two records, Halvorson says, “The approach to presenting a unique and personal take on a composition is the same whether it’s one of Ours or one of Theirs.”

Ours & Theirs press release

Buy this album



[^48k
/24b]


THEIRS



RUNE 441

Thumbscrew demonstrates their unique collective musical vision in contrasting but complementary ways on two exciting new CDs. Ours and Theirs are the first to be released on a newly revamped Cuneiform Records, just returning from a hiatus. Comprised of longtime collaborators Michael Formanek, Tomas Fujiwara, and Mary Halvorson, Thumbscrew is a true collaborative effort with all three members contributing at an equal rate both in terms of composition and improvisation.

Born out of a residency at Pittsburgh’s City of Asylum where Thumbscrew created their striking second album Convallaria, Ours and Theirs showcase Thumbscrew in two different contexts performing all originals on Ours and all covers on Theirs. Both albums present a meticulous and intuitive original sound that could only be crafted during focused and intensive time as a collective in a place like City of Asylum. “When we arrived at City of Asylum for our second residency in June 2017, we immediately said, ’we’re home!’” says Fujiwara, “The feelings we get when being at City of Asylum, around the people that make it such a unique place doing great work...All of this contributes to a creative process that’s open and inclusive and experimental.”

Tomas, Michael, and Mary are no strangers to each other’s work, having performed in a multitude of projects together, including Michael Formanek’s Ensemble Kolossus, Tomas Fujiwara and the Hook Up’s After All is Said, and most recently, in Mary Halvorson’s critically-acclaimed Code Girl.

Theirs features covers penned by venerable composers, from North American jazz legends Benny Golson and Wayne Shorter, to South American composers Julio De Caro (Argentina) and Jacob Do Bandolim (Brazil), to songwriter Evelyn Danzig and Dutch avant-gardist Misha Mengelberg. Thumbscrew covers considerable ground in bringing their unique arrangements and ensemble sensibility to this transfixing set of other composers’ music. On the selection of covers, Fujiwara says, “Each of us brought in a number of covers--more than double what we ended up releasing--that we were curious for Thumbscrew to try. We played through each composition many times, trying different arrangements, and slowly started to focus in on which ones felt right for the group.” Formanek states that “for me it was mostly a matter of which tunes I thought would have strong enough bones to sustain a Thumbscrew interpretation. It was also a matter of imagining how certain pieces would work with Mary, Tomas, and my approaches that wouldn’t sound like just another version.”

On the contrast between the two records, Halvorson says, “The difference is that with the covers we’re aware of trying to honor the composer’s vision, and in many cases, classic versions of the song which serve as inspirations.”

Ours & Theirs press release

Buy this album



[^48k
/24b]


CONVALLARIA



RUNE 415

Creative artists aren’t subject to state persecution in the United States, but indifference can exact its own cost, just as generous support can pay steep dividends. Thumbscrew spent two weeks honing the tunes on Convallaria at City of Asylum, a residency program in Pittsburgh, and for Thumbscrew the opportunity for intensive, undistracted work and woodshedding yielded a particularly striking body of music.

Already closely bonded by extensive collaborations in a variety of overlapping ensembles, the powerhouse triumvirate got to spend the kind of concentrated time together that’s “almost unheard of these days,” says Formanek. “I’ve done some composition residencies working on my own. But we were all there together, working on music every day, trying things out. I miss that from my younger days.”

“It was amazing,” agrees Halvorson. “Everyone’s so busy. Even with my own band it can be like pulling teeth to get one rehearsal together. For two weeks we played every day and worked on all the new music. It really helped us to take the band to the next level.”

Convallaria is the work of a true collective with all three players contributing compositions and taking equal responsibility for shaping the music’s flow. While exploring an array of improvisational spaces, the band has honed a sinewy sound marked by transparent textures and astringent rhythms. It’s music that pushes outward and snaps back into unexpectedly altered forms.

Convallaria press release

Buy this album





THUMBSCREW



RUNE 365

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

Buy this album




MEDIA
For press and media: cover art and high resolution images are available below for download (click thumbnail, right-click image and select "Save As.."). Please credit the photographer (when available) and "Courtesy of Cuneiform Records". For more information, click here.

Ours and Theirs
Convallaria
Thumbscrew

PRESS RELEASES
Ours & Theirs press release
Convallaria press release
Thumbscrew press release
Thumbscrew press quotes

CUNEIFORM EMAIL BLASTS
4/15/2014: Thumbscrew Tours Europe and North America

facebook twitter
Cuneiform Records 2014
ARTISTS | TOURS | ABOUT | DISTRIBUTORS | STORE | CONTACT | LICENSING

Subscribe to Cuneiform's newsletter!