You can expect too much from life for sure. And then in time you need to adjust what you assume and recalculate what to do next. When it comes to music though, there is not always a need to adjust to that in any given year there are good and/or excellent new recordings on the horizon. And so the scene never grows old if you keep up with what is happening at any given moment.
One of the happening things right now is drummer Tomas Fujiwara's Triple Double and their album March (Firehouse 12 Records PH12-04-01-35). Like with Ornette Coleman's classic Free Jazz lineup there are two of each instrument, for in this latter case a kind of double trio, rather than the double quartet of Ornette's.
So we have leader Tomas Fujiwara on drums, vibes and compositions (add Cleaver as co-composer for last cut), and Gerald Cleaver on drums. Then there are the electric guitars of Mary Halvorson and Brandon Seabrook. And finally we have Ralph Alessi on trumpet and Taylor Ho Bynum on cornet. Of course they can be heard as three pairs of two, a kind of double trio. The first consideration is that they are important artists on their instruments, critically acclaimed and appreciated in the Jazz Improv underground. If you know the scene you will doubtless recognize and be somewhat familiar with the players. if not even more familiar.
This is their second album, the first dropping into our ears in 2017, so it has been a while and the band has had a chance to cohere nicely. I am afraid I missed the debut, and here the well-turned compositional frameworks that Tomas gives to the band on this new one helps steer an innovative path for the talented six and sets things up for loose swinging and rocking freedom.
The album was recorded in late 2019, right before the pandemic hit us all and put a halt to most of the live music possibilities for a while.
Alessi, Seabrook and Fujiwara formed the nucleus for the doubling into Triple Double. And then in time came the full double three coupling. The first album came about in 2017, when the full roster was relatively new to each other as a whole. Now that we have March we can gauge the full growth of the outfit on its second-go-round. And that is a very good thing indeed.
The pairing allows as in this second album a myriad of groupings in various additive and subtractive modes. So "For Alan, Part II" (dedicated to the late drumming icon Alan Dawson, who was Tomas' mentor and teacher in his early days) is a wide-wheeling happy grooving drum solo duet between Tomas and Gerald, one of the finest such things on disk.
The opener, "Pack Up. Coming for You" starts with a trio of Fujiwara, Bynum and Halvorson in a 7/8 open-ended groove, some time later the second trio possibility comes to the front, that is of course Cleaver, Seabrook and Alessi. Then in the last section we are treated to the full six going at it. In this way we are prepared for the shifting interactions of the six and the creative frisson they create regardless of who is combined at any time.
In the end it is a fully engaging program with the inventive originality of each running up against any and all in turn. After a few listens you come away from it with an appreciation for the effective creative leadership of Fujiwara, his compositional dexterity and the imaginative responses of all concerned. If you are like me, from first finding quite interesting the unusual lineup I put the album on and, in the end, found that all my hopes for such a lineup were justified. To get an idea listen to "The March of the Storm Before the Quiet of the Dark." It is a fine album indeed, a highlight of open-ended jazz groups for this now relatively new year. Bravo!
Note: the album's release date is March 4 of 2022. Do not miss it!