“Six of the strongest voices in contemporary music.” – Matt Micucci, Jazziz
“The double instrumentation… provides opportunities for Fujiwara to indulge some compositional potentialities. What if you have a drummer play a song-length solo over the top of a ballad? What if you overlaid two spot-on imitations of The Magic Band waxing skeletally Beefhearty? Keep those questions coming.” – Bill Meyer, The Wire
“While my colleagues and I are understandably associated with improvised music, I actually play in very few contexts that are just open improv,” Fujiwara says. “All six members of Triple Double use serious composition as a major part of their creative identity. I’ve found so much of the improvisation that the band has played within the context of the tunes to be really inspiring and different, so I wanted to try something completely free during the session.”
March On is highlighted by the half hour-plus piece of spontaneous composition that the sextet arrived at together. The 32-minute title piece was recorded at the end of the session, on the heels of two days of intense focus and compositional challenges. The lights were turned down low, bathing the studio in a purple glow; Fujiwara gave his bandmates no direction, all the more remarkable for the constrained and richly varied playing that followed.
“I felt confident doing this with no instruction because everyone in this group is so adept at not just leaving space, but knowing when and how to do it – which is a very underrated skill. There are definitely techniques for the six of us to play together with a supportive, transparent aesthetic so that the music never feels dense, frenzied, or frantic in a non-productive way. This piece really showcases the history within the band and the chemistry and connections that have been built over the last several years of playing together.”
Fujiwara’s initial intention was to extract short pieces of the longer improvisation to use as segues throughout March. But when he listened back, he realized that what the group had crafted was so narratively cohesive and consistently intriguing that it simply felt impossible to divide it up. At the same time, Fujiwara’s compelling compositions and the band’s inspired playing proved strong and vibrant enough to command the focus of March, so Fujiwara decided to build a second release around the collective improvisation.
March On is bookended by a pair of brief duets between the band’s two distinctive guitarists, Mary Halvorson and Brandon Seabrook. “Smoke” and “Silhouettes” echo the title of “Silhouettes in Smoke,” the final ensemble track from March. That piece ends with the paired guitarists on their own, and the two duets here are snipped from two alternate takes of the piece.
Similarly, “Docile Fury Duet” isolates a portion of an alternate take of March’s “Docile Fury Ballad,” featuring Seabrook and cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum. In its original context the band drops out to leave the pair alone, then backs them with a series of cued themes; “Docile Fury Duet” removes those cues to leave the spotlight on the blistering duel, laced with vivid references to the original composition.
Fujiwara conceived of Triple Double as a flexible ensemble embedding numerous potential combinations – a raucous sextet; two horn/guitar/drum trios; three mirrored duos featuring identical instruments taken in radically different directions; and so on, with boundless mix-and-match possibilities. At its core, the band is a group of six distinctive individuals and multiple intersecting histories. The formation of the band did initiate some new pairings – Alessi and Bynum had never crossed paths, and the drummers had never had the opportunity to share the stage despite Fujiwara’s longheld admiration for Cleaver.
At the same time, the grouping also reconvened some well-established hook-ups (to borrow the name of another Fujiwara ensemble). Bynum and Halvorson are both among Fujiwara’s most frequent collaborators, in each other’s ensembles as well as (in Fujiwara and Halvorson’s case) in the collective trio Thumbscrew. Triple Double grew out of a trio that the drummer formed with Alessi and Seabrook. Since the release of the sextet’s self-titled 2017 debut, they’ve created their own rich history together that pays off on the captivating March On.
photo, courtesy of Tomas Fujiwara
Described as “a ubiquitous presence in the New York scene…an artist whose urbane writing is equal to his impressively nuanced drumming,” Brooklyn-based Tomas Fujiwara is an active player in some of the most exciting music of the current generation. He leads the bands Triple Double (with Gerald Cleaver, Mary Halvorson, Brandon Seabrook, Ralph Alessi, and Taylor Ho Bynum), 7 Poets Trio (with Patricia Brennan and Tomeka Reid), and Tomas Fujiwara & The Hook Up (with Jonathan Finlayson, Brian Settles, Halvorson, and Michael Formanek); has a collaborative duo with Bynum; is a member of the collective trio Thumbscrew (with Halvorson and Formanek); and engages in a diversity of creative work with Anthony Braxton, John Zorn, Halvorson, Matana Roberts, Joe Morris, Bynum, Nicole Mitchell, Ben Goldberg, Reid, Amir ElSaffar, Benoit Delbecq, and many others. In 2021, he won the DownBeat Critics Poll for Rising Star Drummer, and premiered two suites of new music as part of his Roulette Residency: “You Don’t Have to Try” (with Meshell Ndegeocello) and “Shizuko” (with Bynum, Reid, Rafiq Bhatia, and Davi Vieira). “Drummer Tomas Fujiwara works with rhythm as a pliable substance, solid but 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.”
Tomas Fujiwara’s Triple Double – March On
Self-released – Recorded Dec. 10-11, 2019
Digital-only release on March 3, 2023 via Bandcamp
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