Thumbscrew: Mary Halvorson, Michael Formanek, Tomas Fujiwara

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Thumbscrew: Mary Halvorson, Michael Formanek, Tomas Fujiwara

Mary Halvorson, Tomas Fujiwara, and Michael Formanek photo by Amy Touchette

Thursday, June 21, 8pm
Cornish College of the Arts
710 E Roy St

Presented by Earshot Jazz

A fresh force in New York jazz since her arrival there in 2002, guitarist Mary Halvorson appears here with Thumbscrew, an intense trio with veteran bass master Michael Formanek and tirelessly resourceful drummer Tomas Fujiwara.

The trio formed by chance, after Formanek subbed into a band featuring Halvorson and Fujiwara. Already familiar with each other’s playing from earlier projects, they adopted a repertoire of originals by all three members of the group, and an approach that emphasizes a cooperative blending of all three instruments rather than an older approach to jazz soloing.

Formanek is among the most dynamic and at times muscular of modern bassists, and Fujiwara, says Nate Chinen in the New York Times, “works with rhythm as a pliable substance, solid but ever shifting. His style is forward-driving but rarely blunt or aggressive, and never random.”

As evidenced by the trio’s second album, 2016’s Convallaria, a followup to an eponymous debut album, Formanek and Fujiwara perfectly complement Halvorson’s sinuous, mysterious, highly idiosyncratic style. It is one that has won her much acclaim. She is “a singular talent” (Lloyd Sachs, JazzTimes), ”NYC’s least-predictable improviser” (Howard Mandel, City Arts), and “one of the most exciting and original guitarists in jazz — or otherwise” (Steve Dollar, Wall Street Journal). She also has “been steadily reshaping the sound of jazz guitar…with her elastic, sometimes-fluid, sometimes-shredding, wholly unique style” (Shaun Brady, Philadelphia City Paper).

Further testimony to Halvorson’s talents is that another of her bands, a trio featuring bassist John Hébert and drummer Ches Smith, was DownBeat’s rising-star jazz band for five years straight following their 2008 debut, Dragon’s Head.

Among Halvorson’s other working bands is an octet with Hébert and Smith along with trumpeter Jonathan Finlayson, saxophonists Jon Irabagon and Ingrid Laubrock, trombonist Jacob Garchik, and pedal steel guitarist Susan Alcorn. The New York Times declared its 2016 debut, Away With You, “radiant.”

Thumbscrew, however, is a special case. The Village Voice called its “barrage of riffs…both epic and melodic, the low end beefy, and the percussion massive.”

Expect great dynamic range, a balance of dulcet melody and whiplash rhythms, otherworldly atmospheres and dancing interludes.

–Peter Monaghan

General admission $18, Earshot members & seniors $16, students & military/veteran $10. Tickets and more information at earshot.org.