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The New York City Jazz Record review

Drummer Tomas Fujiwara’s new recording celebrates
the joy of group playing. Composition and
improvisation blend seamlessly in six tracks dedicated
to the leader ’s grandparents and an ensemble that’s
worked together to become its own kind of family.

The music is deftly composed and inspired by a
variety of musical sources. “Cosmopolitan
(Rediscovery)”, for example, draws its influences from
Björk, Henry Threadgill and Michael Formanek. It
opens with a burst of electric energy from Mary
Halvorson’s guitar under which the other players pour
out dirge-­like lines. Tenor saxophonist Brian Settles
takes a darkly chirpy solo that underscores the
bittersweet nature of the writing. Trumpeter Jonathan
Finlayson joins in briefly and the two improvise
together to round out the solo. This leads to a short,
simple resolution, the whole a beautiful excursion. The
opening tune, “Lineage”, says Fujiwara, is the only
composition he’s “written beginning with measure one
and ending with the final measure.” From out of a kind
of in-­the-­pocket groove (influenced by overtones
Fujiwara heard from a Buddhist bell-­bowl in his
grandfather ’s temple in Japan), a haunting line
emerges voiced by the horn players. It’s jaunty and
mysterious, with a steady rhythm that sometimes
threatens to break down even as Finlayson’s trumpet
solo develops confidently and then ‘comes apart’ in
delicate yet free motion. Settles starts out strewing
notes hither and thither but these blasts, over drum
punctuations, work their way into a simple line that
the whole band uses to end the tune brilliantly.

This is adventurous new music that indeed takes
listeners to where “the air is different”, making use of
the powerful talents of its players and composition
versed in form but stretching out the notion.

Back to The Air is Different album page.
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