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NYC Jazz Record review
Apr 1, 2015

Perhaps The Hook Up’s third album is summed up best by “For Tom and Gerald”, a crisp drum solo by the leader that’s layered and cohesive, rhythmically diverse, with a lean but muscular sound that defines his distinctive approach to melody and harmony.

Bassist Michael Formanek, trumpeter Jonathan Finlayson and guitarist Mary Halvorson assemble around the core of Fujiwara’s jagged drum salvos on the arrhythmic “Lastly”. Brian Settles, who starts on flute and ends on tenor saxophone, bookends the tune with a textural fluidity. “The Comb” begins as an animated discussion among drums, guitar and tenor, then downturns with the entry of trumpet and bowed bass draped in mourning crêpe. Fujiwara thrashes impatiently beneath them as if to tell them to hurry up and move past their grieving. Halvorson, in rhythmic agreement with Fujiwara, uses Finlayson’s solo as a gravity assist toward a block of gritty blues-rock riffs.

On “Boaster’s Roast”, Settles and Finlayson are copping a cool Ornette Coleman-Don Cherry attitude when Halvorson steps up and delivers some vicious and arena-sized licks spurred on by percussive gnashing. Trumpet and tenor manage to move the song back to the jazz sphere but not without strong remonstration from guitar and drums. Halvorson returns for more on the dark-eyed, moody ballad “When”. Whether she’s strumming al fresco or weaving through an intermittent haze of hallucinatory sound effects, the structure and feeling of this tune echo the blueprint for a ‘90s indie garage band angst anthem.

Fujiwara’s deliberate rhythmic scheme on the opening statement to “Solar Wind” sounds like he’s delivering a humble but effective message to the gods as he finds the balance between strength and subtlety. Settles opens up a spirited dialogue with him on tenor, then Halvorson and Formanek join in to deepen and color the harmony. The song’s highlight is a break in the middle where Formanek deliver some vigorous pizzicato with lively commentary from Halvorson, Settles and Finlayson. The eccentric trading off of fours among the band on “The Hook Up” is a nod to the group’s straightahead jazz roots, which is somewhat surprising but not unexpected on an excellent album with so much diversity and depth.

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