"The near telepathic cohesion of a playoff team." – Martin Johnson, The Wall Street Journal
“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
Drawing inspiration from the rhythms of dance and protest marches, drummer/composer Tomas Fujiwara devised the music for 2022’s celebrated "March" to showcase his incredible sextet Triple Double, which brings together a half dozen of the most innovative and singular voices in contemporary creative music – drummers Fujiwara and Gerald Cleaver, guitarists Mary Halvorson and Brandon Seabrook, and trumpeter Ralph Alessi and cornet player Taylor Ho Bynum. The results, according to JazzTimes, were “brilliantly mad, joyously improvisational, [and] cathartically cleansing.”
While Triple Double comprises six revered improvisers, the focus of "March" – and of much of the work that each of them creates – was squarely on Fujiwara’s “complex, yet… very accessible” (All About Jazz) compositions. But the late 2019 recording session for the album at New Haven’s Firehouse 12 also included a riveting piece of free improvisation. One year after the album’s initial release, Fujiwara will present a download-only follow-up, "March On," centered on that 32-minute piece and including several short duo improvisations excerpted from alternate takes of the compositions from "March."
“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.”
Due out March (naturally) 3, 2023, "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."
released March 3, 2023
Tomas Fujiwara - Drums
Gerald Cleaver - Drums
Mary Halvorson - Guitar
Brandon Seabrook - Guitar
Ralph Alessi - Trumpet
Taylor Ho Bynum - Cornet
Recorded December 11, 2019 at Firehouse 12
Recorded by Nick Lloyd & Greg DiCrosta
Mixed and Mastered by Nick Lloyd
Art & Design by Megan Craig
Produced by Tomas Fujiwara & Nick Lloyd
“Smoke” and “Silhouettes” by Tomas Fujiwara (BMI), Mary Halvorson (Meltframe Music BMI), and Brandon Seabrook (BMI)
“Docile Fury Duet” by Tomas Fujiwara (BMI), Taylor Ho Bynum (Thobulous Music BMI), and Brandon Seabrook (BMI)
“March On” by Tomas Fujiwara (BMI), Gerald Cleaver Music SESAC, Mary Halvorson (Meltframe Music BMI), Brandon Seabrook (BMI), Ralph Alessi (Terra Linda Music BMI), and Taylor Ho Bynum (Thobulous Music BMI)
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