Tomas Fujiwara and Taylor Ho Bynum

Stepwise
NotTwo NW 828-2

By Ken Waxman

Revealing an unusually wide variety of pitches, colors and rhythms in this dual interface, Tomas Fujiwara and Taylor Ho Bynum demonstrate everything that can be expressed in improvisations limited instrumentally to what were likely humanity’s first musical tools: a horn and a drum

Boston-based drummer Fujiwara and New York cornetist Ho Bynum are old friends who often work together in ensembles ranging from big bands to combos. These 10 tracks impressively demonstrate that they have the wherewithal plus the technical and creative smarts to pull off this stripped-down session in such a way that you barely notice they’re alone

Fujiwara, who toured in the percussion-musical STOMP, is never at a loss for rhythmic patterns. His inventions show whether he meets Bynum’s squealing triplets and curved expression on the bop-inflected “Keys No Address”; or are expressed in the coordinated slaps and ruffs he uses to humanize the brassman’s hollers and strident peeps which move into piccolo trumpet range on “Detritus”. Short tracks are more bagatelles than testimonials, but given space, the two not only create numerous sound variations but also suggest jazz’s musical beginning.

Contrast “B.C.” with “Splits” for instance. The former begin with Bynum’s lyrical line nearly replicating a classic jazz head, sliding down to growls and up to slurs. Meantime Fujiwara’s pitter-pattering and press rolls moderate the beat, the better to frame the cornetist’s tongue rasps and hand-muted brays. More abstract, “Splits” is built on harsh triplets and tremolo tones excavated from deep in Bynum’s throat and the irregular thump from Fujiwara’s kit. As the cornetist’s tone shrinks to near silence, the drummer varies thick bass-drum whacks with nearly weightless hand pats and cymbal snaps.

Other players – most notably trumpeter Don Cherry and drummer Ed Blackwell – earned kudos for challenging themselves in this configuration. This CD can be heard as a further extension of those Cherry-Blackwell classics.

Track Listing: 3D; Keys no Address; Stepwise; Two Abbeys; Comfort; Weather Conditions May Vary; Iris; Splits; Detritus; B.C.

Personnel: Taylor Ho Bynum: cornet; Tomas Fujiwara: drums

— For All About Jazz-New York July 2010