By Peter Margasak | Published October 2020
Among the more profound recognitions of Anthony Braxton’s genius is this electrifying album by Thumbscrew, a collective trio including Mary Halvorson, a guitarist who has worked extensively with the composer and reedist. As part of the Braxton75 celebration to mark his birthday, members of Thumbscrew selected a broad range of compositions, most from early in Braxton’s career, and with a palpable sense of wide-eyed exploration developed treatments from the provocative essence of his scores.
Following a characteristically knotty rhythmic articulation on the opening “Composition No. 52,” bassist Michael Formanek and drummer Tomas Fujiwara lock into a surprising shuffle groove, with Halvorson’s crystalline tangles running freely atop. The heady, detail-packed “Composition No. 274,” part of Braxton’s Ghost Trance Music, is totally notated, but the musicians still manage to inject their own personalities all across it, balancing rigor with a gleeful sense of discovery. It’s that quality that continues to make Braxton such an influential and inspiring figure, forever experimenting and searching. Thumbscrew is both an inheritor and promulgator of that ideal.
The Anthony Braxton Project: Composition No. 52; Composition No. 157; Composition No. 14 (Guitar); Composition No. 68; Composition No. 274; Composition No. 14 (Drums); Composition No. 61; Composition No. 35; Composition No. 14 (Bass); Composition No. 150; Composition No. 79. (46:54)
Personnel: Mary Halvorson, guitar; Michael Formanek, bass; Tomas Fujiwara, drums, vibraphone.