Guitarist/composer Mary Halvorson has been called “NYC’s least-predictable improviser” (Howard Mandel, City Arts), “the most forward-thinking guitarist working right now” (Lars Gotrich, NPR.org) and “one of today’s most formidable bandleaders” (Francis Davis, Village Voice). Ms. Halvorson is best known for her longstanding trio, featuring bassist John Hébert and drummer Ches Smith, her solo guitar project, Meltframe, and most recently her latest quintet project, Code Girl with Ambrose Akinmusire, Amirtha Kidambi, Michael Formanek and Tomas Fujiwara. She has several other projects as a bandleader including a quintet, septet and octet. Collaborative projects include a chamber-jazz duo with violist Jessica Pavone,… the avant-rock band People and the collective ensembles Thumbscrew (with Michael Formanek and Tomas Fujiwara) and Secret Keeper (with Stephan Crump). Ms. Halvorson is also an active member of bands led by Anthony Braxton, Taylor Ho Bynum, Trevor Dunn, Tomas Fujiwara, Ingrid Laubrock, Joe Morris, Tom Rainey, Mike Reed and Marc Ribot, among others.
One marker of bassist Michael Formanek‘s creativity and versatility is the range of distinguished musicians of several generations he’s worked with. While still a teenager in the 1970s he toured with drummer Tony Williams and saxophonist Joe Henderson; starting in the ’80s he played long stints with Stan Getz, Gerry Mulligan, Fred Hersch and Freddie Hubbard. The bassist has played a pivotal role on New York’s creative jazz scene going back to the ’90s when he notably led his own quintet and played in Tim Berne’s barnstorming quartet Bloodcount. Nowadays Formanek’s in the co-op Thumbscrew with Brooklyn guitarist Mary Halvorson and drummer Tomas Fujiwara. Formanek is also a composer and leader of various bands. His principal recording and international touring vehicle is his acclaimed quartet with Tim Berne on alto saxophone, Craig Taborn on piano and Gerald Cleaver on drums, which records for ECM; 2010’s The Rub and Spare Change and 2012’s Small Places both earned coveted five-star raves in Down Beat. Formanek writes, and the quartet plays, compositions of great rhythmic sophistication that unfold in a natural sounding way – challenging music the players make sound like lyrical free expression. His occasional groups include the 18-piece all-star Ensemble Kolossus, roping in many New York improvisers he works with. Ensemble Kolossus recorded their first CD of all Formanek originals, The Distance, for the prestigious ECM label that was released in February of 2016, and received a Five Star review in Downbeat.
Drummer Tomas Fujiwara “works with rhythm as a pliable substance, solid but ever shifting. He has a way of spreading out the center of a pulse while setting up a rigorous scaffolding of restraint…smartly informed and firmly moored” (Nate Chinen, The New York Times). Tomas currently leads and composes for his quintet, Tomas Fujiwara & The Hook Up with Jonathan Finlayson, Brian Settles, Mary Halvorson, and Michael Formanek (Actionspeak, The Air is Different, and After All Is Said on 482 Music), the Tomas Fujiwara Trio with Ralph Alessi and Brandon Seabrook (Variable Bets on Relative Pitch Records), Thumbscrew with Halvorson and Formanek (Thumbscrew and Convallaria on Cuneiform Records), and his duo with Taylor Ho Bynum (True Events on 482 Music, Stepwise on Nottwo Records, and the self-released Through Foundation). He is also a member of the Taylor Ho Bynum Sextet, Matana Roberts’ Coin Coin, The Tomeka Reid Quartet, Mike Reed’s Living by Lanterns, Mary Halvorson’s Reverse Blue, and Michael Formanek’s Ensemble Kolossus.