The members of Thumbscrew are nonpareil instrumentalists. Drummer Tomas Fujiwara easily balances ornamentation and propulsion at any speed; double bassist Michael Formanek plays with a woody tone whose bulk belies his ability to invest each note with its own expressive inflection; and guitarist Mary Halvorson employs fluid phrasing and adroit manipulation of delay effects that make her instantly identifiable in any setting. Each of them is a distinctive composer and veteran bandleader. But when they convene as Thumbscrew, no one’s the star or the boss. The trio have been playing together for ten years, and the members have known each other for much longer. Their consequent rapport provides the foundation for a group dynamic in which each musician figures out how to make everyone else sound good and the soloing supports the integrity of the compositions. Thumbscrew have issued six albums to date, four of which are equally divided among the members’ tunes. Two more apply their methodology to other composers’ material, and the group sound as persuasive amplifying the music-box delicacy of Evelyn Danzig’s “Scarlet Ribbons” as they do negotiating the triple-helix bebop of Anthony Braxton’s “Composition No. 35.” Even during the pandemic, Thumbscrew stayed active; in 2020 they livestreamed a birthday celebration for Halvorson, and in 2021 they embarked on an international tour. The band have recorded a new album, Multicolored Midnight, that won’t be out until the fall; this concert is an early chance to hear some of its tunes.
Thumbscrew Fri 4/22, 8:30 PM, Constellation, 3111 N. Western, $20, $5 streaming, 18+