When you listen to the intoxicating and urgent energy of «March», the sophomore album of American drummer Tomas Fujiwara’s Triple Double, you just wonder why it took more than two years to release this killer album. Fujiwara, known for his close work with guitarist Mary Halvorson, recorded this album in December 2019, before the world went mad and into the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown and before the Black Lives Matter protest following the killings of George Floyd and many others. But «March» feels like capturing the essence of our troubled times. Furthermore, it offers the perfect music for protest marching, or any coordinated, powerful and intense group activity that may be peaceful, violent or revolutionary, but always inspiring and uplifting.
The format of the Triple Double is a rare one: two drummers, Fujiwara, who doubles on the vibes, and Gerald Cleaver, two guitarists, Mary Halvorson and Brandon Seabrook, and trumpeter Ralph Alessi and cornet player Taylor Ho Bynum. All have singular voices, innovative musicians and lead their own bands, and all never surrendered to simplistic or random genre conventions. On «March», which follows the self-titled album of Triple Double (Firehouse 12, 2017), Fujiwara explores even further the many possibilities and configurations of this challenging combination of instruments.
The opening piece, «Pack Up, Coming For You», begins with an energetic conversational interplay of the trio Fujiwara, Bynum and Halvorson, before the second trio joins in and intensifies the commotion. «Life Only Gets More» highlights the unique way the guitar voicings of Halvorson interact gently with the guitar playing of Seabrook over a swinging pulse. «Wave Shake and Angle Bounce» exhausts the full, aggressive power of the sextet, playing in tight unison lines and floating on the massive, rolling drums of Fujiwara and Cleaver. «The March of the Storm Before the Quiet of the Dance» surveys deeper into the rhythmic possibilities of this trio, with the Halvorson and Seabrook first accentuating and later expanding with manic solos the rhythmic patterns of Fujiwara and Cleaver.
There is nothing docile or ballad-like on «Docile Fury Ballad» and there is raw, urgent energy, fury and thunderous onslaughts that bring to mind the fusion of Frank Zappa bands. Only «Silhouettes in Smoke», with Fujiwara on vibes, suggests a tender and openly emotional mood, with beautiful, touching solos of Alessi and Bynum. As on the debut album of the Triple Double, Fujiwara and Clever offer a drum duet homage for Fujiwara’s mentor and childhood teacher, Alan Dawson (1929-1996), the 17-minute, slow-cooking «For Alan, Part 2», that emphasizes the immediate affinity of these gifted drummers, and contrasts in its contemplative spirit the previous pieces of «March».
Tomas Fujiwara (dr, vib), Gerald Cleaver (dr), Mary Halvorson (g), Brandon Seabrook (g), Ralph Alessi (tp), Taylor Ho Bynum (cor)