Life, contra that Gump movie, is NOT like a box of chocolates. Because after a while you pretty much do know what you are going to get, for better or worse. However in the case of Tomas Fujiwara & the Hook Up's The Air is Different (482 Music 482-10719) I was not at all sure what I had gotten. A few listens later and I knew.
It's a disk of drummer Fujiwara's compositions, played by one heck of a band. The music is open-form contemporary improv-jazz by a crack outfit. There's a hit of rock, free and contemporary in a balanced mixage.
Two pretty big surprises here--one is that Fujiwara not only showcases his very contemporary and hip drumming, but he excels as a writer and bandleader. The music is substantial and the band has a definite sound to it.
The second surprise: though this is not my first time hearing trumpetist Jonathan Findlayson, it reaffirms that he is one hell of a player, a kind of post-Booker Little modernist of facility and imagination.
Brian Settles on tenor comes through as a pretty exceptional player too. Gruff and note-y or more quietly introverted, he sounds great here.
Mary Halvorson is a guitarist at the top of the new sound folks, with a very wide range of stylistic accomplishments, from the changes-based semi-trad sound to the wilding kind of sound artist to the rock tinge, she also sounds very good indeed.
Bassist Trevor Dunn goes far to make this band a success with exemplary ensemble and solo playing.
Finally, this album works very well because everyone is pulling together for a group sound. And that sound is one that stands out as exceptionally creative. This is only their second release, so if they can hang together I predict a big impact for them going down the road. As it is, they are very impressive already. Don't hesitate to get this one.