Fujiwara, Tomas

Peter Gannushkin / downtownmusic.net

Peter Gannushkin / downtownmusic.net

Primary Scene: Brooklyn/New York City

Tomas Fujiwara is a Brooklyn-based drummer and composer. Described as “a ubiquitous presence in the New York scene…an artist whose urbane writing is equal to his impressively nuanced drumming” (Troy Collins, Point of Departure), Tomas is an active player in some of the most exciting music of the current generation, with his bands Tomas Fujiwara & The Hook Up (with Jonathan Finlayson, Brian Settles, Mary Halvorson, and Michael Formanek) and The Tomas Fujiwara Trio (with Ralph Alessi and Brandon Seabrook); his collaborative duo with cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum; the collective trio Thumbscrew (with Halvorson and Formanek); and a diversity of creative sideman work with forward thinking peers like Matana Roberts and Nicole Mitchell. In The New York Times, Nate Chinen writes, “Drummer Tomas Fuijwara works with rhythm as a pliable substance, solid but ever shifting. His style is forward-driving but rarely blunt or aggressive, and never random. He has a way of spreading out the center of a pulse while setting up a rigorous scaffolding of restraint…A conception of the drum set as a full-canvas instrument, almost orchestral in its scope.”

In describing Tomas Fujiwara & The Hook Up, Jim Macnie of The Village Voice says, “The drummer has named his latest band appropriately. Ensembles can go anywhere if the intra-group chemistry is cooking…Fujiwara sounds like he’s got his mates on speed dial.” Featuring trumpeter Jonathan Finlayson, tenor saxophonist Brian Settles, guitarist Mary Halvorson, and bassist Michael Formanek, the band’s first record (Actionspeak, 482 Music) was named one of the best debuts of 2010 by the New York City Jazz Record and received a four-star review in Downbeat. The group’s second album (The Air is Different, 482 Music) “continues upon a course, teeming with unanticipated shifts in strategy, but not executed in shock-therapy mode. With a superfine support system of revered improvisers, Fujiwara reaps the benefits of a distinctly fresh musical climate. With off-kilter patterns, cunning geometric architectures and sudden paradigm shifts, the band merges a search and conquer tactical component with an acutely balanced mix of structure and free-form dialogues.” (Glenn Astarita, Jazz Review). It was included on several Best-of-2012 lists including All About Jazz Italia and Something Else. “The Air Is Different is wildly creative music that never veers into inaccessibility. If you’re wondering where jazz might be headed in the new millennium, it’s a good place to start.” (Robert Bush, All About Jazz). The band’s third album (After All Is Said, 482 Music), “layered and cohesive, rhythmically diverse, with a lean but muscular sound that defines Fujiwara’s distinctive approach to melody and harmony,” (Terrell Holmes, New York City Jazz Record) was released in April, 2015; “One of the most accessible, challenging and inventive recordings of recent vintage.” (Troy Collins, All About Jazz)

The Tomas Fujiwara Trio places him at the fulcrum of two strong and distinctive improvisers, the surgically precise trumpeter Ralph Alessi and the strategically unruly guitarist-banjoist Brandon Seabrook.” (Nate Chinen, The New York Times) Variable Bets (2014 Relative Pitch), recorded live at Barbes in Brooklyn, “unveils the exciting and original sound of The Tomas Fujiwara Trio. A vital new voice on the Brooklyn and New York scenes, this band seems to have been founded on the idea that opposites attract. They are bound together by a confident manner and a desire not to overplay.” (Cisco Bradley, Jazz Right Now) A July 2014 performance was named one of the concerts of the year by The New York City Jazz Record. 

Tomas’ duo with cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum has produced three critically acclaimed albums: True Events (2007, 482 Music), Stepwise (2010, NotTwo Records) and Through Foundation (2014, Self-released). “The playing is not just typically excellent, it’s conversational and buoyant, engaging the listener not through forceful attention-grabbing but rather coherence and seductiveness” (Trevor Hunter, NewMusicBox). “Bynum and Fujiwara constantly redefine the boundaries of their instruments to keep their dialogue fresh. They move gracefully from referencing postbop legends and avant garde pioneers to creating their own free jazz discourse.” (Ivana Ng, New York City Jazz Record)

The collective trio Thumbscrew (with Mary Halvorson and Michael Formanek) released it’s debut album (Thumbscrew, Cuneiform) in 2014. The Village Voice writes, “the barrage of riffs are both epic and melodic, the low end beefy and the percussion massive. Expect nothing less than magic from these three avant purveyors.” “It is neither hierarchical, the way a soloist with accompaniment is, nor anti-hierarchical, the way free improv can be. The balance of governance and acquiescence is in constant flux, governed by a jointly shared sense of responsibility engendered by trust.” (Bill Meyer, The WireThumbscrew received a 4 1/2 star review from Downbeat and was included on a number of Best-of-2014 lists includingNPR, The Wire, All About Jazz, and El Intruso. Their second album, Convallaria, was released on Cuneiform Records in May, 2016. 

Born and raised in Boston, MA, Tomas studied with legendary drummer and teacher Alan Dawson for eight years before moving to New York at the age of 17. He is currently a member of ensembles led by Bynum, Halvorson, Matana Roberts, Mike Reed, Nicole Mitchell, Matt Bauder, Josh Sinton (Ideal Bread), and Tomeka Reid, in addition to projects with artists such as Anthony Braxton, Michael Formanek, Ben Goldberg, Benoit Delbecq, and Briggan Krauss, and has performed at festivals and venues across North America, Europe, Asia, Australia, and the Middle East.



Cisco BradleyFujiwara, Tomas