Taylor Ho Bynum & Tomas Fujiwara: Stepwise (2010)
Taylor Ho Bynum is one of the most inventive and exciting trumpeters of his generation. Well known for his association with such seminal figures as Anthony Braxton, Cecil Taylor and Bill Dixon, he is also building a substantial body of work in his own right. Stepwise is his second duet with drummer and longtime ally Tomas Fujiwara, after True Events (482 Music, 2007), which made several best of year lists.
This time out there four compositions, two from the, that are placed together with six jointly improvised cuts in a 43-minute studio date. Both men resist the temptation to overplay inherent in a duo session, and their interplay is spare and focused. Fujiwara has absorbed some of the influence of master percussionist Ed Blackwell in his melodic approach to the drums. Nowhere is this more apparent than on his own pleasingly simple "Keys No Address," where he also demarcates the tune alongside Bynum's puckish cornet, as well as soloing thematically when his turn comes. Bynum is a virtuoso, effortlessly incorporating extended technique into musical discourse. On the title track he inexorably builds tension with a judicious combination of high squeals and muted wah-wah growls, before effectively partaking of a call and response with himself in the opposing registers of his horn. Later on the introduction to his "Iris" he casually deploys a perky vocalized upper register and multiphonic buzz, before a melodic line which oscillates jauntily above Native American drum cadences.
Even with the sparse instrumentation, every piece convinces as complete in itself. "3D" acts as an introductory taster for the fluid dialogue to come: Bynum's careening brass briefly slithering above measured tumbling toms until the fade out. "Comfort" has a lilting melancholic cornet melody cycled over a steady mid tempo rhythm. Bynum's repetitions allow the focus to shift to Fujiwara's subtly varied extemporizations. "Two Abbeys" is another fragment of yelping horn and a loose cowbell pattern, while the longest cut "Splits" matches skittering cornet with tap-laden free drum accents in a more conversational give and take. But even here the sense of purpose, structure and rapport generated by these two young pretenders, becoming old hands, captivates and delights.
Track Listing: 3D; Keys No Address; Stepwise; Two Abbeys; Comfort; Weather Conditions May Vary; Iris; Splits; Detritus; B.C.
Personnel: Taylor Ho Bynum: cornet; Tomas Fujiwara: drums.