Tomas Fujiwara

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Early-2000s Stomp percussionist and later nearly ubiquitous presence on the Brooklyn creative jazz scene.
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Artist Biography by

Three Souls
Born in Boston in 1977, Brooklyn-based drummer Tomas Fujiwara emerged during the early to mid-2000s as a valued sideman before forming his own quintet, Tomas Fujiwara & the Hook Up, which gathered accolades for blending influences such as Wayne Shorter, Taleb Kweli, and Me'Shell Ndegéocello with the experimental and unpredictable spirit of the 21st century Brooklyn creative jazz scene. After studying for eight years with drummer and educator Alan Dawson in the Boston area, Fujiwara moved to New York at the age of 17. His first performing experiences included a five-year stint beginning around the turn of the millennium with the off-Broadway show Stomp, but he also began appearing as a sideman on jazz recordings (e.g., Three Souls by the Adam Rafferty Trio in 2003) and moving in exploratory, adventurous directions.

The Middle Picture
Fujiwara developed a particularly strong collaborative relationship with New Haven, Connecticut-based cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum, whose own avant-leaning ensembles have featured a number of top Brooklyn improvising musicians. Fujiwara first appeared with Bynum on two 2007 recordings, The Middle Picture by the Taylor Ho Bynum Sextet (Firehouse 12) and True Events by the Taylor Ho Bynum/Tomas Fujiwara Duo (482 Music). During the following years, the drummer appeared on the Bynum Sextet albums Asphalt Flowers Forking Paths (hatOLOGY, 2009), Apparent Distance (Firehouse 12, 2011), and Navigation (Possibility Abstracts X & XI) (Firehouse 12, 2013), and the Bynum/Fujiwara Duo album Stepwise (Nottwo, 2010). Fujiwara is also a member of Positive Catastrophe, a ten-piece outfit co-led by Bynum and percussionist Abraham Gomez-Delgado and inspired by Sun Ra and Latin jazz; the group has released two albums on Cuneiform, Garabatos Volume One (2009) and Dibrujo, Dibrujo, Dibrujo... (2012).

(un)sentimental
Another musician with whom Fujiwara has often worked, guitarist Mary Halvorson, also often travels in the same creative orbit as Taylor Ho Bynum; like Fujiwara, Halvorson is a member of the Bynum Sextet, and along with Bynum and violist Jessica Pavone, the drummer and guitarist formed the collective quartet the Thirteenth Assembly, which has recorded two albums for the Important Records label, 2009's (un)sentimental and 2011's Station Direct. Fujiwara, Halvorson, and Bynum also appeared as members of the Chicago-New York nonet Living by Lanterns, whose New Myth/Old Science album -- based on fragments of music recorded by Sun Ra in 1961 -- appeared on Cuneiform in 2012. In 2014 Cuneiform released another album featuring Fujiwara and Halvorson, the eponymous debut of Thumbscrew, a collaborative trio also including veteran bassist Michael Formanek. A second Thumbscrew album, Convallaria, was released by Cuneiform in 2016.

Actionspeak
Fujiwara first assembled his Hook Up quintet in 2008, later describing the bandmembers as "some of the most important musicians in my life" -- and given all of Fujiwara and Halvorson's recorded appearances together in various settings, it was no surprise that the guitarist was in the lineup. Also featuring tenor saxophonist Brian Settles, trumpeter Jonathan Finlayson, and bassist Danton Boller, Tomas Fujiwara & the Hook Up released their debut album, Actionspeak, on 482 Music in 2010. Featuring Trevor Dunn on bass in place of Boller, the group's sophomore album, The Air Is Different, arrived (also on 482 Music) in 2012.

Triple Double
In 2017, Fujiwara again emerged as a leader of his own ensemble on the Firehouse 12 album Triple Double, appropriately titled given its lineup of two drummers, two guitarists, and two trumpeters (or, actually, a cornetist and a trumpeter). Joining Fujiwara on the fiery, propulsive, and exploratory project were longtime collaborators guitarist Halvorson and cornetist Bynum, as well as drummer Gerald Cleaver, guitarist Brandon Seabrook, and trumpeter Ralph Alessi.

The many other projects in which Fujiwara has played as a collaborator or sideman include the Steve Lacy tribute band Ideal Bread, the eight-piece "bhangra funk dhol 'n' brass" outfit Red Baraat, and saxophonist/clarinetist Matt Bauder's acoustic jazz quintet.