“The joy expressed on this recording, just by two people, is something truly special,” writes trumpeter and musical contemporary Nate Wooley in his liner notes for Stepwise. “I had expected to be impressed. Maybe even blown away. Taylor Ho Bynum and Tomas Fujiwara are two of the best improvisers I have ever been lucky enough to work with. They are some of the leading lights of 21st century American improvisation. What I was hearing now, though, was something altogether more than I had anticipated. My interest in the two of them, the thing that fascinates me about this record and has always excited me about their playing, is how they capture this elusive feeling of joy. As natural as it is for us to express rage and fear, it takes an equal amount of work to project joy and serenity…how incredibly special it is to find a recording that expresses that joy from the first sound to the last.”
Critics called True Events “a scintillating album” (Nate Chinen, New York Times) and “a bravura display of imaginative technique” (Steve Dollar, Time Out Chicago), noting the musicians’ “vivid interaction” (Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings, 9th Edition), “staggeringly unified rhythmic interplay” (Marc Medwin, AllAboutJazz-New York) and “potent lyricism, a subtle beauty that only the finest partners—I’m reminded of Louis Moholo-Moholo and Evan Parker—can conjure” (Karl A.D. Evangelista, AllAboutJazz.com). Jazzwise reviewer Kevin Le Gendre added, “Bynum and Fujiwara are a worthy addition to the canon, presenting music that treads an engaging creative line between tightly structured writing and spiraling improvisation. In turn introverted and extroverted, contemplative and explosive, this work makes a case for both men as very sensitive players who have a finely honed sense of dynamics and attention to detail.”
Fujiwara and Bynum’s first public performance as a duo was in 2006, but the pair has been sharing stages in various other configurations since attending neighboring Boston-area high schools in the early 1990s. Throughout the intervening years, they have developed a distinctive musical language that brings a collective vision to improvisation as well as composition, celebrating the tensions and rewards of two distinct aesthetics coexisting within a single framework. Together they have toured throughout North America and Europe, both as a duo and in the context of larger ensembles, including featured performances at the Jazzatelier Festival (Austria), the Sanctuary for Independent Media (Troy, New York), The Stone (New York City), Umbrella Music (Chicago) and the Vision Festival Marathon (New York City).